Updated: Jan 6
It's that time of year again where 'resolution' is a buzz-word. Some people love them, some hate them. Have you set a resolution to start or stop a habit? How can you be resolute and hold compassion for yourself? Let's dig into it!
With the conclusion of December, the holidays are coming to an end, capped off by a new year celebration. It's a long-standing tradition to set a resolution (defined as: a firm decision to do or not to do something) with the dawning of the new year.
For many of us it revolves around self-improvement, but the tradition actually began several millennia ago in Babylon, when the devout would make promises to the gods in an effort to curry favour, resulting in a prosperous year. I think that I want to be an advocate for creating resolutions in this spirit; let's aim to be prosperous.
Some people vehemently advocate against resolutions. Most of these folks aren't wrong in saying that we tend to set ourselves pie-in-the-sky goals and hope to start/stop a habit by simply diving into it (or going cold-turkey). The other argument is that our goal is set without a deeper understanding of our motivation. Understanding why you want to "be healthier" (the number one resolution) is arguably the first step toward making it happen. So does "being healthy" mean changing your diet, quitting drinking or smoking, feeling better, shedding weight, looking better, etc.?
So, even before you start developing/breaking your habit's first step, ask yourself why you want this change in your life. What is the baseline motivation? For me being healthier isn't about the number on the scale, it's about increasing my stamina, feeling more energy in my body. Once you know your motivation, you can map out your resolution in small, easy steps that support the motivation (rather than the goal) and are incrementally more challenging. For example, if I'm hoping to increase my physical stamina and gain energy, I can start with getting enough sleep by going to bed at a reasonable time, then drinking 8 cups of water a day, then incorporate more fiber/veg into mydiet, do 5 minutes of daily stretching, so on and so forth. Each step works is designed to support the motivation, and build toward my goal of improved health and energy.
Note: Don't start on the next habit until the previous one is ingrained (and the first one should be the easiest for you —some people might find reasonable bedtime more difficult than drinking water).
At the other end of the scale are those who believe wholeheartedly in resolutions. They argue that they promote positive outlook and create a sense of hope for the new year. Resolutions can also help those of us who like to be in control to find a productive outlet for our propensity. A resolution can inspire those around you! Even if you only get to step 2 (you're sleeping like a champ, and you're working on hydrating properly), when you share your intention with others, it often sparks self-reflection. You may inadvertently help your friends start good habits. I think there's also something to be said about recognizing aspects of ourselves that we'd like to improve upon. Being open to exploring shortcomings will make you a more well-rounded individual and likely improve your compassion for others.
The key is to start with self-compassion. Your drive will wax and wane, and some days will be easy, hard, or impossible. Show yourself compassion on those hard days, and know that tomorrow will bring a new chance to try again. There's no point in beating yourself up for a rough patch. Self improvement takes a lot of dedication and effort, and it's okay to just let things be now and then.
The last thing few things I'll say about resolutions are 1) they don't have to happen on January 1 —they can be anytime! 2) You really need to have the drive to make it work. Saying you want to get healthier but not feeling it in your bones, not feeling that spark, means you aren't in fact resolute. 3) It should feel empowering and fun, not like a chore that you're dreading every day. Maybe make a game out of it or set milestones that, when reached, yield some sort of reward.
My only resolution this year is to be more mindful of how I'm treating my body and my mind. I've set small triggers through my day that get me to check in with myself. If things don't feel right then I am resolute to adjust as needed. I think my reward will be in the act itself —a reorientation toward my own comfort.
How do you feel about resolutions? Have you made any for the new year? How will it help you prosper?