I’m personally not a fan of New Year Resolutions in the traditional sense. They suggest that there’s something wrong with us that needs fixing and that we’re not good enough as we are. Instead of putting undue pressure on ourselves, how about we think of basic things we’d like to focus on, without judgement or guilt. Here are just 12 alternative ‘resolutions’ and intentions that are worth thinking about this year.
1. Slow Down, Stress Less & Appreciate More
Easier said than done, right? Stress can have significant ramifications for our mental and physical health. While it has an evolutionary benefit, stress can become a prolonged issue for many people, a never-ending high-stress cycle that’s hard to break. Instead of helping us it to perform at our best, it can hinder us and make life miserable and difficult emotionally, while also damaging our physical health.
In our modern world, it seems like it’s perversely held in high regard if you can be constantly doing and continually stressed. It’s almost expected and admired, with getting rest being something that’s frowned upon even as talk of ‘self-care’ gains popularity. It’s a conundrum that you can’t win. If you’re falling into this trap, you’re not alone.
Are there any things in particular causing you stress? Is there anything you can let go of or change in order to take some of that pressure off? What do you think might be helpful in managing stresses you can’t do away with, such as mindfulness, meditation, exercise, therapy, self-help books, and so on? Sometimes we need a change of perspective to ease off the gas pedal a little, and now is the perfect time to take a look at your stress levels and what to do about them.
Letting go of hangups, stresses, repetitive thoughts and old hurts is much easier said than done, but if there are things that aren’t serving you well then it’s a good idea to try to take them off your shoulders. I personally have found 2020 to be difficult emotionally because I’ve found levels of anger I never knew I had. Anger at the government, the NHS, so-called ‘covidiots’, the way people have been treated during the pandemic and so on. It builds to a point where it becomes toxic. Appreciate the things you can’t change and identify what only causes you harm to hold on to.
Next is that whole ‘attitude of gratitude’, which may sound cheesy but it can be pretty powerful in changing how you feel on a deeper level. Just taking a moment when you can to think of the positives or the things you’re grateful for can boost your mood. It’s just not as easy to do when everything feels rubbish and the days are particularly dark, though those are the times it’s arguably all the more beneficial.
I’d also highly recommend assessing your perspective and expectations. This is something that happened for me when I got ill and the world got a lot smaller and the goal posts changed dramatically, as they have for many others with chronic illness.
Instead of the big things, I started looking at the small things, even the teeny tiny ones. I find joy in the much smaller elements of life these days. You don’t have to do mind-blowing activities or own extravagant things to be content and find joy. Now’s the time to slow down and start seeing the beauty and comfort in the small things we often take for granted.
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2. Find A Little Meaning
Without getting too deep on the meaning of life, a general sense of meaning is key to our sense of overall wellness. This encompasses meaning in your day to day life and the things you do, as well as meaning in a larger sense, in relation to other people and the world at large.
You don’t need to have achieved monumental, world-shattering things in your life for it to have meaning, nor do you need to have lots of people in your life in order for it to be important. Having some sense of purpose or passions can be motivational and fulfilling.
3. Know Your Morals & Principles, Then Live Them
What are the things you’re fired up about or excited about? What do you believe in? What subjects do you find gear you up for debating and what do you feel is worth fighting for? Maybe you argue your point over politics, animal cruelty or human rights, or perhaps you’re passionate about the environment, healthcare or overcoming inequality.
What about your everyday morals and way of life? What’s important to you? Being a good person, being honest, having integrity, living authentically, being a good friend, respecting others, being on time, working hard.
Know what you believe in, what kind of person you are and want to be, and what things you’re passionate about. Be that person and uphold those principles. An authentic life means aligning with your core beliefs and living them.
4. Get Into A Supplement Routine
If you have supplements you want or need to take, do you take them regularly as required? For many of us, having a range of prescription medications, over the counter products and then supplements on top can become a bit of a chore and it’s easy to forget to take them or even forget what you’ve taken.
Try to get into a stable routine of what to take and when, coming up with a way to ensure you take what’s required each day. We start with the best of intentions with taking Vitamin C, Vitamin D, magnesium and so on, but then life comes along and they can go by the wayside.
Try creating a tick sheet by hand or on your computer that you can print and complete each week, use a medication app, set alarm reminders, or use a dosette box. There are a few options to try out so find whatever works best for you.
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5. Get Routine Checks
It’s worrying to think how many routine health checks have been missed in 2020, from eye tests and dental check-ups, to breast cancer screening and smear tests. If you have any symptoms that are worrying you, or you’re curious as to whether you might have a certain condition or deficiency, speak to your doctor. Be assertive and try to get whatever tests you need. Covid has made many weary of attending clinics, and in many cases appointments have been delayed or cancelled altogether.
Don’t put routine checks off if you can book them this year and safely attend as they can save hassle in the long run, or even save a life.
You could also consider having private blood tests from home or clinics, especially if you’re struggling to get the tests you need in the UK via the NHS. Check out Medichecks for their extensive range of blood tests, and see my review for 10% off.
Building in some healthier habits where possible is a good idea too, from less stress, practicing regular dental hygiene and attempting to improve your sleep, to less processed foods, more movement and adequate water intake.
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6. Do Away With Unnecessary Guilt
In theory, guilt should serve a useful purpose in directing our emotions and future behaviours. Unfortunately, like other maladaptive curiosities such as anxiety, guilt can also become dysfunctional and damaging. Many people can struggle with guilt to some degree. Those with chronic illness often find it to be a feature in their lives, when we’ve perhaps lost jobs, social lives and meaning in our days.
Whatever the reasons, guilt can be pervasive and sneak up on us. Guilt for not doing enough, guilt for smiling, guilt for feeling depressed, guilt for making an unimportant mistake, guilt for not earning enough money, guilt for looking after ourselves. Over time it becomes a heavy burden on our shoulders that suffocates us, and it’s a cycle that’s difficult to break.
Dig a little deeper and see what lies beneath the guilt. Those are the bigger issues that need carefully dismantling and disarming, whether it’s feelings of shame, not being worthy, or something else entirely. If you’re struggling, please reach out or speak to your GP for professional support.
7. Get On Top Of Finances
Money can cause a lot of stress, oddly enough both when you have it and when you don’t. Whatever your financial situation, it’s never too late to get on top of your finances in some way. Get to grips with what money you have, what you spend it on and your typical spending habits.
What expenses do you have coming up and what are your savings goals? Are there any ways you can save money here and there, or earn a little extra? Do you need to look at changing bank accounts for better interest rates? Do you want to diversify your investments if you have them? Get the bigger picture on your money, savings and expenditure to better get to grips with your finances.
Even simply gathering the information can ease some stress because you’ll know what’s what. when money a worrying unknown that you’re reluctant to face, it can start feeling out of our control or we might even avoid dealing with it altogether, so having it laid out in front of you can give you a better perspective of the situation and where to go from there.
8. Laugh More
Laughter is a great form of free therapy and we probably all need a little more of it. Whether it’s laughing at a funny comedy show or cute cats on Facebook, reading rude jokes or watching funny YouTube clips, a little chuckle can lighten the day. It also eases the pressure if you can learn to laugh at yourself and the situation sometimes, just to take off the edge of seriousness of the experience.
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9. Prioritise Self-Care
Self-care is three dimensional. There are smaller elements of self-care that we often read about, like taking a luxurious bath or using face masks and buying ourselves a treat. And then there are the bigger parts, such as standing up for yourself, saying ‘no’ when you need to, and believing in your own value. Make 2021 the year to prioritise all of these elements. Make more time for YOU, for the things you enjoy, and for looking after yourself.
It doesn’t mean becoming self-absorbed and selfish, it just puts you in a better position to manage life and reduce any resentment that can come from neglecting yourself when you’re so busy taking care of everything and everyone else.
Make sure your basic needs get met first and then look at the ways you can feel better in yourself and make your days more meaningful and enjoyable.
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10. Be More Assertive
Standing up for yourself and your needs is one of the bigger, vital elements of self-care. It ties into how you see yourself and your self-worth, so it’s about recognising that you are worth fighting for. Be your own advocate when it comes to your needs and your health.
Be a little more confident and assertive when it comes to asking for what you want and need, to saying ‘no’, and to standing up for your feelings.
11. Appreciate Nature & Fresh Air
Lockdown has made us realise the value of getting outside and enjoying green spaces. Connecting with nature can reduce stress and help you to feel more grounded, and getting fresh air is a good way to cleanse and refresh you from the inside out.
You could be sat down enjoying some peace and quiet in the garden, deep breathing and meditating on the grass, or taking a short walk around a park. Fresh air, a little exercise if possible, mindful breathing, and appreciating nature can be beneficial for our minds and bodies. Only do this if you safely can. If not, it’ll be something to look forward to once the pandemic is finally over.
Likewise, animals and pets can also be grounding and calming, so it’s unsurprising that research often finds that pets can be beneficial for our mental and physical wellbeing.
12. Write Your Own Rules
Do you ever feel as though you’re behind in life? That there are certain pressures, expectations and unwritten rules about the things you ‘should’ be doing, the life you ‘should’ be living, and the things you ‘should’ be achieving at particular points in your life?
It can make anyone feel like they’re behind and feel disappointed in their lives. For those with chronic illness, life may have gone totally off-track, with nothing you could have done to stop it from happening. You may not be be able to do the things you want to do, let alone the things society suggests you should be doing. You just end up feeling useless and not good enough, comparing yourself not just to the implied social expectations, but to your peers, colleagues or family as well.
So what if you haven’t settled down or got a dream career? So what if you still live with your parents or if you’re not earning what your peers are? So what if you don’t have a colourful social life, a Bentley in the driveway or attend five social clubs each week?
Really think about it – do these expectations even interest you? You might find they don’t and that you couldn’t care less, but that you feel bad for not living up to them anyway. You might find that some of them do interest you but that you can’t achieve them, at which point it’s time to adjust your expectations and perspective so that they’re more in line with your life and abilities currently.
It’s time to stop comparing. It’s time to realise that these unwritten social rules and expectations are made to be broken. They’re inflexible, unrealistic, and they’re not yours. This is your life and you need to live it as you see fit. You may take a totally different route to what you’d ever thought you would, but the only person that needs to be happy with who you are and what your life looks like is you.
Write your own rules about how your life looks and live it without apology.
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♥ ♥ ♥
There are of course heaps of small changes you might want to make this year, from recycling more to looking after your skin more regularly. I personally would steer clear of the ‘resolutions’ that pile on the pressure and that are basically telling you that you’re not good enough as you are, which often revolve around image and weight.
I’d also sidestep unrealistic goals and things you don’t really want. It shouldn’t be about forcing yourself into a box and berating yourself for perceived ‘failures’.
You might want to look at little changes to help you towards your goals, or adjustments that can enable you to better manage stress or chronic illness and pain. You might just want to simply define particular things to focus more on this year, such as time with family.
Don’t select things because you think you ‘should’. Focus on the things that actually matter to you, without the pressure, without the added stress and definitely without the guilt trips.