New Years Resolutions

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Katie O.
Katie O. @katie-o

New Year's Resolutions Don’t Work for Me and My OCD

My relationship with New Year’s resolutions is complicated, to say the least. I used to make one every year. When I was a kid, I made them because that was what I thought I was supposed to do. My parents encouraged me to make them, and from what I remember, they were usually your typical “good kid” resolutions: do all my chores, watch less television, keep my room clean, eat more vegetables. In my teens and college years, it became more about living up to what I saw posted by friends on social media. December 31st and January 1st always brought about endless scrolling through long “year in review” reflections, photo montages and vows to change big things in the next 365 days. Naturally, I followed suit, posting my own lofty goals and tapping the like button on everyone else’s as they appeared on my feed. As wonderful as these resolutions seemed on January 1st each year, they almost always seemed to create some problems later on. First, my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) brain would kick in, constantly causing me to “check” on the status of my resolution. Have I done what I said I was going to do? Have I missed a day of doing — insert daily goal of your choice here — yet? What about yesterday? Last week? Have I really been doing as good of a job as I think I have? Then, once I (or my OCD) determined that I hadn’t been living up to the resolution I set, an additional spiral of negative thought patterns would ensue. Guilt, shame, self-doubt and questioning. By February, I would give up completely on whatever it was I had resolved to do and wallow in the fact that I had failed once again. Maybe the following year would be different. But it never was. A couple of years ago, I decided I’d had enough of that cycle. So for the first time that I can remember, I consciously decided not to make a New Year’s resolution. I wasn’t going to make any major changes in the new year. I was just going to keep driving forward on the road I was on. No detours, no pit stops, no u-turns. Don’t get me wrong, New Year’s resolutions work for some people. If you’re someone who sets them happily each year, I’m happy for you! For me though, the negative always seemed to outweigh the positive. I decided to accept and embrace that maybe they weren’t for me. And that just because I felt some societal pressure, I didn’t have to make one. I still set goals, day-to-day. But I try to keep them small and attainable. And most importantly, when I don’t meet them quite as planned, I make sure to have grace with myself. Because guess what? Life? It’s imperfect. And so am I. When I made New Year’s resolutions, they always felt so absolute. And they almost always somehow got twisted into something that was tied to my self-worth. Taking away the pressure that the changing of the calendar seemed to eliminate those issues and all of the unhealthy thought patterns I used to have. So as we move into 2022, I do not have a New Year’s resolution. I am not planning to make any major lifestyle changes. Instead, I’m marking the date change with a few “focus words” that I can recall in the coming months — whenever I feel like I need a little mindset refresh, or when it feels like my OCD is getting the better of me: grit, gratitude and hope. Grit, because life is unpredictable, and some days will always be tougher than others. Gratitude, because it’s important to appreciate what you have, big and small. And hope, because let’s face it, in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, we can all use some more of that. These words are my New Year’s gift to myself, an additional tool to keep in my mental health toolkit and reframe my thinking when I need to. If you made a New Year’s resolution this year, awesome! And if you chose not to, that’s perfectly OK. Regardless of your choice, I hope that you are able to enter 2022 with whatever tools you need to take care of yourself, physically and mentally. For me, that means I’m going to keep on cruising along this road that I’m on — carrying grit, gratitude and hope along with me.

Mike Antonacci

How to Use New Year's Resolutions to Manage Your Chronic Illness

Most New Year’s resolutions fail, but yours don’t have to. Avoid these common pitfalls and you’ll set this year up for success in managing and improving your conditions. Pitfall: Too Many Things The more goals you set, the less likely you are to achieve any of them. You only have so much time and attention in a day, not to mention you have your health conditions to manage. Pick one (maybe two) things to work on. You’ll still be in maintenance mode for everything else, so it’s not like you’re going to drop everything. But, you’ll only intentionally work on one to two new things. One question that can help you decide: What’s something you can do that makes everything else easier or irrelevant? If you’re not consistent on your physical therapy exercises and realize that if you had more strength, you could be able to do a lot more functional things around the house, maybe that’s what you focus on. If you do it, it makes everything else easier. Perhaps it’s really hard for you to ask for help and therefore you push yourself too far, slowing your improvement. Maybe the one thing you focus on is receiving help from others. If you do that, other things become easier or irrelevant. Once you have your one to two things, put everything else on a “later list.” That list keeps track of possible treatments to try so you don’t have to worry about forgetting them. But, it also gets those ideas out of your head and therefore not occupying mental space. It frees you up to focus only on your one to two things. Pitfall: Too Vague If you have a clear path but it leads towards something you don’t want, you’ll choose it over an unclear path that leads towards your desired goal. You’ll pick the clear path over the unclear path most times. Clarity drives action. You want clarity on where you want to go, and on specific things you can do to get there. Notice I said “specific things you can do,” not “ should do.” These are very different, especially when your health limits you. For example, I know that exercise improves my health conditions, but I’m very limited in how much I can sit and stand. The only kind of cardio I can do is swimming, so even if someone thinks that I “should” do a different kind of exercise, I can’t. Focusing on what you can do instead of what you can’t do is more empowering, too. Once you’ve picked your one to two things to work on (in addition to maintaining other aspects of your life), pick one to two things you can do. As long as doing those things is within your control and it leads you closer to your desired end goal, that’s what you want. These things should be clear and easy to understand. For example, if you want to get better at asking for help, you could make a goal of asking for help once per day. I’m sure you could do other actions that could lead you towards that goal, but this is just one idea. Maybe you try out one thing that you think will lead you towards your goal and then realize it’s not working. That’s totally fine. You can always switch it up. If your end goal is clear, you can pick some other action to take that help you get there. Pitfall: Can’t See Progress Progress is exciting and motivating. But, if progress is slow and hard to see, it’s easy to lose steam. Easy solution – make a scoreboard, something that shows you’re taking the right steps. If your goal is to get better asking for help, it could be as simple as a Post-It note with tally marks on it. Each week, you could see your improvement in how many times you ask for help. Scoreboards can take many forms, so pick one you’ll find motivating. It might take some experimentation, so feel free to tweak it as you go. Important note: your scoreboard should keep track of your actions, not your results. Your actions are within your control. Your results are not, and even if you do all the right things, results still might vary from day-to-day. If you track your actions, you will know that you’re doing something within your power to improve your situation. Pitfall: No Accountability If life is a video game, it’s not a solo mission – it’s massively multiplayer, fully interactive. Others are on the journey with you and they can help you stay on the right track. Accountability can take many forms, but it all has the same end goal – celebrating your successes and redirecting you when you’ve gotten off course. Maybe it’s a group text with a few of your friends where you each pick one thing to do that we can then check in on how it went. Maybe it’s an in-person or virtual meet-up where you talk more in-depth. Maybe you have a medical professional like a physical therapist checking in with you. Maybe it’s some sort of online forum. Whatever form it takes, choose one that works for you and feel free to tweak it as you go. Let next year be a year of great improvement Your health might be complicated, but your path forward doesn’t have to be. By focusing on one thing you can control, one thing that’s likely to have a big impact, it’ll be easier to see your progress and therefore easier to be motivated. Add in an exciting scoreboard and some people to keep you accountable – I’d say you’ve set yourself up for success. Now go out there and be awesome.

Monika Sudakov

Making New Year's Mental Health 'Revelations' Instead of Resolutions

Much has been written about the issues with New Year’s resolutions. From toxic positivity to encouraging unrealistic expectations, there are many reasons to avoid them. I myself gave up on them because I am a recovering perfectionist and people pleaser, and giving myself just one more thing that I might not be able to accomplish tends to fuel my negative, overthinking brain with all the ways in which I’m some kind of failure. But I do like the idea of taking stock of what I’ve learned throughout the year and how those insights might fuel my growth in the new year. Tis’ the season for lists, but this is a list of my revelations for 2021. A top five, if you will, of the most profound things that grew out of my continued healing journey and therapy. I hope they inspire you as much as they have inspired me. 1. You may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the right people will love you for everything that you are. After parting ways with my ex therapist, I struggled in the early part of this year with feeling like I don’t matter. It took a lot of work with my current therapist to recognize that I do matter…to the right people. And sometimes people’s behavior toward you actually has nothing to do with anything you did wrong and more to do with them — something I have struggled with my whole life as I just assume I’m at fault or that there’s something fundamentally wrong with me. 2. Maybe the goal isn’t to be happy all of the time… Because that’s unrealistic, but to be able to ride the waves of all of our emotions, including grief and sadness, without judging ourselves as being a failure for having those feelings. I grew up being told not to be mad or sad because I’d upset those around me. You can’t eliminate one set of feelings without adversely affecting how you experience others. If we want to feel joy we must feel sadness too. And, the idea that I have control over someone else’s feelings is flat out wrong. Contrary to my belief, I do not possess the super powers of mind alteration. (Big bummer) 3. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. To be honest, this is a work in progress. I continue to struggle with guilt over putting my own needs over those of others. But… I spent a lot of time trying to come to terms with boundaries — how to set them, how to maintain them and how to make peace with them. Brene Brown has been my “boundary angel” if you will. In her book “Atlas of the Heart” she says “We can’t connect with someone unless we are clear about where we end and they begin.” She reminds us that setting boundaries isn’t just about telling the other person what’s not OK. We have to state what is OK clearly because “clear is kind.” In an interview she did on Glennon Doyle’s podcast, she simplifies it even further…”I have to limit my time with people that demand that hypervigilance including people I love.” That hit me like a ton of bricks and really helped reframe boundaries as less of a punishment and more of an act of self-love. I may still need some work around this one, but the foundation that this gives me has helped me feel less selfish about the idea. 4. Sometimes the absence of something (emotional neglect) can be just as harmful as overt abuse. Particularly when it comes to our parents when we were children. In her book “Running on Empty,” Dr Jonice Webb defines the ways in which different types of emotional neglect can adversely affect adult children, and why it’s important to acknowledge the damage without blaming a parent in order to begin to heal from it. This was a powerful book for me because I often had difficulty figuring out how my mom’s covert incest and enmeshment could have affected me so much. I felt a deep sense of shame at holding her accountable for my problems, because I know it wasn’t intentional. And yet she continues to trigger me and when I’m around her I feel like I’m right back to being the overprotective, overly responsible little girl I was who had to protect her mommy at all costs. Being able to say “what she did wasn’t right and she didn’t know any better” and comprehending that “it’s on her to do her own work to heal herself” freed me up to focus my attention on the healing I need to do. The responsibility for my healing is in my court, even if I resent it and it makes me angry that I have to do it. Acknowledging those feelings is also part of the journey. 5. Intimacy isn’t just about sex. Discovering the myriad ways in which we can experience pleasure is as important as anything else in terms of figuring out how to reclaim our sexuality after childhood sexual abuse or assault. Admittedly this one is still hard for me. I have to navigate my triggers and shame response to sex, but I’m slowly learning how to enjoy the connection and stop putting pressure on myself in terms of some kind of “normal” frequency or duration for sexual experiences. Reading Emily Nagoski’s “Come As You Are” and listening to copious podcasts and interviews with Esther Perel have given me a lot of food for thought regarding the ways in which my abuse was made so much more detrimental by my mothers objectification of my body and the ways in which a patriarchal society influence how women see their value as sexual objects. Disentangling what I want from what I think is expected of me is really where the work is. And understanding that saying no is a perfectly valid response no matter what has been invaluable. And a bonus one: Having a trustworthy therapist who is there to guide you in a caring boundaried way… priceless. Really, she’s a gem, and I’m extremely grateful to have her after winning the bingo of bad therapy with my ex. Here’s to a 2022 filled with continued growth through adversity and acceptance that healing isn’t linear. It takes patience, time and even some set backs — all of which simply remind us that we are human and deserve some grace and self-compassion. I wish you an enlightened new year, not just a happy one.

Janet Coburn

Mental Health Reminders for the New Year

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. I can barely plan my day, let alone the whole year. And I’m also not big on making commitments I know I can’t or won’t keep. Instead, I remind myself of certain behaviors I think I (maybe) can accomplish and refer to the list as often as needed. Here are a few suggestions that may be appropriate reminders for you as well. 1. You don’t have to drink alcohol at New Year’s Eve parties. Or ever, really. No one should try to pressure you into doing this, but if they do, simply saying, “No thanks,” should be enough. If the person is really pushy, you may have to ask, “Do you have soda or fruit juice?” You are not required to explain why you don’t want to drink alcohol, and you may want to forego attending parties that do not have such non-alcoholic alternatives in the future. You don’t have to attend parties at all, and “No, I can’t make it” is a perfectly reasonable response to an invitation. Or “Maybe next year.” 2. You don’t have to make New Year’s resolutions per se. You can have New Year’s intentions, small goals you don’t have to announce to the world at large and that you don’t have to beat yourself up over if you don’t fulfill them. Instead of resolving to jog every day, intend to get out of doors once a week, even if it’s only to walk to the mailbox and back. Baby steps, after all. 3. I hate to use the word “should,” but you should keep track of your medications, reorder them if they’re getting low, and see your prescribing physician if the scripts are about to run out. That’s just common sense that’s necessary for your mental health, not a resolution. These days, you may even be able to arrange to have meds delivered. 4. Try to engage in a hobby once in a while. Say, once a month. It honestly doesn’t matter what the hobby is. Read a book, or even a short story or magazine article. Knit or crochet. Repot a plant. Water a plant. Do a crossword puzzle. Bake your favorite cookies, then eat them all yourself if you want to. 5. Keep comfort objects nearby. These can be anything that soothes you. A music playlist. A stuffed animal. A scented candle. A cozy blanket or sweater. A favorite warm beverage like cocoa or green tea. Don’t be embarrassed about using them to ground yourself. Most neurotypical people won’t even notice if you’re wearing a favorite sweater or have a scented candle lit. 6. You can connect with people online. This counts as interacting with people. Say happy birthday. Forward a funny meme. You don’t have to make it specific to your condition, but there are plenty of people on Facebook, for example, who have bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or an autoimmune disorder. You don’t even have to interact with them. You can join a group, then just sit back and see what others post there. 7. Avoid triggers, if you can. That judgmental aunt. Your creepy cousin. Your boastful neighbor. Again, you have the right to say no and not explain why. (It’s the not explaining that’s the hardest.) Don’t watch movies that you find upsetting, whether it’s “Die Hard” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (which many people don’t like because of the implicit bullying). 8. Write about how you feel, if you want to. It could be a mood journal, a regular journal, a letter that you will never mail, a poem. Don’t feel that you have to show it to anyone. Tear it up afterward, if you want to. 9. You don’t have to face the new year as a whole. If you must have resolutions, resolve to get through the next week or even the next day. 10. Make an appointment with your therapist. Many therapists are offering telehealth visits these days, so it’s easier than ever just to touch base or to work through a problem, a trigger or feeling overwhelmed. In other words, do whatever you can to get you through the next day, week, month or season. The year will take care of itself, whether you make resolutions or not.

My New Year's Resolutions as Someone With Chronic Illness

It’s very difficult to realize that it’s almost 2022. And of course, with that comes the tradition of selecting a few—or maybe just one—New Years’s resolutions. As someone with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) and a few other co-morbid conditions, thinking about how the next year will go seems a bit of an uphill climb, to be perfectly frank. With chronic conditions, you’re never sure when your next flare will be, your next hospitalization or emergency department visit and other anxieties that many others simply never even have to consider. It can be exhausting and daunting. However, I hope to provide you with just a handful of the resolutions I’ve created for myself to pursue in 2022. I’m never one for much rigorous holding myself to a particular standard so for me, these will involve more encouragement and affirmations. Life is too short to hold oneself to self-set rules anyway! This year, I choose to be more kind to myself, despite whatever circumstances I’m undergoing. I struggle with this a great deal, since kindness to self seems so difficult since I know all of my own mistakes and live with their consequences. That being said, my therapist has been working with me quite a bit on this… and I’ve been daily encouraged similar by my partner and fiancée, so it’s my main goal for 2022. This year I will be patient with myself and allow myself to take extra time as I need it. Patience is a virtue I daily strive to work on. Chronic illnesses can tend to slow us down in their own unique and challenging ways. We all simply deserve more patience, both with ourselves and others. This year I will share my needs with my family and whatever I’m comfortable sharing about my experiences with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, as I have need. This is more personal to me, as I tend to keep whatever I’m struggling with the most as close to my heart and my inner circle of friends as I can. Sometimes, though, family can surprise you with their supportiveness. It’s up to you if you’re willing and able to educate or explain intimate details with them, but sometimes it’s worth opening up, provided you are safe and have healthy boundaries. I am worth treating myself to something I want. Not everything has to be for things I need. Being a young adult in the world often means stumbling into situations where emergency savings are necessary. If you have the privilege to spend a little on yourself, I can’t recommend it enough. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and other disabilities can be quite expensive, but you are allowed. Stick to the advice of the proper doctors, physical therapists and specialists. Chronic illness comes with its own grab bag of doctors—both good and bad and everyone else in between. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve had quite a few bad ones, so that tends to make me less than trustworthy of those I should trust. However, even sometimes with good doctors it’s difficult to listen to their advice. If you have good doctors, listen to them! And if you don’t and have the privilege to do so, find new ones. You deserve proper care. Live within the moment. It’s hard to stay focused on the moment when you’re being pulled in, out and around by my pain (and sometimes my joints too…which tend to go out more than I do…just some EDS humor for ya!) But it’s incredibly important to enjoy as much of every moment as you can. You never know which one will be your last. What others think of me is not my business. People are judgmental, and oftentimes, their judgment can be very hurtful when directed toward those of us with disabilities, regardless of our diagnoses. This year, I’m challenging myself to be far less concerned with what others think about me, and instead to concentrate on the positive, enlightened energies that I can put out into the world instead. I hope that moving into the next year, you allow yourself to feel all the feelings that you need to while also taking care of yourself and looking ahead into the excitement of the future. You are valid, worthy and loved.

Betsey O'Brien

Setting Intentions Instead of New Year's Resolutions for Mental Health

January is the time we encourage ourselves to set goals for the year ahead. Usually, that’s a very positive activity that gives us a chance to look forward with hope and savor the possibilities that lie ahead. But what seems like a natural exercise for many people might feel quite different for someone who lives with a mental health condition. If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression right now, you may not see the future in a positive light. Memories of falling short of your goals in past years might haunt you, making you wonder if the coming year will really be any different. As someone who experiences seasonal affective disorder (SAD), I’ve noticed that my low winter mood gets in the way of setting New Year’s goals. I might be so dissatisfied with my life that I’m overly harsh with myself — which only leads to feelings of failure when I don’t reach the rigid benchmarks I set for myself. This year, I decided to do things differently by replacing the traditional New Year’s resolutions with intentions. Why I Made the Switch In the past, my New Year’s resolutions centered on areas of dissatisfaction in my life. For example, I might focus on getting in shape, making more money or keeping a cleaner house. Even though these goals pinpoint specific areas for improvement — mostly a good thing — I tended to word them in ways that reminded me of my shortcomings. Often, they were too vague to help me gauge my progress. (What does “being in good shape” mean? Going to the gym more? Weighing less?) But the worst part was that my resolutions rarely gave me a path for dealing with setbacks. Later on, when I was feeling depressed, my new habits would slip and I’d feel like a total failure. How Are Intentions Different? Gillian Florence Sanger, a yoga and meditation teacher who writes for the Insight Timer blog, describes intentions as “a soft surrender into our highest selves.” Unlike resolutions, which “quietly label behaviors as good or bad,” intentions are “qualitative and compassionate,” Sanger says. Mindful intentions come from the heart, not the head, she emphasizes. To show us the difference, she takes on a typical New Year’s resolution of eliminating sugar from our diets. What are we trying to achieve at the heart level? Do we want to: Hear and honor the needs of our bodies? Nourish ourselves with high-quality, unprocessed foods? Pay more attention to the way we use sugary treats to distract ourselves or escape? Intentions like these acknowledge that “every moment is a fresh start,” Sanger points out — which can give us the chance to observe how we’re doing and gently guide ourselves in the right direction. They replace self-criticism with a more forgiving, realistic way to work toward improvement. Suggestions for Setting Loving, Positive Intentions There’s no right or wrong way to create your own intentions. All you really need is some quiet time to think about what you most want in your life. Here are some of the things I did during my recent intention-setting sessions that might work for you. 1. I chose a time of day when I felt my best. Since it’s winter, this meant a few morning hours on a sunny day, when the outdoor light streaming in my window gave me a little boost. 2. I started by reminding myself that I am already a good person. This reaffirmed that my intentions are not a tool for self-judgment, but a way of celebrating who I am and who I want to be. 3. Without being fake or insincere, I looked for positive words to shape my intentions. It helped to think less about “what” I want in my life and more about “how” I want to live. Here are some of the intentions I came up with: I will look after my health, realizing that this gives me energy and helps me live life to the fullest. I will spend as much time as I can with people who understand and support me. I will find new ways to build my business while giving myself some time each week for fun and relaxation. A Guide for Making Progress, Even When Things Get Tough I was excited to realize that, with my new intentions in place, I could still set specific goals such as getting a full medical checkup or setting weekly dates with friends. The difference is that, even if I’m not feeling my best, I can still stay on track. With my intentions in front of me, I can break the goals down into micro-steps: call to set the appointment, invite a friend to come along for encouragement, and so on. When I achieve a step, no matter how small, I will feel a tiny burst of hope and encouragement which is something I consistently need when I’m depressed, anxious or discouraged. Does the idea of setting intentions resonate with you? How are you feeling about goals, energy and motivation as the new year starts? For more on setting New Year’s resolutions, check out these articles from our community.

How to Make Self-Love a New Year's Resolution

It’s the end of the year, which means everyone, myself included, is writing about New Year’s resolutions, change and self-improvement. Sometimes this stuff can be motivating, inspiring even, but other times, it just feels like an open invitation for shame. That’s why we need to talk about how to love yourself, even as you try to change yourself. How Black-and-White Thinking Prevents Self-Love I struggle with something called “black-or-white thinking.” This is pretty self-explanatory, but basically, my brain tends to skip over nuance and divide things into distinct, overly simplistic categories. Things are “good” or “bad,” I am “perfect” or “defective,” and there is no in-between. This type of thinking means the entire concept of self-improvement is tricky. After all, if there are areas of my life I want to improve, then I clearly don’t fall into the “perfect” category, which means I must fall into the “defective” category. This makes me defensive and angry. I think the intellectual part of me knows this isn’t true, but in my heart of hearts, it feels true. As a result, I want to change but I’m scared to admit that I need to change, so I wind up stuck. I can’t improve myself because that would mean admitting that I’m defective, and if I do that, then I will get sucked into a maelstrom of self-loathing that will lead to depression . But this black-and-white thinking also prevents me from loving myself. I can’t love myself genuinely because part of me knows I’m not perfect, which means I always feels like I actually belong in the defective category. And how do you love something defective? How to Love Yourself Even If You’re Not Perfect I’ll admit that I’m still a little fuzzy on how to love yourself because I still really struggle with black-and-white thinking, even though I’m aware of it. But I’m working on it, and I have a few tips that might be able to help you too. First, even though awareness hasn’t magically fixed all my dysfunctions, being aware of those dysfunctions is hugely important. Before I recognized my black-and-white thinking, I just thought something was wrong with me, instead of realizing I simply thought something was wrong with me. That might sound like a subtle distinction, but it’s important. Thinking something, even feeling something, doesn’t necessarily make it true. Still, awareness isn’t the magic answer to how to love yourself. We can be aware of every last thought and feeling in our heart and soul, but that awareness on its own isn’t enough to create love. Here’s some honesty: I hate my black-and-white thinking. It feels childish and silly and I thought I was too smart for such simplistic thinking. The fact that I struggle with black-and-white thinking feels like a reason not to love myself, because I don’t want to be the type of person who thinks that way. And as long as I think about myself this way, I will always struggle to love myself. If one undesirable thing makes you unlovable, then the only possible answer to the question of how to love yourself is to be perfect. Which brings us right back to black-and-white thinking. So my last piece of advice is, after becoming aware of some of your problematic thinking patterns, purposefully disrupt them. For me, this means telling myself things that feel unbelievably untrue. If I mess something up, I try to tell myself, “Hey, you messed that up and look at how amazing and lovable you still are.” Basically, I am forcing my brain to at least go through the motions of a different thought pattern, even if I don’t believe it. The hope is that, over time, this new type of thinking will replace the black-and-white thinking. It’s hard, but figuring out how to love yourself is worth it, I promise. What Does This Have to Do With New Year’s Resolutions Again? Right, we started this post talking about New Year’s resolutions and self-improvement, and I definitely want to get back to that. Basically, I want us all to be able to love ourselves and work on improving ourselves at the same time. Too often, our goals are all about changing ourselves because we believe that who we are isn’t good enough. We see this messaging everywhere, from the “New Year, New You” slogans to the general theme of starting over that permeates the new year, as if you somehow failed the last year just because there are some things you’d like to work on in the future. Here’s the truth though: you will always be you. There is no “new you” to become, there’s just … you. If you deal with self-loathing like me, that’s probably really hard to read. It probably feels like I’m telling you you’re doomed to be this same shitty person forever, but that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying you are who you are, always, and who you are is good and bad and everything in between. And most of all, I’m saying that you are worthy of love, unconditionally. If you need a little help with self-love, I get it, and I want to help. Each week, I send out the Validation Station newsletter , which is an email that provides encouragement, commiseration and lots of GIFs. Just click the link to sign up and get a virtual hug in your inbox every week. A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog, Healing Unscripted .

John White

New Year's Resolutions With Chronophobia and Anxiety

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. For me, they always came from a dark place. They identified everything that was wrong with me, real or imagined. They stomped on my self-esteem. I was “fat” and “ugly” and needed to lose weight. I was lazy and listless without purpose. I needed to apply myself more strictly. Resolutions fed on my insecurities and self-hate. And, of course, the moment I failed, which inevitably happened within a couple of days or weeks of the new year, the thoughts pounced even harder, and spiraled out of control. To further complicate New Year’s resolutions, I live with chronophobia: a fear of time and the future. Plans made months, weeks or even just a few days in advance overwhelm me. Every night I hope is my last, that time will stop. The idea of doing something new for a whole year is debilitating. I am scared and more certain than ever that suicide will overrun me first. So instead of making resolutions, I now make a daily list of things I want to accomplish for next day. Someone not struggling with mental health challenges might think my daily goals are laughable. Spending time with my children and my wife, reading, listing to music and remembering to breathe when anxious all might seem like obvious activities that don’t need to be itemized, but for me they provide the opportunity of accomplishment. I make sure that each is meaningful and achievable. I write down “eat well” instead of eat less or lose weight. Then, before I go to bed, I reflect back on what I can check off my list. If there is something I was unable to do, it’s not a big deal. I just add it to tomorrow’s list and try again. One day I may look to the big picture but for now, I live life day to day. It is the only way I know how. For more on making New Year’s resolutions when you live with a mental illness, see this article from Mighty contributor Mindy M .

How To Set Achievable New Year's Resolutions Without Shaming Yourself

For a long time, I rejected the idea of New Year’s resolutions. Honestly, I kind of rejected the idea of goals in general. I didn’t understand how to set goals without shame to motivate myself to accomplish them, so I said good riddance. This year is the first year I’m setting New Year’s resolutions again, and I’m determined, not just to meet my goals, but to do it without shame. What Does Shame-Based Motivation Look Like? The shame starts with the goals we set. The kind of goals we set can often be inspired by shame-based motivation , AKA, motivation based on avoiding the feeling of shame. For instance, if we’re ashamed of how late we sleep in or how long we spend on our phone in the morning, we might set a goal to get up earlier. In general, this can be a great goal, but when it’s motivated by shame, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. That’s because shame is not actually a good motivator, if you define a “good” motivator as one that helps you identify a goal, steadily work toward that goal, and eventually achieve it. Does this sound familiar? “I really need to get up earlier and stop wasting so much time. All that time scrolling through my phone like a lazy bum, when other people are up taking care of kids or doing something with their lives, and here I am, just an ‘idiot’ in bed until noon. This year, I’m done being so lazy. I mean, it’s ridiculous.” Yeah, that’s shame talking. A lot of shame, actually. Maybe it’s easier to spot, written out here like this, but shame has a sneaky way of sounding a lot like logic when it’s in our own heads, especially for those of us with a shame-based personality. If you’ve gone through something like the scenario above and tried to change your habits out of shame, you know how it ends: two weeks later, exhausted from trying to hate yourself into the kind of person you want to be, you go back to scrolling through your phone to distract yourself from all the shame, and you’re somehow even worse off than when you started. How to Set Goals Without Shame Here’s the tricky part: how to set goals without all that shame creeping in. The truth is, you may not be able to silence the shame entirely. I know that might sound a little pessimistic, but I’ve found that, in my own experience at least, shame doesn’t just go away. It takes time (a loooong time) to unravel where the shame came from, how it’s affected you, and finally restructure how you think about yourself and the world. Unfortunately, we can’t do all of that work right here in this article, but we can still find some tricks for working around shame to set some goals we can really stick to. My number one strategy for getting around my shame is the Best Friend Rule. Basically, before I set a goal, I ask myself, “Would I be worried about my best friend if they set this goal for this reason?” If the answer is yes, then my goal is likely motivated by shame and I need to take a step back. The Best Friend Rule is a great way to get around our own personal hangups and see ourselves a little more accurately. Shame likes to tell us that we are inherently different, inherently bad. That is not true, but I understand that sometimes, it feels true anyway. So I use the Best Friend Rule to see past those feelings of brokenness. Another great way to set goals without shame is the Why Game. The Why Game is basically where you channel your inner 3-year-old and you incessantly ask “Why?” until you can’t take it anymore. Ask yourself why you’re setting these specific goals. Then question your answer, then that answer, then the next answer and so on. The Why Game really helps me get to the root of why I’m ashamed about something, and understanding the “why” behind my shame makes it easier to set a goal that isn’t based on that shame. Your Shame-Free Goals Are you ready to set some goals without shame-based motivation? Play the Why Game, invoke the Best Friend Rule, and spend some time journaling about what you want from this upcoming year. Let’s be honest, 2020 was a dumpster fire and we’re all relieved to leave it behind. And the effects of 2020 will likely reach into 2021, maybe making it hard for us to achieve the goals we’re reaching for. That’s OK. You are surviving global trauma . It’s OK if you struggle to be the productivity goddess you want to be. It’s OK to strive for better in 2021, but it’s also OK to accept whatever happens. Remember, regardless of how your goals shake out next year, you’re always good enough. If you decide you do want to wake up early in the new year, regardless of shame, I have an awesome tool to help you make it happen. I designed the Anxiety-Proof Mornings eCourse to help you do both the inner work and the practical work of creating a morning routine that really works for you. Make sure you check it out! A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog, Healing Unscripted .

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