Here we are in a new year; 2022 has rolled out its textured weave welcome mat for us, upon which to walk out our hopes, goals and burgeoning routines, 365 days of fresh opportunity. But what if your mat doesn’t feel like a welcome? What if you’re still focused on trying to stop an assortment of 2021 detritus from making its way into your fresh, unblemished 2022?
The short answer: don’t. You don’t need to be ready; there’s no deadline on resolutions, new year or not. If you’re more focused on the best before date of your discounted mince pies than the first date in your new leather diary, that’s just fine.
Before you descend that spiral staircase of shame, here are five ways to ease into 2022, to break up with the idea that you ‘should’ feel or do anything, and to be gentle with yourself instead.
Check in with yourself
From meditation to movement, cold showers to collagen supplements, it can feel impossible to decide on what’s worth adding into your daily routine. Yet, the answer might not be in a list of wellness trends, but within yourself. Just as you check your emails each morning, check in with yourself for a moment, and let it guide you to what you need, and what practices might help you get there. Take two minutes out from your day and ask yourself, ‘What’s going on right now?’ and notice what arises.
See what you’re feeling in your body, be aware of the loop of thoughts playing, and get curious. Be willing to explore, just like you would a museum, then respond to what you find. If you notice that you’re exhausted, then maybe you have a power nap. If you’re sad, then maybe you unload and write about what’s upsetting you. It’s OK to be with what’s here and what you need right now, day by day, before jumping into a plan for the day, week, or the next 12 months.
Go beyond the physical
When we place a pen on the blank page that is 2022, many of the resolutions we conjure up have something to do with our physical bodies. So, by the time March leaps forward, and we’ve not managed to cut out meat, ditch alcohol or do three sweat-infused Peloton miles per day we planned to, we feel like we’ve failed and call the entire year off. We give up, when in fact, we were setting ourselves up for a season of disappointment.
We’re so much more than fleshy physical beings, and you look beyond the physical you and include the mental, emotional and perhaps spiritual parts of you too, your goals can feel less prescriptive, less rigid. Whether it’s finding a deeper connection to nature, examining your belief system, working on feeling neutral about your appearance or being kinder to yourself in general, going beyond the physical might feel more doable, as there are fewer measurables to be hard on yourself with. You are many things, more than just a body; let your hopes and goals reflect that fact.
Just for today…
Too often, new year’s resolutions become delusions of daily grandeur. We optimistically believe that it will be a walk in the park to learn six new languages, go to the gym thrice a day and become gluten-free after a lifetime of being attached to sourdough; what if, instead, we swapped our ‘every single day for the foreseeable future’ resolutions to simply being, just for today? Mikao Usui, the founder of the energy healing modality Reiki, penned five spiritual principles to live by: ‘just for today’ is one of them.
Consider it your excuse for moving through life one day at a time. Instead of committing to something for the rest of the year, try writing a daily promise to yourself instead, waking up with the words ‘just for today’ in your notebook or phone, and filling in the blanks with what you’d like to do that day. After you check in with yourself (see above), you might land on, ‘just for today, I will try to find work-life balance’ or ‘just for today, I will do five push-ups’. You can deal with tomorrow when you get to it. You’ll be different that day; you might need an hour under a weighted blanket instead of a series of push-ups. Meet yourself there.
Be soft with yourself
When you next stare deeply into your bathroom mirror and ask yourself, ‘Why am I like this?’ after not reaching a goal, forgetting to text someone back or just not feeling enthused about the new year, try to be soft with yourself. Softness is just as it sounds: the kind of warmth, comfort and nurturing we receive from loved ones that feels like the equivalent of sinking into memory foam. Unless your best friend has a PhD in tough love, they’ll never tell you that you’re a despicable human because you didn’t go for a run in below-freezing temperatures. Don’t do it to yourself, either.
If you must ask ‘Why am I like this?’, the answer is that you’ve lived a life – and lest we forget that you’re currently existing in the midst of a pandemic as well. You’re well within your rights to be tired and unmotivated right now, even if you’re usually fuelled by get-up-and-go juice at this time of year. Life is different. You’re different. Be soft instead, and maybe in a few days’ time, the run will feel more thrilling.
Live, and learn
If all you can muster is watching re-runs of reality TV and peppermint tea, you’re still living. Even if this isn’t what you’d like to be doing at the start of the year, you’re here now and the point of life is to live in this moment – to work with what we’ve got, experience it all and then, in turn, respond to it and make changes if we choose to.
Instead of resenting the fact that you stayed up until the sun rises because you couldn’t turn off a podcast, honour the fact that through doing that you might have learned something about yourself. Whether you realised just how hard you find it to switch off, or nabbed a true crime titbit to share at dinner parties, there’s always something to take from an experience. Maybe you’ll now go and buy a book on the science of sleep that will change your slumber patterns, or meet your next pal at that dinner party – it’s OK to just live your life and respond to what it has to show you.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you’ve not stepped into this new year in the way you’d like to: you’re living, which means you’re learning, and from there all kinds of wondrous things are possible.
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Image: Tim Lane / Penguin