Karin Lawson, PsyD, CEDS, RYT-200 is a licensed psychologist, certified eating disorder therapist and writer in private practice. She’s located in Miami, FL. Dr. Lawson is currently the Vice President of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals – Miami Chapter, as well as the President-Elect of the Miami-Dade-Monroe Psychological Association. In this week’s blog post, Dr. Lawson discusses new years resolutions.
A lot of psychotherapists write about how New Year’s Eve (NYE) resolutions are a set-up and you shouldn’t make them. Sometimes the alternative is a word of the year or a mantra or setting up a goal each month, rather than focusing on the whole year. I have gone back and forth myself on the concept of a resolution. Yet, today on New Year’s Eve, I find myself pro-resolution. I generally like the concept of new beginnings, be it the beginning of a day, week or year.
For those of you who know me, don’t misunderstand. I’m not pro-diet, or pro-weight-loss resolution. I still firmly believe that the endless barrage of weight loss diets is disheartening and fat phobic. However, if you’re wanting to shake things up in your life in general and embrace your ability to create change, I think resolutions have a sense of empowerment and hope that I can get behind.
So, in a lot of “change” research, there’s all this talk about “small concrete goals”. While that sounds like a person is breaking change down into doable, bite size chunks and is something to consider for yourself . . . to me, that can also feel a bit driven . . . and driven feels like pressure . . . and pressure can often feel like stress . . . and so, are we potentially inviting more stress into our lives and our self? Because if that’s the case, I will pass. Let me note: stress is here to stay and can be helpful in moderate levels at particular times when we need it. Stress can have a job, but I don’t think that most of us need MORE of it and we certainly don’t need to bath in it all the time. We create enough stressful thoughts (i.e. catastrophic, critical, overwhelmed ideas). Inviting more of that into our lives is not making our lives better. Stress significantly impacts our health: creating muscle tension (headaches, body aches), chronically raising cortisol levels (a hormone, which in an ideal world should only be high in a true emergency), shallow breathing (reduced oxygen levels), etc. I have to add that one of the MANY reasons I am anti-diet, is that diets are stressful. While people believe they are for our health, so many times they are actually creating health issues both via their lack nutrition diversity and their lack of pleasure. (Soapbox over . . . for now . . .)
I’d like to propose a framework of special ingredients for your NYE Resolutions: FUN, ADVENTURE, LEARNING, CONNECTING WITH OTHERS. So, write down every NYE resolution you’ve decided on or are considering. Ask yourself with each one:
- Is this fun or adventurous for me?
- Is this something new for me that I’ve never tried? (trying a new diet doesn’t count)
- Does this help me connect with other people in some way?
- Does the idea of the steps involved, rather than just the end goal, make me want to smile?
- Is there an actual finish line or is this an experiment and an experience, come what may?
The answer doesn’t have to be yes to every question. However, these questions can help us tease out if the process will actually be enjoyable. Will the experience add to our life, rather than the final product itself being the end-all-be-all? A note here why I included connection and people in our assessment of NYE resolutions. If cortisol is the stress hormone, it’s counterpart is oxytocin, sometimes called the “comfort and belief” hormone. Oxytocin is released in our bodies when we feel connected to others. This can be via hugs, sharing a thrilling experience (such as riding a roller coaster with someone) and even social media. Connecting with others is good for our mental health, in so many ways, and so while some of our NYE resolutions may be solo acts, it’s good to consider if they all have to be or if there are ways we can tweak things to create bonds in the experience.
What if you had NYE resolutions that were fun? As adults, we often put fun on the back burner. I mean the back, back, way back, burner. What if fun was actually part of the answer? Does the thought of that even crack a smile? What if you announced that your NYE resolution was more laughter? People actually might laugh at that idea. I know it’s not popular, but what an amazing concept to add some lightheartedness to your life this year, intentionally. I wonder what health benefits that could possible create? This is not to suggest that we can make life is one big joyous party. There is pain and sadness and difficulty in life and if it’s not there yet, it’s coming. We can be sure of that. However, our power lies in our choices and what if instead of being the slave driver, we become the party planner? How about instead of criticizing and tearing ourselves down for not being good enough, we just allow ourselves to smile, laugh, learn, expand? What if having more of those joyous moments in life actually buffers against the challenges of the harder moments when they come? What if allowing fun gives us more of what we really seek in life?
This article originally published on the Dr. Karin Lawson blog.