Don't Fall for the New Year's Resolution Trap...

Every new year, I rail a little bit against the concept of New Year's resolutions -- that time of the year when everyone is suddenly dieting, ending bad habits, testing every day, taking all their medicines on time, and having a near heart attack after trying to jog for two blocks.

It's not that I don't want to see people succeed, but I feel that this time of the year isn't really ideal for making such changes. For one, our challenge becomes this public stage: all friends and family become aware of these resolutions, and we're expected to 'perform' like a good little child for someone else's praise. Often they might even police our behavior. On top of this, most people don't really have a basic grasp on how to approach these really big changes. People want to eradicate all unwanted behaviors, or install new ones, in one fell swoop. Considering that humans are creatures of habit -- and often, habits which have many emotional underpinnings, this is the stupidest idea that has ever occurred to anyone. And corporations LOVE IT, and feed on it -- and then constantly bombard us with New Year's resolution ads because we're sheep like that. This creates an environment where food, and the pressure to succeed and be perfect, is ever present on the mind: eating certain foods, and avoiding the foods we won't allow ourselves to have, being the size of that one skinny model eating yogurt, living on only cereal or soup, etc. It's a recipe for disappointment, and we really set ourselves up for it. Honestly, I'm surprised major women's groups have not denounced some of these ads as unhealthy, and gotten them off the air. I mean, are these corporations really suggesting I should live on nothing but cereal, or soup, to get skinny in a short amount of time? This is the root of anorexia right here, folks.

Now, do I think we shouldn't reevaluate anything in our lives, ever? No. But my perspective has always been that we ought to do more than just change some 'actions,' and instead change the emotional bonds and attachments behind ingrained behaviors. That we should first tackle the "bigger picture," if you would. For example: If we're having a problem with weight, perhaps we ought to focus for a while on not overeating (and all the reasons and emotions behind that, and what it entails), rather than drastically changing the particular foods we eat; or, if we're having a problem with being inactive, perhaps we ought to focus on finding enjoyment in some physical activity, like taking a walk around the block after a meal, and noticing how our body craves the movement, rather than focusing on meeting certain time limits and endurance levels; etc. Changing how we focus our minds around these challenges will allow us to address the problems at their root causes, and allow us to make further progress in establishing disciplined habits. Once we are focused on just eating the amount of food our bodies need (ie, eating to satiety signals) -- and not more than that -- we can perhaps consider trying new foods. Once we see that we enjoy walking, perhaps we can step up the pace.

So, really, when we look to make changes in our lives, we should be looking to slowly and completely change our state of mind, and not just some actions. Actions are simply the symptom of the deeper problem. The thing is... we can start this at any time of year -- we can start it whenever. And we don't have to let ANYONE know we're doing it. We can freely invite someone over to enjoy an evening walk after dinner, without ever having to let them know what we're doing. It is NOT about keeping ourselves accountable -- it is about finding enjoyment -- enjoying out body, the things it can do, and our lives.

So, in the New Year, resolve to give yourself the freedom to not resolve anything... but to give yourself and your actions, the love, respect, understanding, and attention which they deserve.

Happy New Year.
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