With February fast approaching, the reality of New Year’s Resolutions becoming routine habits or broken promises is disturbingly evident. Made with the vision of recreating oneself for the approaching year, we’ve all promised ourselves resolutions at one point. When February comes around and we’re faced by the failures of our overly optimistic goals, it’s disappointment that fills the void. I ask, what is so special about 1st January each year?
Perhaps it’s the insistent pressure from news outlets, or resolutions on TV, or maybe just the case that placing insane goals on ourselves to reach in one month has simply become a part of our society. New Year, New Me, right? The scheming tricks of diet culture cleverly use advertising to promote the January body – it’s no surprise that getting in shape is at the top of resolution lists across the UK. Whilst exercising and eating healthily are perfectly admirable goals – especially with the surge in popularity of Veganuary – going from 0 to 100 for most people is an impossible task. When one workout session is missed, the burning motivation is replaced by a heavy-heart – that’s it, this year is ruined. Try again next year. Or perhaps it’s the classic resolution of learning a new skill, only to give up on your Duolingo streak after one week. I wonder, when did our inherent determination become so futile? And as the years go by, it seems old habits die fast. Oxford Mail claims that 47% of 18–24-year-olds make resolutions, compared to 30% of 35–44-year-olds, and just 18% of those over 65. Unsurprisingly, as we get older, we reach a motivational burnout. Years of ‘failure’ heaped onto you might just do it…
This year, I sought to make goals beyond just the physical. A mindful resolution, if you will. As an avid writer and creator, I challenged myself to keep a journal each day, full of mood tracking, series and films I’ve watched, little moments, and a short creative piece from an inspired moment each day. Sitting down for ten minutes and appreciating the day gone by is far more manageable than telling myself I’ll become Chloe Ting herself. Not only this, but by noting one thing to remember from each day, it makes everything a little bit easier. Years from now, I can look back on the first time I watched Endgame (finally) or spent a day at the Cat Café. It is the small moments like these that have put a spring in my step and instilled a motivation within me – even if it is just a voice that tells me to keep going. Of course, I’ve missed a day here and there and my creative thoughts have been lost to the flow of time but making something truly my own through silly little drawings and colourful pens has me looking forward to February.
Up there for manageability, I also challenged myself to broadly value my connections and communicate with those I love. Reconnecting with old friends truly made me appreciate the bonds I’ve made over the years as I made up for lost time. One of the best feelings is when nothing changes – everything is as it was, despite the time. Things as simple as communicating my thoughts and feelings was a goal I set for myself this year. It is often the case that the most complicated thoughts brew away inside your head, making situations far worse than they need to be. Articulating those feelings, or simply expressing them in writing, has exponentially improved my mental health this year (with only two sad days in the journal I might add). Though I have not adventured with my friends every day, small catch ups here-and-there have restored my bonds and given me just the social fix I need. And so, things as simple as little shopping dates or five-minute conversations propel me into the new month in the highest spirits I’ve been for a while. With a little extra effort to reconnect, and a conscious decision to organise the chaotic thoughts, I’m greeted with a feeling of success far greater than if I had attempted and failed cardio for a week.
Despite my success with journaling and reconnections, I have been far less successful in my goal of learning a language. After being obsessed with the Swedish dialect for almost a year now, I decided it was time to teach myself via everyone’s favourite, Duolingo. Whilst I started the year strong with almost a fourteen-day streak, the business of university work and taking time for rest simply got in the way of the challenging habit. Admittedly, I have not touched the app since week one of my studies. Though, I don’t think this is something to be wildly depressed about. Simply dipping into a new language is something I am invaluably proud of myself for. No doubt I will take up the habit when the workload calms down again, but for now, life is just too much. It’s not something I can control. Of course, organising your time to the best of your ability is advised, though scrutinising yourself for being a busy human is not the way to treat a resolution. Instead, if I learn at the most basic level how to communicate in Swedish, my goal for this year will be accomplished. My interests will waiver, as will my circumstances, but that doesn’t make me any less worthy of being proud of what I’ve achieved. Not every goal we make will be executed with complete precision because it is not in our nature to maintain perfection. We are chaotic, emotional beings with an inherent tendency to change.
Whilst the perpetual bombardment of unattainable goals is incessant throughout January, setting more realistic goals, as well as not beating yourself up when things don’t go to plan can see you through to the rest of the year. You may well try something and find yourself unable to keep up a week later…and that’s okay! We’re human, though the unbelievable pressures of self-improvement culture may suggest otherwise. Working on feelings and mentality is just as important as physical health. Resolutions aren’t meant to be strict contracts, rather small goals we should be able to dip in and out of throughout the year. An accompaniment to everyday life, rather than a revolutionary upheaval of everything familiar. If there’s one thing I hope February brings, it is the reassuring knowledge that existing just you are, even with the littlest of resolutions, is just fine.