New Year’s resolutions – I used to go all in for them. I love New Year’s, the feeling Of a fresh start, trying again, setting goals – it feels so optimistic and productive – until it doesn’t.
Resolutions are easy to make and easier to break – in fact, most of us have given up on our new year goals by the 24th of January. This is largely due to unrealistic milestones and goals, putting too much pressure on ourselves to have the perfect body, the perfect career, the perfect relationships, when in reality, none of those things truly exist, just the unattainable image of them in our minds.
Often, our unrealistic and unhealthy new year resolutions can harm rather than help us, so it’s important to try take a new approach to goal-making in 2022. In reality, achieving goals is all about our mindset. Productivity and motivation are temporary states, but how we approach the world is something we can control by taking our mental health in hand.
Instead of writing ‘be more productive’ or ‘do better in work’ or ‘be more assertive’ on your list of goals this year, try to reflect on some of the areas in your mental life that maybe need some attention, as often these issues can be the root of our material life’s problems.
Want to be more assertive? Look at your self-confidence. Want to do better in work? Look at the boundaries you’re setting in your life. Below are some of the things you can focus on instead of the rat race this new year, to support yourself and also support your development as a person, putting you first – not the unattainable goal.
Read a book that will change your life
Self-help, fiction, a guide – whatever works for you. A book’s message can change your entire outlook on life – that’s what they’re there for! And powerful ones, like Matt Haig’s ‘The Midnight Library’, or even funny ones like Sarah Knight’s ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck’ can help with everything from de-cluttering your mind and life to helping you view the world – and the people in it – more positively.
It helps to hear from voices outside of our own perspective, but it can also help to pick up new skills, or rediscover old ones. So if the book you pick up to change your life sounds more like ‘Piano playing for beginners’ or ‘How to finally write that novel’ – then so be it1 Words can change us, motivate us or even change the oath we thought we were on. See what area of your life is calling out for attention right now, and head to the corresponding section of the bookshop – you might surprise yourself with what you learn.
Learn to ask for help
Independence is a modern day virtue. Becoming an independent young adult is a milestone for any young person, and it’s a value we take through to adulthood, this dependence on ourselves and our abilities. And it can be a great thing – independence can make you learn how to change a tyre so you’re never stranded, or how to budget so you’re not struggling at the end of the month or even how to stand on your own two feet and face a problem.
But when we become too used to standing on our own two feet, they can get pretty tired. With independence praised as a medal to be earned in life, it can feel like failure to reach out to someone to say that you’re struggling with something. More often than not, our family or friends or even co-workers are more than happy to help, whether that’s supplying a listening ear, advice or even a helping hand.
But pride can have us struggling alone, refusing to see the outstretched hand out of stubbornness, rather than practising independence. No one can handle everything on their own – nor are they expected to. Maybe this is the year that you need to take a breath and reach out – even if that feels like more of a struggle than the problem itself.
Re-evaluate your priorities
The new year is always a time of reflection for most of us. But many of us look at superficial areas of our lives – our appearance, our food intake or our exercise habits – all of which can be important too.
But this time of reflection is also an opportunity to look at more radical change in how we balance our lives. Is work or a particular relationship taking too much of your energy? Is there some project or lifestyle or goal that’s calling your name that you just can’t seem to get to?
Take this opportunity to shake yourself awake from the drudgery of a 9-5 and assess whether you’d be any more or less happy if your life was the same a year from now. What needs to change in order for things to change? Allow yourself to dream big – and then take actions (broken into small, manageable steps) to achieve that change. It’s cheesy, but nothing changes if nothing changes.
Brainstorm ways to cope
Lockdown made us all find our own coping mechanisms. Our silly little ‘mental health’ walks, learning new skills, yoga in the garden in YouTube – we really did it all to distract ourselves from the ever-present gloom and doom. And you may have recovered from that period of immense stress and general anxiety over the state of the world – but you may not have.
While still in the pandemic, it’s hard to assess its toll on our mental health – but I think we can all agree that any problems that existed pre-pandemic were generally only exacerbated by world-wide lockdown, major changes to our relationships, work and lifestyles. And while we may have had our pandemic ways to cope, now may be the time to look at more serious and long-term measures.
Be frank with yourself about the state of your mental health; Is this a case where joining a yoga class, learning breathing techniques and doing sleep meditations will shore up your mental health? Or do you need to take more decisive steps and find someone to talk to after the year of collective trauma? It’s important to be honest with yourself and take the time to take stock and prioritise your needs.