I’m not a supporter of New Year’s Resolutions. The start of the New Year can be a great time for self-reflection and evaluating if the direction we’re headed will take us where we want to go and there are many ways to approach the process of self-reflection. Unfortunately New Year’s Resolutions tend to be self-denigrating – we beat ourselves up for how we behaved over the holidays, or maybe even the previous year, and promise ourselves this will be the year of clean eating and sweating it out. In short, we tell ourselves we aren’t good enough right now and vow to improve ourselves forever more. Our resolutions tend to frame around negative emotions towards ourselves and those negative emotions only grow larger when we don’t meet the unrealistic expectations we committed ourselves to in January providing further cause for beating ourselves up more. Sound familiar?
I prefer approaching the New Year asking myself how I can be kinder to myself this year? How can I make space in my life for more self-care?
I’ve written before about the Culture of Busy and how it is negatively impacting our health. In that post there are several great recommendations that I remind myself of on a regular basis and could serve as a total guide towards a kind approach to self-reflection and setting intentions for the New Year.
One of the recommendations in that post is simply “Do Less.” When we constantly say “Yes” to taking on another commitment and to filling our plate with tasks and projects and responsibilities what does that mean we are saying “No” to? If you are already feeling pressed for time and that your life is super busy, and then you agree to take on an additional commitment do you evaluate the number of hours/week it will add to your responsibilities? Maybe 5 hours/week – where do you get those 5 hours? What are you going to give up (i.e., say “No” to) in order to get those 5 hours? Do you see where this is going? What is the thing that we usually give up first? Self-care right? We skip a meal or eat a quick, less nutritious one; we skip that walk or ski we were looking forward to; cancel a social engagement with a friend; maybe even give up family time. Yikes!
How can we reverse this situation?
Learn how to say “No” more often. We have a negative cultural bias around saying “No” when someone asks us to do something or even when someone didn’t ask but it is something we believe we “should” do. But when we say, “Yes” there is the hidden “No”. There is the hidden “No” to the things we gave up in order to say “Yes”. The reverse of this is that there is a hidden “Yes” when we say “No” to something. It is usually the “Yes” of having time for self-care – keeping our social engagement with our friend, going for that walk, eating that nutritious meal, prioritizing family time.
So back to the question I am reflecting on this year: “How can I make space in my life for more self-care?” How can I do less?
A couple of years ago I posted an idea on Instagram about making Anti-Resolutions.
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As a chronic To-Do-List person, I usually have several to do lists and there are usually a few tasks or projects that I never seem to get to but that keep moving from one list to the next. But even the thought of them weighs me down. So my first Anti-Resolutions are to cross those off the list forever.
Are you a To-Do-Lister? Do you know what I’m talking about? I challenge you to find 5 things on your To Do List that you vow NOT TO DO in 2019. Then cross them out and forget about them. If you are really worried about losing track of them write them down on a piece of paper, seal it in an envelope and address it to yourself December 31, 2019 and stow it away with your Christmas decorations so that you’ll find it next year (if you don’t celebrate Christmas, just go hide it somewhere you’re not likely to find it until next year).
Just doing this can bring in more space for creativity and feeling more relaxed. And then as new projects come up, I try to remember the hidden “No” when saying “Yes” and the hidden “Yes” when saying “No.” Taking a moment to consider whether there is time in my life for that commitment right now and what I would have to give up to make it happen helps me make decisions that are more likely to lead to joy and fulfilment rather than bind me to the Culture of Busy.
Happy New Year. May you be less busy in 2019 with more time for relaxation and self-care.