I’ve been promising on Facebook and Instagram for a couple weeks that I would share my New Years resolutions once I figured out what they would be. Now I am going to break that promise. After a lot of deliberate thought, I have decided that the traditional New Years resolution is counter productive. Worthless at best, perhaps even harmful. So I’m not going to make any this year.
Why Don’t Resolutions Work?
Different sorts of resolutions don’t work for different reasons. The type of resolution that is outcome based (“I will run a marathon”) often fails because the factors that affect those resolutions are not entirely within our control. You could have a medical problem that you don’t yet know about, you could sprain your ankle or your spouse could get sick and need your attention or your work schedule changes and it becomes difficult to fit in your training… all kinds of things can happen that will derail the ultimate goal.
Habit based resolutions are better (“I will walk 10,000 steps a day” or “I will eat a healthy paleo diet” or “I will stop drinking soda”) because they are much more likely to be within your control. You also have the advantage of being able to start over and jump back on the resolution wagon any time you slip. If you have a sedentary day or week or even a month, or succumb to the siren song of the fast food drive through, or find it difficult to cut your decades long soda habit out cold turkey; you can just try again.
The problem is that people don’t. Once the blush of the new year has worn off and the day-to-day grind of daily life returns, these resolutions get conveniently forgotten. As a yoga teacher at a community fitness center, I see this happen every year. In January, my classes are packed. By spring break, perhaps a handful of the new people who started up in January are still around but for the most part I am back to my dedicated group of regulars.
How Can Resolutions Be Harmful?
Resolutions encourage single minded focus that can make you blind to other factors. While training for the marathon, you might discover that the mileage necessary is not compatible with your overall health after all. Or that you actually love some entirely different healthy fitness activity much more. Do you push on and do the marathon anyway? Even if it is harming your health? Even if you are hating every second and really wishing you were spending the time paddle boarding, or playing ultimate frisbee, or taking aerobic underwater yoga basketweaving classes?
Broken resolutions also hurt our psychic well being. I did a little poll over the last few days, asking everyone I could if they set resolutions and heard repeatedly some variation of this response: “I used to, but I never kept them and just ended up feeling guilty about it.” Who needs something to feel guilty about? Others admitted that they did, but that they knew full well they wouldn’t keep them.
A resolution is essentially a promise to yourself. And we can all agree that nothing hurts more than when someone we care about breaks a promise. So why would we set ourselves up to hurt ourselves?
So, What Am I Doing Instead of Setting A Resolution?
Instead of a goal or a habit based resolution, this year I am focusing on two key themes. Health and happiness.
Every day, I am going to ask myself the following two questions:
- What am I doing today to promote my health?
- Am I feeling happy today? If not, what can I do to change that?
Actually, it probably won’t be. If I am really honest with myself and really answer those questions every day, I think I will be making major changes in my day to day life. The answer to the first question should lead me to get better sleep, to eat the right foods, to meditate, to start and stick with a gentle weight training program… all of which should help me regain the weight and well-being I lost in 2014 while fighting clostridium difficile and Crohn’s disease and help to prevent a relapse or flare-up of either one.
The answer to the second question opens all kinds of cans of worms that I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to face. 2014 was a tough year for my husband and me for many reasons – medical, personal, professional, and family related. We are at a crossroads right now as we begin 2015 and know that we have to manage some difficult issues as we move forward. In the interest of protecting some shred of our personal privacy, I won’t go into any more detail, but suffice it to say that we are not where we wanted or expected to be at this stage of our lives together and dealing with the emotional fall out from that reality is difficult.
But I also realize that little things can make a big difference in your happiness level and hope that I will be able to continue to answer that question throughout the year and promise to keep you updated on my success on that front.
So far my list of little “happy-making” activities include:
- Sing in the morning.
- Eat an orange.
- Call a friend.
- Watch a rerun of Top Chef.
- Take a short walk and observe nature.
- Take deep breaths.
My list isn’t very long, is it? I’d love to know what little things make you happy! Please share with me in the comments below!
Even though I’m not setting traditional resolutions, I am still engaging in a concerted effort to improve myself – effective immediately (which just happens to be January 1). I know I need resources to support me in that effort. The biggest one for me is my husband, who has been my rock through all the ups and downs and trials and tribulations of our life together. Another is my meditation and yoga practice, which I’ve neglected some recently but know that returning to will be a huge help.
I’m also always on the lookout for other books and resources that can provide healthy recipes, encouragement, ideas, and support. But I’m on a budget too, and can’t afford to buy every book good ole’ Amazon recommends me! That’s why I was totally excited to get the Family Resolution Revolution bundle that pulls together 40 different resources from top paleo, health, and natural living authors and prices them so that they each cost less than $1. I also love that it is entirely digital, so that means no waiting! I’m already cooking from The Domestic Man’s awesome new Safe Starch Cookbook. Learn more about the bundle in this post that I wrote earlier, or click on the image below to go directly to the sales page. But don’t delay… this was timed to coincide with “resolution season” so it ends on January 4.