From living healthier and losing weight to self improvement and goals of overall happiness, these were some of the most popular resolutions people set in the United States for 2022. And while New Year’s resolutions are an opportunity to reflect on the past year and set goals for the coming year, most resolutions are abandoned within the first month, demonstrating the difficulty of sticking to New Year’s resolutions.
So, with that said, who’s to say you can’t start practicing your resolutions now? To give yourself a head start for the year ahead, here’s why there’s no better time than the present to start practicing your resolutions.
Why Now Is the Time to Start Your New Year’s Resolutions
1. New Year’s resolutions usually fail
According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the pursuit of New Year’s resolutions only lasts about three weeks, with goals completely abandoned by the time February rolls around.
While there’s no single reason why people fail to stick to their resolutions despite initial feelings of optimism, a big part is that those who set goals tend to take on too much, too soon, failing to give themselves time to warm up and adjust to a new habit or routine. For example, deciding to workout every day when you’ve never exercised before, eating nothing but kale salads to lose a few pounds, or starting that art project you’ve always wanted to pursue, sets you up for burn out and can leave you feeling bitter towards the resolutions you once felt positive about.
Try this: Start with one resolution at a time.
Research shows that achieving specific goals only works when you focus on one thing at a time; those who tried to accomplish several goals at once were less likely to stay committed and succeed than those who focused on a single goal. As author of Atomic Habits James Clear says, “developing a specific plan for when, where, and how you will stick to a new habit dramatically increases the odds that you will actually follow through with your goals, but only if you focus on one thing at a time.”
2. The all-or-nothing mindset
As the New Year approaches, people tend to have an all-or-nothing mindset. This is an attitude that paints the world as black or white, success or failure, and resolutions are usually tackled from zero to 100 with no warm-up or consultation with reality. If I can’t be perfect at [insert goal] starting January 1st, what’s the point of starting at all?
Try this: Remove the pressure to achieve perfection by using the remaining weeks of the year as a trial period for your resolutions.
The all-or-nothing approach to New Year’s resolutions and waiting until the arbitrary “starting line” that is the first makes goals unattainable and puts unnecessary pressure on yourself to achieve perfection from the get-go. There’s always a learning curve when starting something new, and when we inevitably mess up, we tend to feel discouraged and are unwilling to get back up, tossing our goals aside until the next arbitrary starting line.
Rather than waiting until New Year’s Day to start your resolutions, remove the pressure to achieve perfection and use the remaining weeks of the year to explore your goals and learn what works best for you. Whether you’d like to start a diet or an exercise regime, allow yourself to make mistakes, miss a day, and to not be perfect. You literally can’t “fail” this way.
3. There’s a lot you can accomplish between now and the new year
There’s no time like the present and time is all but an illusion.
Try this: Make your New Year’s resolutions “SMART.”
SMART is a mnemonic acronym that gives you clarity, focus, and motivation to achieve your resolutions. SMART goals are:
- Specific – Get ultra specific about your goal by defining it with a day, time, and place, e.g., “I will walk around my neighborhood for 30 minutes every Monday and Wednesday morning at 6:00AM.”
- Measurable – Track your progress, e.g., marking the days you reached your goal in a journal or calendar.
- Achievable – Start small as this will make achieving your goal easier. For example, if walking twice a week is too overwhelming, start with once a week.
- Relevant – Is your goal meaningful? Ask yourself why you’ve set this specific goal, e.g., “I want to walk twice a week to feel good in my body and improve my joint health and flexibility.”
- Time Bound – Set a realistic timeline for you to reach your goal, e.g., “I will achieve this goal in 30 days.”
New Year’s Resolution Ideas for Chronic Pain
If you’re unsure about the resolutions you’d like to adopt today and beyond, here are a few examples to draw inspiration from.
1. Attend two social gatherings per month
This resolution is about strengthening the relationships in your life. Humans are social creatures and social connection is paramount to our mental and physical well-being. But one of the first things to get neglected when living with chronic pain is our social relationships. Meeting a friend for coffee or attending a small family gathering are two low-pressure activities to strengthen your social side.
2. Start an anti-inflammatory diet
This resolution is about managing your chronic pain via diet. Research shows that a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods like berries and fatty fish may alleviate pain and reduce inflammation in the body. When planning your meals, aim for variety. For example:
- Fill your plate with half whole grains and lean, healthy protein.
- Fill the other half of your plate with vegetables or fruit.
- Use healthy oils when cooking like olive oil instead of butter.
3. Don’t wait until after New Year’s to seek drug or alcohol treatment
This resolution is about prioritizing your mental health before the holidays come to a close, and not afterwards. The mental health challenges that accompany chronic pain are significant, yet many people suffer in silence and use negative coping mechanisms like drugs and alcohol to cope, thus failing to get the support they need. To avoid facilities at capacity, make the commitment to improving your mental health and get the treatment you need now to be well for the upcoming winter festivities. You may also consider activities like meditation, hiking outdoors, or joining a support group as healthy alternatives to manage pain.
What Are Your New Year’s Resolutions?
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