“New Year! New You!” - As the New Year approaches, we are constantly flooded with the idea that we have to be a new version of ourselves or use the new year as the time to start setting new goals and plans. The latest findings, from Gallup's Nov. 1-16 poll, suggest that the public continues to grapple with the emotional effects of the pandemic 20 months after it first began in the U.S. In addition to the 81% saying their mental health is excellent or good, 15% describe theirs as "only fair" and 4% as "poor."
This coming year, I think it’s okay to give ourselves a break. It is a really challenging time just to be a human being right now. We may need to take a rest just to heal, whether mentally, physically, or spiritually. Perhaps in all areas. Some days it may be a victory just accomplishing basic things in our lives, and we should be compassionate to ourselves. Often we can be so hard on ourselves and often this approach gets us nowhere except leave us more disappointed and down.
After we’ve given ourselves some time to rest. Here are some ways to approach the new year ahead in a way that is kinder to ourselves. Resetting expectations is a great way to start. Instead of defining ourselves by our productivity, we can focus on internal values. “What makes me a good person?”. By practicing a more positive attitude about ourselves or the world around us, we give ourselves a chance to embrace the idea that we are all more than our biggest fears.
Making big goals into something smaller and more attainable is also another great way in achieving something short term and positive this year. We are all naturally inclined to change behaviors with positive reinforcements rather than negative reinforcements.
When we are working towards improving our lives, it is common to compare ourselves to other people. Our perception is that they may be superior to us, or more privileged in some way. Social media doesn’t help as our news feeds overflow with announcements of friends’ new love interests, weight loss, and new jobs. All of this can have the effect of bringing us down if we live on comparisons. By doing this we rob ourselves of time we could be spending on our own self-improvement. It is also important to keep in mind that everyone’s journey is different; although we have similar destinations, our paths are often quite different. Follow your own path.
We may often set goals of losing weight or making more money. We can explore why losing those 20lbs may matter to us. Underneath the desire, we long connectedness, belonging and love. Are we missing the presence of this around us in our life already? By practicing more gratitude to ourselves and those around us, we can focus on what we have, or have done instead of focusing on the “didn’t accomplish” list. This is a simple way of increasing our mental well being.
“Make sure Christmas is magical for the whole family next year!!” I remember making this goal late last year when the first pandemic holiday season passed. Somehow this year seemed to bring it’s own challenges in creating the “most magical and special Christmas” for my family. It’s easy to dwell on “missed experiences” and “failed plans”, but it’s so much more important to reframe how we see success. So, this year I chose “presence” over “presents”.
“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” — Arthur Ashe
Sherin Joseph, ALMFT
Associate Marriage and Family Therapist
CORE - Center of Relational Empowerment, PC