By Talia Singer, Psychotherapist and Mental Health Nurse
As soon as the ball dropped on the year that was 2020 there was social discourse about whether we should do away with the term ‘resolutions’ and instead use the word ‘intentions.’ The idea behind this being that we don’t want to start the year making promises that we often don’t or can’t keep. Low pressure. Low risk.
I was recently interviewed on a podcast called Alpaca My Bags (www.pinatravels.org/podcast) on the issues of travel anxiety. One listener asked how to deal with what they termed ‘disappointment anxiety’, or the fear of being disappointed with travel plans or destinations that don’t turn out as planned (or as Instagram advertised). The key with resolutions or any type of personal goals, dreams, or travel is to make them and then be flexible with the journey as well as the outcome! If you don’t resolve or make that plan in the first place, you may never get there. An intention (as opposed to a resolution) may not be enough to motivate you to get going.
Where resolutions tend to let us down is in the imagined execution of our plans. For instance, someone who resolves to eat healthier in the New Year may be fantastic at learning how to meal prep at the onset. They may even be on a roll for all of January prepping their cauliflower rice heart out, but as soon as February hits or something in life throws in a wrench, like work, meal prep goes out the door and the feeling of failure sets in. In a rigid-minded resolution that goal is kaput; over; destroyed.
With a flexible resolution, the act of resolving or aiming to do something occurs over and over again. A flexibly-minded resolution knows that based on a lifetime of eating take-out, meal prepping even 3 months out of 12 is a very good track record! Of course, it would be nice if the journey from our resolution to its completion was linear with no interruptions, but who promised us that in the first place?!
Here are my top 3 mental health resolutions for 2021. They’re my resolutions and you may adopt them if you wish. I know from the onset I will have to resolve again and again because I will very likely get off course at some point. What I do know is that they are important to me in how I value myself and my mental health, and therefore deserve to be reconsidered when I fail and remade and resolved again and again.
Resolution 1: Commit to working out 3-4 days a week. There’s no debate about it, moving your body contributes powerfully to our mental health. I know for a fact that I dread working out but feel fantastic once I’ve completed my workout. This particular resolution (based on my track record) often dissolves into couch potatoness (new word alert!), but I am committed to continuing to make this a goal for myself repeatedly.
Resolution 2: Treat myself nicely. This may sound a little cheesy until we become mindful of how much self-criticism we tend to unconsciously internalize. Whether its something we feel embarrassed about or wish we could change in the past, talking to yourself nicely is actually easier said than done. So, when I fail at this resolution (which I inevitably will) my resolution is to keep on resolving to treat myself with kindness and talk nicely to myself. So far, beating myself up has not changed any outcomes that I’m aware of.
Resolution 3: Be more decisive. Now those of you who know me may know that I’m quite decisive to begin with, however, it doesn’t mean that I don’t stew about my decisions afterward. My flexible-minded resolution here is to move on with more confidence after I make a decision. This is a tough one, it will need a re-do many times over.
Whatever you resolve for this year know that resolutions need revving, you may have to restart that engine, maybe even several times over. Keep going and re-resolve because goal setting can cause some stress, but to not resolve at all…well that would be a shame.