We’re going to be hearing quite a lot about New Year’s resolutions in the coming weeks, and I’m personally preparing for it to stress me out and potentially impact my mental health.
I have no problem with resolutions in general. There’s nothing wrong with, and there’s even value in, looking ahead to the future and thinking about goals and making plans to improve. It’s just the way New Year’s resolutions are considered a standard, something we absolutely must take part in.
It’s almost as if we’re lazy if we don’t reach what we set out to reach from the resolutions we feel obligated to make. Not achieving something doesn’t make us lazy.
People also attach a high value to the “fresh start” that January 1st provides but don’t consider the fact that when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, time continues like it always has. While it’s great to be optimistic and aim high, and it isn’t inherently unhealthy to hope that the brand new year will be different, we too often find we’ve done nothing concrete to set out achieving our resolutions. This personally leads inevitably to me feeling like I’ve “failed” somehow.
I understand that an arbitrary fresh start can be super motivating. I just think we need to explore deeper within ourselves. If we’re imagining getting motivated once the near year has finally officially begun, I think we’d benefit from asking ourselves why we’re waiting and what we think will be different after the 1st. Or rather, we should figure out how we’re going to make it different.
It’s also the fact that “resolution” by definition means to make a firm choice to do something or to not do something. When I think about making firm decisions, I think of the rigid and unhealthy rules my eating disorder laid out for me. It just feels too similar.
Perhaps those without eating disordered tendencies feel differently about rigidity, and I respect that. However, I also question the logic and encourage self-awareness.
On that note, I find New Year’s resolutions are rarely about mental health improvement and instead focus on cliche ideas of productivity or the unattainable concept of perfection. In this way, resolutions seem to set me up for failure.
One major con is that the reasoning behind a resolution gets lost when you’re too zoomed in. The big picture is hard enough to keep in mind when we’re going through daily life and trying to do our best each day. To be laser-focused on one thing might distract from the fact that you’re doing your best. The truth is, we don’t need to measure success based on singular, particular things.
Another is that resolutions can lead to unhealthy competition. I’ve noticed that conversations about New Year’s goals in the beginning of January stress me out because I wind up comparing what I’m aiming for with what other people are aiming for. And I could swear I’ve been part of conversations where it feels like everyone’s actually trying to one-up each other. It’s never healthy for me to compare my goals with someone else’s; I go at my own pace and I’ve learned to be happy with that.
Even as I type this, though, a piece of my brain is contemplating what I might want to resolve to do or not do in 2021. I’m someone who’s dedicated to personal growth and improvement. It’s important to me to be better tomorrow than I was today.
So do I make resolutions? Do I continue trying to be better tomorrow but without the pressure of specific resolutions? Do I make them but modify them?
A pro to resolutions is that they help us focus on what we want. If I were to go without setting a resolution, it might leave me feeling uncertain about what I want to accomplish this year. By contrast, focusing on something specific, writing it down, and revisiting it, will most likely motivate me to achieve it. It’s a less passive process than simply having a feeling of what you want to do.
Another is they help you manifest what you want. I’m not hugely spiritual, and as much as I think the Law Of Attraction is fascinating to think about, I don’t live by it. But I truly think there’s something to “manifesting something into existence.” It goes back to being focused on a specific thing. If “get a promotion” is on your mind, you’ll be doing more things to put yourself in a place to be promoted.
Also, it feels really good to see your resolutions actualized. I’d hate to be negative or make a blanket statement that New Year’s resolutions all go unfulfilled (that’s just not true). And on that note, I’d hate to ignore the fact that not everyone is intimidated by their concept. For those who find them helpful, having set resolutions is great because it makes it feel that much better to do what you set out to do. If you’re one of those people, go make things happen and enjoy the spoils of your hard work! (If you’re not, that’s fine too)
One last thought I have is that whatever you choose to do, it’s perfectly fine to want to coast through 2021. It doesn’t make you less than if you can’t bring yourself to resole anything. We’re coming out of a year of pure chaos, we’re allowed to just exist. You’re also allowed to set the bar high. Just take care of your mental health regardless.