The start of a new year is a time to finally get things together and get going on those resolutions.
At least that may have been the case in past years, but maybe not for 2021, as 2020 was difficult enough.
Sure, some of us fell off the wagon in 2020, for instance, with unhealthy eating, drinking or screen time. But is it possible to get back on the wagon without pushing yourself too hard?
Dr. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and host of the “Personology” podcast from iHeartRadio, predicts fewer people will want to make resolutions this year.
“A resolution means a change of behavior, and that takes effort and willpower,” Saltz says, “and most people are feeling pretty fatigued (at) this point, due to all the behavior changes. … So I think, fewer people will want to, you know, invest in or feel that they have the bandwidth for another behavior change.”
However, during the pandemic, some people have reevaluated their priorities and will want to make changes, she says. “And it could take the form of a resolution, but less so because it’s a resolution, more so because they’ve come to something.”
Erica Keswin, consultant and author of the upcoming book, “Rituals Roadmap: The Human Way to Transform Everyday Routines Into Workplace Magic,” says more people may make resolutions this year because they want to get rid of 2020 and start something new.
“More than ever, people feel like they need a clean slate,” says Keswin. “But I would urge people to pause and, before wiping the slate clean, look for some of the silver linings, things in 2020 that were upside surprises and rituals that you started that you might want to continue to do in 2021. For instance, learning a new skill via an online class, continuing family dinners or extended family Zoom calls that you started during the pandemic.”
Ruby Warrington, author of “Sober Curious” and the upcoming “Sober Curious Reset” hopes more people will be kinder to themselves in 2021.
“I really hope that this year, people will be kinder to themselves when it comes to the idea of, like, creating a fresh start,” Warrington says. “And rather than feeling the need to punish themselves for doing the wrong thing, being bad, overindulging and all that stuff, I hope that people might come to this kind of like a fresh start with asking, ‘How can I be kind to myself and look after myself better in the coming year?’”
Saltz recommends choosing bite-size goals that are doable, as well as more self-care.
“As a psychiatrist, what I recommend this year (is) if you do want to make a change ... choose something that is self-care-related,” she says. “Because it has been, for most people, such a difficult time filled with anxiety and uncertainty. Resolving or choosing to do something that is self-care for you means it might feel good or it doesn’t feel good at the moment, but overall you know that it will actually help you to feel better.”
Some forms of self-care Saltz recommends are deep breathing, talking to someone you trust for social support, aerobic exercise, yoga, meditative practices and therapy.
“Whatever it is, choosing something that’s not a drastic behavioral change, because drastic behavioral change takes a lot of effort and setting yourself up to feel failed is not a good solution in this year,” says Saltz. “Pick something bite-sized. If you accomplish it, you’ll feel good, and if you want to do more after that, no one’s stopping you.”
She suggests choosing something that feels like a step in the right direction, rather than resolving that you are going to be a different person. “You can even take that bite-sized idea and bring it into further bite-sizes, so that you can feel accomplished. You made a goal and succeeded.”
Keswin notes that we love to make New Year’s resolutions, but they often don’t work. According to U.S. News & World Report, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by mid-February. Because of this, she advises creating rituals instead of resolutions. Many resolutions are hard to maintain as they involve breaking habits and routines. A ritual should be something you already love to do, but you can elevate it with intention, repetition and meaning.
Keswin says, to “start by asking yourself these questions: ‘What do I do in my life that makes me feel more like me? What are my values, and how can I get my calendar to match my values?’ Based on the answers to those two questions, you can design rituals around what is truly important in 2021. When rituals are connected to your values, they won’t feel like a chore or a box (to) check.”
Similarly, Warrington suggests being realistic with your goals and setting intentions instead of resolutions.
“Be realistic. Really take a bit of a step back, and survey the landscape of your life,” Warrington says. “And look at what small tweaks you could make that could actually have quite a big impact when combined. And they can build over time versus trying to change everything all at once in the first week. ... Intentions is very open-ended and flexible, and allows room for human error and self-forgiveness if you don’t quite reach your goals, whereas resolutions is kind of black and white.”
If you want to make a change in the new year, Warrington and Saltz encourage finding someone who can help hold you accountable.
“When it comes to resolutions,” Warrington says, “I think there is a lot to be said for kind of teaming up, having an accountability buddy, having someone else in your life that you can kind of discuss about making these changes as a team. Whether it’s a partner, whether it’s a friend, whether it’s a stranger from a Facebook group. Just someone that you can share the ups and downs with each other while also keeping each other accountable.”