Did you know that each year 62% of Americans make New Years Resolutions and of those 62% only 8% are able to stick to them? That means that almost 197 million people make resolutions and 140 million of those people give up on those. This makes setting resolutions a pretty big set-up for failure and unhappiness.
Do you know what the number one most common New Years resolution?
I’m sure you can guess that one easily — lose weight!
Unfortunately though, despite your best intentions for improving your life, New Years resolutions tend to make people miserable as people usually fail at them by the second week in January.
Let’s not do that same game again. Let’s forget about any resolution that has you thinking in terms of all-or-nothing. Instead, I want to you to try to think about increasing happiness and joy and kindness to yourself. Here are ten ways to do that:
1. Resolve to look in the mirror and begin to ask the question, “what’s right with me?”
Women and men alike have been trained to look in the mirror and ask themselves, “what is wrong with me? what can I change? how can I be better or different?” Advertisers would never be able to sell anything if they never convinced you that there was anything wrong with you. For instance, who ever said that wrinkles were a bad thing? Someone had to in order to sell eye cream, facial moisturizer, Botox, Restalyn and all those other things. It’s a brilliant scheme because, well EVERYONE AGES (if they’re lucky!) so a market has been founded to engage every human being and convince them that something is wrong with them even though their skin is doing what everyone’s skin does. Now they can tell people that it’s wrong and needs to be corrected. And then guess what? They sell you something! How genius. So every time you look in the mirror, you’re scanning for “what’s wrong with me?” so you can then look for something to fix it. And YOU WILL find someone to sell you something to fix whatever you are seeing that you believe is wrong. Strange, huh?
What if you instead asked the question “what’s right with me?” You could also choose to counter all the mean (internal advertising executive) voices with a simple “I’m fine.” You can always fabricate something to dislike about yourself. But in finding what’s right or what’s “fine,” you stop buying into a society that perpetuates the use of self-hatred to make sales.
How to do it: Notice when you start focusing on all of your PERCEIVED flaws and take yourself back. Take a breath and tell yourself, “I’m fine. Who I am is fine. I don’t need to support the beauty industry by looking for things to fix about myself. It’s all a well-engineered scam to seduce me out of my money.
How it will change your life: You will stop picking on yourself all the time and you will feel less stress and anxiety generally speaking. You will feel more confident and more peaceful just being in your skin.
2. Resolve to stop supporting a media that devalues women.
How to do it: Stop buying fashion magazines and “health and fitness” magazines that tout the same tired articles on how to lose 10 pounds this month or how to torch 500 calories in one workout, and how to get rid of cellulite for good and those that use diet pills, powders and potions as their sponsors. There are only so many diets and so many workouts, yet these magazines seem to be able to repackage the same information over and over again for years on end. Stop following Instagram and Pinterest Fitspo folks who just wind up making you feel bad about yourself. Stop following social media influencers who are paid to push products that promise to make you more like them.
How it will change your life: You will save money on magazines, you will create more time and space for yourself to think about other things and to enjoy your life. You will stop staring at Instagram and believing that there is something wrong with you. You will get rid of the clutter in your house. You will stop beating yourself up for not following varying and contradictory advice that those magazines and websites give. You will find relief of feeling as though you should be something else, you will stop dealing with the stress of seeing digitally enhanced images that portray an unrealistic version of what a woman is supposed to look like. You’ll be able to relax and just breathe and just be you…
3. Resolve to stop comparing yourself to other people.
How to do it: When you find yourself going to the place of, “my life would be so much better if I made as much money as…” or “everyone has someone to spend Valentines Day with except for me…” stop yourself immediately. Think of a big stop sign in your mind and say to yourself, “no. I’m not going there.” Remember that everyone has their own path, their own Dharma. When you look to someone else’s path you stop moving along your own. You become paralyzed and you’re unable to allow your life unfold the way beautifully and the way it’s supposed to.
How it will change your life: You will actually be able to focus on going forward in your life given what you have. You will be able to appreciate and enjoy the things and the people who are in your life rather than feeling disconnected to what you do have. You will find that when you look at and enjoy what you do have rather than what you don’t have you will generally be happier. You will also be able to enhance and make more of the good things in your life because you will be moving forward in joy and able to appreciate those around you rather than stuck in envy.
4. Resolve to stop spending buying money on miracle potions and weight loss/diet shakes or other gimmicks.
How to do it: Stop looking for the next miracle skin cream or beauty potion or pre-packaged meal or shake program that will make you perfect. Stick to one simple skin care regimen that you enjoy and that you can afford. Keep your diet healthy (lots of fresh fruits and vegetables) and get fresh air and exercise.
How it will change your life: It will take away the stress and anxiety about buying something every time you see a commercial or read an article about how different your skin will look and be when you get this one product. It will reduce waste in your life and it will keep you from spending excessive cash on something disposable.
5. Resolve to let go of gossip and criticizing other people
How to do it: So, this means that even if you happen to be present for a conversation where someone starts talking about someone else, you make the decision not to engage in that conversation and you don’t allow someone to chide you into idle gossip. You choose not to criticize people around you either to their faces or behind their backs. You don’t talk about how someone looks, about their life choices, about their parenting skills, you just let people live their lives and you live yours with kindness and integrity. If people start to talk about others around you, you can just say, “I have this New Years resolution to let go of judgment and criticism of others, so I don’t want to go there.”
How it will change your life: Letting go of negativity and criticism will feel better in your body. You will feel lighter and more at peace. You will also find that people around you trust you more. They will know that their secrets are safe with you and that they are able to talk to you without fear of judgement or criticism. It will take a big weight off of you and give you more mind space to concentrate on yourself and your own needs. The people around you might just decide to jump on your bandwagon making your circle more pleasant to be around.
6. Resolve to stop engaging in Fat Chat
How to do it: Stop talking about how fat you are. Stop talking about how much weight you need to lose. Stop talking about diets. Stop talking about who has gained or lost weight. Stop commenting on other people’s weight either to their face or behind their back, even if it’s “Wow you lost so much weight…” Make a choice to not engage with any talk about other people’s bodies or your own.
How it Will Change your life: You are choosing not to participate in a society that judges women for the way their bodies look and for how much they weigh. You create a positive example for those around you and you have done something to change the way people judge people by looking at how much they weigh. When you engage in fat chat, you are contributing to the continuing exploitation of women’s bodies, making it okay for the media to perpetuate the myth of the perfect female form. Change starts with you.
7. Resolve to do the things you love more often
How to do it: Make doing things that you love a priority. Carve out time for them every day. If you love to write, give yourself 1/2 hour a day to write. If you love to knit, or sew, or ride your motorcycle, or take photographs, or read, or garden or play with your cat, or go swimming, or draw, paint or sculpt, or sing, make sure that it is something that you do several times a week. It’s so common that people prioritize cleaning the house and paying the bills and never feel like you never have time to do the things that you love. You have the power to make your life enjoyable. When you go into super-functional mode and stop paying attention to the things that give you pleasure, you feel as though you’re just moving through life crossing things off your “to do” list. Some things should be done not to get them done, but for pure pleasure. Don’t reward yourself by vowing to draw after the dishes are done, make drawing a priority. Put it on your list for sometime during the day, not in the evening after all your chores are done. Do it on your lunch break. Make time for you.
How It Will Change Your Life: It will help you to appreciate and enjoy your life, it will make you an active participant in your life so that you can enjoy the day-by-day, not be bored waiting for the next thing to happen.
8. Resolve to work on letting go of what other people think of you
How to do it: Remember that nobody’s opinion is any more important or any better than your own. So try to have a high opinion of yourself. Hold yourself with integrity– become the person who you admire. When you are holding yourself with integrity (that means being compassionate, kind, not lying or stealing or hurting anyone, holding the highest intention for good), you will know that nobody else’s opinion of you matters because you are a good person. Remember that most people don’t have the time or the energy to spend time thinking about you– they are spending most of their time thinking about themselves. If they are wasting their time thinking about you, well then congratulations, you’ve got lots of power!
How it Will Change Your Life: You will have the freedom to live your life the way you want without the weight of the fear of criticism of others. You will feel lighter and enjoy life more.
9. Resolve to spend more time with people or animals who have less than you
How to do It: Do volunteer work at the SPCA or your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Find something that you’d be interested in doing at Volunteer Match.
How it Will Change Your Life: Studies have actually found that people who volunteer have lower mortality rates and less chronic pain and heart disease. This is because of the sense of community and sharing volunteer work creates. It also reduces isolation (key in healing from eating issues) and increases self esteem and life satisfaction. It also widens your perspective. It’s difficult to dwell on your problems or get caught up in the drama in your own head when you’re spending time helping others.
10. Resolve to take at least one month to go on a “spending fast.”
How to do it: Take 30 days to go on a spending fast where you buy nothing except for true essentials, such as food and hygienic products; no fancy bottled water, no takeout, no fancy meals, no bottles of wine, no fancy soaps, no new clothes, no new jewelry, nothing– just what you really really need.
How it Will Change Your Life: You will find some relief in not having to worry about what dress to buy but knowing that you have a dress at home. You won’t worry about walking into Target for a bottle of shampoo and coming out having spent $150 on razors and lotion, and you won’t have to deal with a late night pizza binge. You will find relief in not having to think too much about what to buy. A spending fast, even for a month is a huge relief.
11. Learn to Recognize Your Emotional State
How to do it: Use mindfulness to check in with yourself throughout the day. Set a timer on your phone to go off once every few hours. When it goes off, stop and ask yourself, “what am I feeling?” If you don’t know, check this list of feelings . Then practice just sitting with that feeling without doing anything to change it.
How it Will Change Your Life: As you learn to be aware of what you are feeling throughout the day, you won’t surprisingly find yourself engaged in activities that you have previously done to avoid feeling, for instance, you won’t find yourself eating when you are anxious because you will know that you have the capacity to sit with uncomfortable feelings.
What do you think, can you make a few of these changes? You don’t have to be perfect or do them all the time, but I’m betting that if you chose even just one of these, it would make significant positive changes in your life. Try it! Let me know how it goes.
“We cannot, in a moment, get rid of habits of a lifetime.” -Mahatma Gandhi
I love this quote of course because it is so illustrative of what we tend to believe- that we should be able to snap our fingers and be done once and for all with whatever habit (of the cognitive behavioral kind or physical behavioral kind) that we’ve been doing our whole lives. Patience is a wonderful trait to cultivate. Patience with yourself will get you the furthest along. It will keep you peaceful, calm, protect you from self-loathing and anger at yourself and bring your closer to achieving your most important goals.