Putting the ‘Resolve’ in Resolution

Why Do We Make New Year’s Resolutions?

Social convention plays a big part. A typical small talk topic leading up to December 31st is ‘Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions?’ 

At this point, many of us grasp at the first thing that pops into our heads that we find least desirable about ourselves and lead with that. Otherwise it’s an activity we think will be impressive if we express interest in perusing it, or, in desperation, we just vaguely mutter something about diet and exercise. 

Thus, the initial issue with New Year’s Resolutions is that they are non-committal, often vague and generic statements thrown about in the name of festive convention. We are not motivated or inspired, the intention is not there to make them thus there is no ambition to keep them and so they are unfulfilled before even being acknowledged. 

Why Does New Year Appeal for Sudden Goal Setting? 

It’s tidy. The first day of a new year sounds like it should be highly motivational, a neat new start, sweeping out the old and starting fresh.

Perhaps this Spring Cleaning tradition would work if the New Year still began in March, when the days are growing longer and the weather is improving, more of us would be able to maintain their enthusiasm and eat healthier and exercise more. 

But the middle of winter is when the majority of us are seeking for comfort from food and warm blankets. 

What Results in Repeatedly Making Resolutions We Never Keep? 

Most of us are self-aware enough to know that we have faults, accompanied by a desire to ‘fix’ them. 

This means one of two things: either we are trying to go cold turkey on undesirable aspects of our personality (my impatience for instance) and get tripped up by being disappointed in ourselves when we are not perfect and make mistakes like losing our temper over parking tickets or someone drinking out of our special mug at work; or we are trying to undertake projects that we simply do not have the time, year after year, to complete. 

Perhaps the first step with the latter would be to improve our ability at budgeting our time and learning to prioritise, and for the former, we need to learn self-love, not to never change, but to respect ourselves and trust our ability to improve overtime. 

Change is never instantaneous and to act like it is (something that is intensified at New Year) is to set ourselves up for disappointment. We should instead appreciate that change is slow, show ourselves the patience and encouragement we would give others when we experience momentary lapses to bad habits. That way, these slips would be short-lived set backs, not obstacles that holt our progress. 

Effective Change is Born of Positivity not Negativity

The core issue is our expectations; our desire to be our best selves, coming up against our idea of perfection and falling short. 

Too often we are focusing on altering rather than enhancing characteristics.  

One of my friends included among their resolutions (it was a long list) to ‘be kind’. This is, of course, coming from a kind person. People are kind, most of us just struggle to be kind to all people all of the time.

I guess we could look at the issue of this ‘be kind’ resolution as being a blanket statement – goals should have some form of measurement (otherwise you will always fall short because your moving your own finish line) and a way to hold yourself accountable, or else it is too easy to continue to perpetually put it off. 

There are also those resolutions that are driven by external rather than internal influences, mostly regarding appearance. Exercise, diet and fitness resolutions are so frequently the result of drawing comparisons, feeling judged and pressuring ourselves from perceived social expectations, rather than from our own desire to be healthier, fitter or live a more sustainable lifestyle. 

Whilst there is much to be encouraged in pursuing a healthier lifestyle, with balanced diet and regular activity, too often these resolutions stem from places of negativity which manifests as defeatist thought spirals. 

A Time for Reflection Not Resolution 

Instead, New Year should be a time of reflection, a relaxed evaluation of the year gone by, a chance to feel proud at what was accomplished and acknowledge anything that we would have liked to have done differently. (Do not dwell on the latter, acknowledgement is not the same as regret unless you give it more than the passing glance it generally requires).

Reflection is a slow methodical evaluation that enables recognition, instils self respect through acknowledgement, resulting either in acceptance and self love, or the establishment of a considered trajectory for positive change. 

So make this January a time of reflection, and your only resolution to be one of self-care, of acknowledging not regretting and of letting go of the past year to fully embrace your potential in the new one. 

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Catching Happiness

Patter patter patter
Patter patter patter
Pounce!

Tail wagging, lips
Pulled back
Like a
big smile,

My dog has chased, flicked and
Found
Her ball. 

She reminds me of the importance
Of being pleased
With the simplest actions

Of how
Happiness can be so easy
To find
If only we stop looking so far away.

Happiness is right here.

In this muddy field,
She knows it.
She found it.
She caught it.

Lassie does a form of victory lap every time she catches her ball. She almost never brings it straight back, she always does a small semi-circular run first. She chases the ball, picks it up and loops back to me to repeat the action all over again.

I like the repetition. I think it is good for me.

I am taking time away from my computer screen, from reading and words, from work, and playing with a creature who is full of the purest joy.

It is routine.
It is simple.
I am focused on one task.

For someone who struggles with clearing her mind and disentangling her thoughts from her worries, to be able to focus on just throwing a ball for half an hour is very calming.
My mind is free and unharassed thoughts lead to creativity.
I have written a poem, a post, out here in the open air.

This is my hobby.
This is my happiness.
My dog has led me here.

If I stop trying to move beyond this moment and instead enjoy being in it, I can catch my own happiness.

Stop.
Walk.
Wonder.
Breathe.

Pause long enough for happiness to catch up with you.

Free Writing

Today I read a post by Sara in LaLaLand about free writing, and it reminded me about a poem I wrote at my writing club at school. I’ve mentioned before that how I write blog posts is very similar to free writing, but I pay too much attention to what I am typing and have a very specific topic in mind. Whilst I let the post go wherever my mind takes it, its still bound within the topic and I am very conscious of spelling, punctuation and grammar. Free writing is incredibly liberating as you focus on the words and your thoughts and feelings and let them flow, unbound by language rules and you can skip from topic to topic and back again. I wonder if it could be comparable to meditation, in the book I am reading, Women, Food and God, Geneen Roch details a technique that focuses on feelings within the body and free writing focuses on what your mind is producing. You aren’t editing as you go, or dismissing thoughts as tangents or irrelevant. Everything that pops into your head ends up on the page. Then, when you let the writing overtake, you frequently forget about the sentence, or even word, that came before what you are currently writing. Just like meditation, you are only aware and concerned with what is happening now, in that very moment, without consideration to what came before or what might happen next. You’re not concerned with whether it is sensible or makes sense to anyone else. Thus, free writing is not only a great pre-writing technique, especially if you have writer’s block, but it also has great benefits for mental health. Free writing enables you to access your unconscious, to release emotions, process thoughts and feelings, and relieve stress.

I hope to do some free writing over the next few days. In the past I have used it as a technique for writing poetry, but I am interested to experiment with prose and see if it can get me kick-started on my novel writing project. For now, I hope you will enjoy the poem I wrote whilst gazing out of the classroom window, wondering what on earth I was going to free write about. In this regard it is like the exact opposite of meditation. With meditation the stereotype is emptying the mind, with free writing you are waiting for a thought to scuttle across your brain so that you have something to write about. On the occasions I have tried meditation my mind suddenly recieved a whole deluge of ideas, when I am free writing it suddenly becomes astoundingly blank…

That Leaf

That leaf.
That brown dry leaf.
Swinging like a crazy pendulum.

It dangles there
On slender stem
Brown and dry.

Dew drops still hang from
The droopy foliage,
Slimy even at midday.

They drip the seconds by,
A constant ticking
The time it takes for the last leaf to die.