It’s an age-old tale: You start off the new year eager to be a better you, maybe even a new you. You sit down at your kitchen table like someone out of a rom-com movie with a notebook and pen in hand, and you start to mark down all the ways you want to be better. Exercising more takes top priority, followed by drinking more water, then maybe wearing sunscreen daily, and saying you’ll eat more salads for lunch instead of the ever-tempting, carb-loaded cuisine your cafeteria has to offer.
January usually starts off pretty strong, but halfway through you realize that your eight glasses of water a day has dwindled down to maybe five or six, and your bed is beginning to become a lot more intriguing than having to change into new clothes, go to the gym, and get back home to shower.
If you’re someone who likes to make New Year’s resolutions but equally struggles to follow through with them, try these three strategies to make your declarations stick and truly make a difference in your life.
Don’t Create an Unachievable List
While there are many attributes that we all want to change about ourselves, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Instead of creating a long list of all the things you can be better at, choose maybe two or three specific changes you really want to see for yourself in the new year.
If you didn’t exercise much, if at all, the year prior, don’t expect to turn into a gym buff overnight. Instead of pressuring yourself to go to the gym four or more days a week, be graceful and start with one or two days. On the side, dedicate to walking around your neighborhood for 20 minutes after dinner a couple of times a week too, that way you’re still getting some exercise in without overdoing it. When working out becomes more customary to you, that’s when you can beef up on the expectations and dedicate more time to the cause.
While exercising is an easy example of this, the sentiment can be passed on to any resolution. You want to eat more salads? Great! Try to work that into your already existing diet four times a week. You want to be better about cleaning your home? Congrats! Set a day a week that you can do a deep clean and work on just remaining tidy as best you can throughout the week. There’s no need to scrub the whole place every single day. Be realistic in how these resolutions can blend into your life – there’s no need to turn your whole world upside down because the Queer Eye guys seem to make everything look easy.
Be Patient with Yourself
If you feel yourself slacking on your expectations, don’t beat yourself up. Just to loop back into the exercising conversation for the sake of familiarity, if you’ve missed a few of the sessions you planned on partaking in because your workday was rough or your schoolwork piled too high, that’s okay! Don’t feel the need to stack those days onto your next week either. Just pick up where you’re at and try again. The more you make yourself feel like a failure for not sticking to your plans, the less inclined you’ll feel to try again.
Remember, these are things you wanted to work on, not become an expert at. Where there’s some give in one area, there’s going to be some take in another. Priorities are important, and your mental health should be first and foremost. If you feel like your resolutions are becoming too stressful for you and you begin to dread them more than look forward to them, there’s no shame in deciding to drop them. You can also modify them as you move through the year. If you really wanted to get into going to the gym but it’s just not happening for you, try going to a workout class instead. Rock climbing has proven to be a great activity for many people who really detest having to lift weights or run on a treadmill. It’s more of a game than a workout, so just get creative with what you’re doing and how you can better tailor it to your needs.
This one comes in two parts: reflect internally and reflect externally. It’s really important that you check in on yourself to see if your resolutions are still what you want for yourself and if they’re really helping you. Journaling is a great way for you to put your mind at ease and set expectations into perspective. If you process it all in your head, you might get overwhelmed and/or distracted by everything else caught in your brain. Streamline your thoughts into something tangible so you can also look back at the end of the year and see how far you’ve progressed on paper. It’s not only a great way to clear your mind but also a nice example of growth for future you.
By reflecting externally, I’m not just talking about sharing your life’s woes to your pet or standing in front of the mirror and giving yourself a good ole pep talk. I’m talking about bringing in people you trust – your friends and your family. If you’re feeling encouraged or discouraged by your progress, talk it out with someone who can truly listen and maybe give you some advice. Being held accountable can also be beneficial in keeping you on track and staying motivated. Although resolutions are a personal quest, they don’t have to be an isolating one too.