Ditch the resolutions

It’s 2022. The new year has arrived, and along with it all the usual talk of resolutions, large-scale changes, grand gestures, strict regiments and promises – “new year, new you.”

What if we skipped the obligatory resolutions this year? Some people may stick to all of their resolutions. Some may not – and might also end up feeling guilty about it, feeling a sense of failure. But does it really matter in the long run if we’re all doing our best?

What if, as we enter the new year, we all take a deep breath and give ourselves a break. Maybe ease into the start of the year by being a bit more gentle with ourselves, acknowledging that the past two years have been … a lot.

Disclaimer: No one is telling you to abandon your motivation or goals. Resolutions can be great, and if you enjoy making them by all means take that route for 2022. But as an alternative option for those who want a new approach, read on.

We are coming off of a couple of unprecedented years, dealing with an ongoing pandemic, so if there was ever a time to try to be a little kinder to yourself and start the year from a softer space, now seems like as good a time as any.

If adding a list of resolutions to your already long to-do list seems like adding unwanted pressure, you’re not alone.

Clinical Psychologist Jonathan Gershon, of Gershon Psychological Associates in Greenville, said, “Generally, these (New Year’s resolutions) are not a great idea and only serve to make people feel bad about themselves or guilty for not following through with them.”

“It is much better to set goals throughout the year and find small steps to accomplish those goals,” he said. “If the goal is to lose weight or exercise more, it is best to pick a start date (probably not Jan. 1) and to make incremental steps. It takes a long time to achieve substantial and noticeable gains, so thinking about this as smaller goals is much more attainable.”

Gershon and other mental health professionals have been seeing an uptick in people seeking services.

“Over the past two years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of referrals for behavioral health services for all age groups,” Gershon said.

“While the most common themes were stress, depression, and anxiety related to the pandemic, we have also seen problems with marriages, children struggling with distance learning, and plenty of social isolation and loneliness,” he said. “Unfortunately, with all of these new referrals, behavioral health providers around the state are having trouble providing services for all the people seeking therapy.”

The calendar changing to a new year can make some people feel like they need to overhaul things, “fix” any and all perceived problems, or start over. That can feel like a strain on many, and the new year does not need to be viewed in that way. A fresh start can come from a more relaxed place without adding extra stress.

One alternative to making traditional resolutions is to set an intention for the new year. It could be an overall theme: joy, mindfulness, gratitude, strength, forgiveness, health, patience, simplicity, or anything you’d like to manifest in the coming months. It can be written down and posted in a place where you’ll see it every day, or something you simply keep in mind and come back to from time to time.

Setting an intention can give the year a broader focus without the pressure of a strict deadline. Instead of saying, “I’m going to lose 10 pounds by summer,” try setting an intention for a year of health and wellness. Instead of saying, “I will go to sleep by 10 p.m. every night,” try setting an intention to prioritize rest.

And there is nothing wrong with setting a few goals. Gershon said, “It makes sense to make a New Year’s resolution that is simpler and more about self-care. I probably would not even call it a resolution but rather a goal you would like to achieve. It almost doesn’t matter what this goal is as long as it makes you feel good.”

“For some people, this may be exercise or weight loss. For others, it might be learning a language or reaching out to friends with who you have lost touch,” he said. “I think we all need a break and finding ways to care for ourselves better is a great start.”

However you choose to mark the shift to a new year, be patient with yourself in the process. Instead of starting from a place of restrictions and absolute deadlines, try easing into 2022 allowing yourself to breathe a little easier.

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