2019 Self-Care and Avoiding The New Years Resolution Trap

Its new years eve 2018, and tomorrow, people all over the place will be making promises to themselves and to others about what they are and are not going to do in 2019. We all know at this stage that new years resolutions mostly don’t work out the way we want them to, and the vast majority of 2019 resolutions will be on the scrapheap with the rest of them by the end of the second week of January. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for fresh starts, and the new year is as good a time to turn a new leaf as any. The calendrer starts fresh, most of us have had a bit of time of work, and lets face it, most of us have eaten too much, drank too much, and lost our sense of what day of the week it is over the last number of days. Overall by the time new years eve rolls around, we are ready for a fresh start. But if we are ready for the change then why to new years resolutions invariably fail? Here are few of my own thoughts about that. 

1. We are sold an impossible dream

Check your social media feed in the coming days and weeks and you will see the hyped up promises of 'beach body', 'six pack abs', 'superfood diet', 'miracle supplement' , and dramatic before and after photos, etc. You know the drill at this stage. Marketers want to make money, and will say whatever it takes for you to get sucked into their trap and buy whatever they are selling. Here is an article that came out yesterday where the head of the Irish Cancer Research Society stated that : "The concept of a superfood is just an exploitative scam, to be frank". I agree with him. I would personally go so far as to say that our overall health (or lack thereof) has more to do with the rubbish foods that we are consuming on a regular basis than the expensive 'superfoods' that we eat every now and again. The same salesey rubbish that we are smothered with when it comes to superfoods has its close relative in the nonsense marketing of most fitness programs. The ads usually involve a buff person with spray on sweat in a dimly lit room going through a exotic and complex training routine with the promise that you can obtain their rugged good looks and vibrant body if you just buy (insert product name or membership type here). Sometimes we are hit with a dramatic before and after photo of a person who lost lots of weight holding up their old pants so we can see how much smaller they have gotten. I am reading back on this and saying to myself I have become a grumpy aul cynic, but hey, I am saying what I think, and although I may be generalising a bit, it’s based on real life experience. And, its not to diminish the achievements of people who start on dramatic fresh starts and bring it all the way to a positive outcome. This is a great achievement for those people and a life changing process, but sensationalist advertising and over promising on the results of things that mostly bring short term success at best is something that we all need to be aware of. 

2. We don’t address what's behind our behavior. 

Another reason that new years resolutions bite the dust after a week or two (in my opinion), is that a lot of the time the negative or unhealthy behavior that we would like to kick to the curb is the results of something a bit deeper that we often fail to address with our new years resolutions. For example, if you hate your job, and are so drained after a day of trying to keep up appearances, the chances are higher you will want some fast food, or  a few pints, to get away from the fact that you are not enjoying your 9-5. I can speak from personal experience on this one, and know that when there is a pink elephant in the room in the form of some sizeable aspect of my life that I am not happy with, I engage in negative behaviors like staying up late and getting up late, eating out more, training less, and neglecting the small things that keep my mental health in check. If I end up completely overworked, run down, and stressed out, its not because I really want to spend every waking hour in work….its generally because I want an escape from something that I just don’t fancy dealing with. Ironically, I am more productive when I don’t work my fingers to the bone, and I always end up having to face my demons anyway, no matter how much I try to run away from them.  

3. Its No Craic (and has no social structure)

Diets are no craic. Getting shouted at by a gym instructor is no craic. Eating bland food is no craic. Drinking pond water looking juices is no craic. Standing on a weighing scales every day is no craic. Feeling guilty is no craic. Going from no activity to training every day and getting injured is no craic. Staying at home when your friends are going out because you want to resist temptation generally is less craic than going out.

Not only are all of the above no craic, but they lack the social support that makes the likelihood of us sticking it our until we see significant results a much more likely. For example, if you decide to join a racist walking group, but you are not a racist yourself, your not going to stick around in the walking group until you are nice and healthy. The bottom line is that when you are taking part in some form of physical or creative activity its much easier to do it with people you like, identify with, and feel a sense of purpose with. Eating salads out of a plastic lunchbox while your work colleagues go for lunch together is a health strategy that is doomed to fail. On the other hand rock-climbing once a week with your friends is a sure way to start enjoying your new activity, making new friends, and keeping it going for life, far beyond the point where you are a bit stronger and healthier. Going for lunchtime walks on Wednesday with your bestie is a great way to have the chats, be healthy and keep each other on track. When you find some peers to travel with, the journey is much smoother. If you have a supportive group (or individual) with you, it will not only make it easier to keep going, but will also pull you up when you feel like giving up, and give you positive reinforcement when you achieve small victories along the way.

4. We want (and kind of get) instant gratification 

This is related to the 'No Craic' point. Buying stuff IS good craic! Call it retail therapy, call it a definite action towards your goal, or call it the first step on a long journey. Look at it whatever way  you want, but clicking 'Buy Now' gives us a pang of gratification and satisfaction, and also gives us a bit of motivation to get started on whatever goal we are chasing. This is mostly positive, but the flip side is that this initial burst of energy rarely lasts longer than it takes for the every day life to settle back in and the pressures of having to fulfil our familial/ work/ or social duties sends us flying right back to where we started from. The people selling you fads and gimmicks on Facebook don’t care about this though. Generally speaking, with these kind of new years ads, once you have parted with your hard earned dolla billz, you have served your purpose as a willing consumer.

Motivation is great for getting us started, but crap for sustaining our efforts for long enough to see significant results. Once you get back to work, fall into your old routines, get busy, get tired, or hit a roadblock, the chances are increased that you just throw the baby out with the bathwater and end up back at square one. Use your initial motivation spike to get yourself on the right road by getting the help of  a professional you trust, getting in with people you relate to, or carving out the space in your schedule to make it as easy as possible for you to regularly practice the habit you would like to develop. 

I like this quote by Ghandi:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, 

Your thoughts become your words, 

Your words become your actions, 

Your actions become your habits, 

Your habits become your values, 

Your values become your destiny.”

What I take from that quote is that small things accumulate to create big changes and if you can keep on doing small positive actions, they will have a great impact on your life. So, in honor of the new years resolution, Mahatma, the positive impact that self care has on our body and minds, and on the people around us, here are 31 things that you can do to give yourself a bit of self love on the first day of a new year, that don’t require a massive commitment, and that you can do pretty much anytime, for any length of time, and that will have a positive impact on your physical and mental health. If you are feeling the new years resolution vibes right now, why not try do something positive for yourself for at least 10 minutes every day for the next 30 days. If you miss a day, no big deal. You can go again tomorrow:

  1. Walk outside

  2. Do something with 100% of your attention 

  3. Go to the gym and do something you enjoy

  4. Practice a musical instrument for a while

  5. Call a friend 

  6. Priorities what you want to do yourself 

  7. Ditch the phone for a while

  8. Cook something nice

  9. Read a book 

  10. Don’t do the thing that you feel you 'should do' but don’t really want to. 

  11. Clean your room

  12. Watch a movie

  13. Write a letter

  14. Buy something cool

  15. Book that trip/ break

  16. Go on a course

  17. Take the pressure off yourself

  18. Go for a wee cycle

  19. Do some art

  20. Talk to someone

  21. Give a bit of money to a charity

  22. Eat a dessert

  23. Do the think you have been nagging yourself to do

  24. Forget about the thing you have been nagging yourself about

  25. Get rid of some stuff you don’t need anymore

  26. Listen to a podcast

  27. Light some candles (don’t forget about them!)

  28. Buy someone a gift

  29. Write a short journal about how your feeling or what you did today

  30. Drink a bottle of water

  31. Use less plastic today

Ainle