Rachel Weinstein resolves to make a new kind of New Year’s resolution…a New Year’s un-resolution. In 2016, be kind to yourself and express self gratitude.
The New Year is coming up quickly and out of the darkness the light begins to increase again. Many people use this transition as an opportunity to do things differently. We create ideas, plans, and hopes about how we can be our best selves. Cue the resolutions!
Some people get excited about a new start—their cups are brimming with optimism. Others roll their eyes, trying not to remember the past resolutions, which started out with a bang and petered out.
I remember walking into my yoga class after January 1st one year and I could barely find a rectangle big enough for my mat (though previous classes had big sprawling areas free for each of us). Just a few weeks later we were back to having plenty of room.
I tend not to make resolutions around New Years because I feel like I’m setting myself up for failure. I don’t generally change drastically from one day to the next, even if I wish I did. For most of us, changes tend to happen slowly, in baby steps, so I tend to think that a major proclamation of change simply because the earth has reached a certain point around the sun again might be pointless.
Also, New Year’s resolutions can function as dressed up bits of self-criticism or rejection:
- In the New Year I’ll lose 15 pounds and then I’ll feel good about myself.
- In the New Year I’ll be more patient with my kids and then I’ll really be a good mom.
- In the New Year I’ll be smarter with my money and then I’ll finally be a responsible adult.
Each of those examples comes from a feeling that we should be different, and that we’re not “enough” as we are. That’s not to say that we can’t grow and change in ways that benefit ourselves and those around us, but we need to pay attention to the energy behind the intention to change.
Is there an energy of hope? Of giving to yourself? Or is there, underneath your resolution, a grim plan to finally look “good enough” to stop rolling your eyes at yourself in the mirror? To finally feel like you deserve to settle into your own skin?
Intentions to make change are most effective and most satisfying when we act as encouraging cheerleaders rather than expectant taskmasters. The fact is, whether or not you are successful at making the change you want, you’ll be a happier person if you’re a good, kind friend to yourself on April 16th or June 2nd or November 21st.
And that is why this year I’m setting an un-resolution:
Remembering that my plans for growth, change, and learning must be balanced by gratitude, kindness for my self (and others) and a sense of humor.
I hope to get to the gym or yoga more often. But whether I do or I don’t, I want to be kind to myself.
I hope to take a deep breath so that I don’t snap at my kids or my husband. But if I forget, and go ahead and snap at them, I will forgive myself.
I might become more organized, meditate more, drink green juice daily and floss every night. But if I don’t, I’ll still like myself.
Something concrete I’ve been doing to help me with this is cultivating gratitude.
If the parts of my life that chafe like a shoe that doesn’t quite fit aren’t going to magically change overnight, the best thing I can do is keep a steady eye on my blessings.
So maybe I’ll meditate more in the New Year. But maybe I’ll just practice being grateful for knowing about meditation in the first place, and for the opportunity to sit still sometimes.
Maybe I’ll be more organized when the mail comes in and not leave piles of papers on the counter. But maybe I’ll just be grateful that I can read the mail, that my eyes are good and that I’m literate. I’ll express gratitude because I have a house, and phone and health insurance which bring in the bills that stack up.
There’s research on gratitude that indicates that practicing gratitude regularly changes how we experience our lives for the positive.
According to the New York Times, cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners.
It can be helpful to really get into the details of why you’re grateful for.
So instead of “I’m grateful for my health,” you might say, “I’m grateful for my lungs, which fill with deep breaths and help me calm down. I’m grateful for my muscles, which feel good to stretch and which help me lift, carry and hug. I’m grateful for my feet and legs, which carry me around to see the world.”
The difference between my un-resolution and a traditional resolution is subtle, but it works for me. Because at the end of the day (or year) I want to live the life I have, not wait to live the one I think I should have once I’ve achieved what I think I should achieve. Because every breath is a chance to return: to wake up. Not just December 31st at midnight.