I’m all for goals and self-improvement, but why do we insist on punishing ourselves? Time to ‘ditch’ and ‘switch’ those New Year vows, says Abi Jackson
So another year is done. You could roll out that cliched list of New Year resolutions once again - but will it really make you happy?
How about trying a different approach, and, instead of dwelling on your so-called flaws and failures and the punishing regimes and denials you’ll need to enforce to ‘fix’ them, opting to reward yourself a little bit more instead?
Here are three negative New Year cliches to ditch, and some more uplifting (and, quite possibly, more likely to work) alternatives to switch to...
DITCH: ‘I’m fat - I must lose weight’
SWITCH: ‘I will cherish my body and treat it with the TLC it deserves’
Here’s the thing, wanting to maintain a healthy weight is a good idea, and it is important that you’re happy with your body - but that is not the same thing as feeling pressure to be ‘perfect’.
First, you have to learn to accept yourself, and to believe that you deserve to look after and love yourself. No, that doesn’t always come easy.
But, stepping away from negative patterns - the self scrutiny and punishment/the destructive or emotional eating patterns - will help.
Stop focussing on why you don’t think your body is good enough, and instead start treating it well, by eating things that are good for you, cherishing your sleep, indulging in a skincare and pampering regime that makes you feel good, and exercising for the simple reason that it’s good for you and makes you feel good.
You deserve these things. And do you know what? Over time, confidence will grow.
Your body will amaze you in ways you perhaps never dreamt possible, you’ll realise there is far more to you and to life than the size of your jeans, and your weight will balance out in a healthy, sustainable way.
DITCH: ‘I must get a better job/buy a house’
SWITCH: ‘I will take more moments to feel grateful’
There is nothing wrong with wanting a ‘better’ job or to get on the property ladder, of course - this isn’t really about that.
It’s about that pesky trap of getting hung up on things we think we ‘should’ be doing or achieving - perhaps because society engineers us to feel that way, or perhaps because it’s easier to cling onto a readymade marker of success/happiness, one that’s external to us and possibly seems out of our control, instead of taking a step back to think about what we genuinely need and want, and having the courage to pursue that.
Maybe that six-figure salary will never be for you.
Maybe, for the next two decades or so the property ladder is simply out of reach (or whatever metaphor applies).
You’re still allowed to be happy and proud of your successes - if you let yourself, and if you choose to broaden your definition of success.
It’s a choice we can make, and getting into the habit of feeling grateful for the good things in our lives (especially those little everyday things so easily taken for granted) is a great place to start.
Gratitude teaches us about who we really are and where we get our kicks, helps us keep a sense of perspective and builds us a ‘happiness armoury’ that’s so much easier to maintain than hanging all of our self-worth on life’s biggies, like salaries and mortgages.
DITCH: ‘I must go to the gym at least three times a week (even though I hate it)’
SWITCH: ‘I’m going to find something I love doing - and do it because I love it’
Hands up if you’ve ever made the pledge: I will start going to the gym... once I’ve lost some weight.
Or how about this one: I’ll take up cycling - once I’ve got fit. You KNOW that your weight loss and fitness efforts stand a much bigger chance if you actually get up and do the exercise, but you’re intimidated.
You’re not sure you can do it, and you’re embarrassed to be seen trying (plus, it’ll be really hard work, right?).
I can’t remember the number of times I’ve felt like a total imposter in a new exercise class/the pool/amid a sea of Lycra-clad ‘proper’ cyclists.
The thing is, I’ve discovered something life-changing... Once you fall in love with being active, none of that really matters. Screw everyone else and screw those insecurities - this is about you, your endorphin high and you getting up and doing something simply for the joy of it.
If you haven’t found ‘the one’, keep looking - exercise is about so much more than ticking boxes at the gym.