Often we pick resolutions that we think we should do. We should put ourselves on a diet and start going to the gym. We should do anything we can to lose weight. We should stop eating ______. We should get organized. We should have a capsule wardrobe. We should make more money. We should go for the promotion. We should read a book a week. We should be ________ or ________.
And, not surprisingly, we don’t stick to these resolutions.
Because who wants to follow some arbitrary goal? Who wants to follow someone else’s rules? Who wants to maintain a resolution or intention that doesn’t connect to a deep desire? Who wants to do something they actually don’t want to do?
The new year is a time of hope and optimism, said Simon Niblock, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Austin, Texas, dedicated to helping men and their partners overcome some of life’s more challenging experiences. Which is wonderful, because we can take that enthusiasm, energy and joy and channel them into creating resolutions that truly nourish us on a deeper, more meaningful, more fulfilling level.
Below you’ll find questions, activities and considerations, to help you reflect on what you actually want to experience, savor and strive for in 2019.
- Ask yourself: How do I want to feel at the end of 2019? said Elizabeth Gillette, LCSW, an attachment-focused therapist, who specializes in working with individuals and couples as their families grow at her private practice Heirloom Counseling in Asheville, N.C.
- Pick a word to guide your actions, such as “courage” or “integrity,” Gillette said. “How will you align your actions and behaviors with this word?”
- Focus on less. “Resolutions are not always about doing more of something,” said Kirsten Brunner, MA, LPC, a perinatal mental health and relationship expert in Austin, Texas. “Sometimes it is about doing less or cutting something out.” She suggested asking: “In what activities or areas did you feel the most drained in 2018? How can you commit to doing less of these activities? Or [how can you] make adjustments to make them less draining?”
- If you’ve already picked a resolution, ask yourself: “How and why did I connect with [this specific] resolution? Am I choosing this resolution out of obligation…?” said Niblock, founder of Man Up Therapy, a therapeutic service assisting men in overcoming the stigma of seeking mental health services.
- Consider what you’d like to learn about yourself in 2019, Gillette said.
- Focus on funny. “Laughter is relaxing, healing and energizing – we can all use more of it,” Brunner said. Think about what really makes you laugh, and then incorporate that into your daily life.
- What memories do you want to create? Gillette said. “We can’t always control the course that time will take, but we can set intentions to create memories that feel good and satisfying.”
- Honor your natural tendencies. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? According to Brunner, introverts replenish their energy with quiet, solitary activities, while extroverts get filled up with social, interactive activities. “Think about which activities fill up your personal gas tank and commit to doing two of those on a weekly basis.”
- Reflect on your resources. Think about what you already have to meet your resolution, and what you might still need, said Niblock. For instance, maybe you’d like to hire a therapist or coach, or take a class.
- Create a list of priorities, Gillette said. “How does this feel different than a resolution?”
- Think super small. Brunner shared these examples: Every night, ask your partner how their day went. List three things you’re grateful for every morning. Drink one glass of water as soon as you get up. But make sure there’s a big “why” behind your bite-sized commitments. That is, make sure that your small actions are connected to your core values.
- Name one hope for 2019, and identify the incremental steps you need to take to fulfill it, said Niblock.
- “Think back to a time in your life when you felt the happiest or most fulfilled,” said Brunner, co-author of the forthcoming book Birth Guy’s Go-To Guide for New Dads: How to Support Your Partner Through Birth, Breastfeeding & Beyond. Think about the specifics and reasons for this. “How can you incorporate what was so beneficial to you into the New Year?”
- Reflect on your most important relationships. According to Gillette, “What did you do well? What could you improve? What was missing? Relationships give us the opportunity to not only grow individually but recognize our growth through our interactions with others.”
- Reflect on your relationship with yourself. What do you need to build a stronger, more forgiving, more compassionate bond with yourself? More alone time? A perspective shift? Sessions with a therapist?
- Create a collage of words and images that you connect to. Think of this as a vision board for your inspiring intentions. Use it, too, as a reminder of the path you’d like to stay on in 2019, should you veer off.
- Imagine you’re 80 years old. “What will you look back on and wish that you did more or less of?” Brunner said.
- Listen to a guided meditation (like this one on YouTube) that helps to ground and center you, and to reflect on a truly meaningful resolution.
- Improve your self-talk. Brunner shared one method for doing that: List the “things you want to believe about yourself or manifest in your life. Write them down as if they are happening right now. Read them to yourself at least twice a day.” For instance, she said, you might jot down: “I am whole and complete, just the way I am,” or “I accomplish everything I need to in a day.”
- Consider your relationship with technology, and how you can make it work for you. For instance, if you’re frequently, mindlessly checking social media on your phone (and feeling awful about yourself), Brunner recommended “uninstalling your social media apps before dinnertime so that you aren’t tempted to check them in the evening.” Think about how technology can add to your life, instead of taking away from it.
- “Choose three key words that would represent the way you want to experience the year ahead,” Niblock said.
- Appeal to your senses. What do you want to taste, smell, see, hear, and feel in 2019?
- Schedule weekly or monthly check-ins in 2019. Use this time to reflect on how you’re really doing, what your needs are and whether your resolution still feels genuine and meaningful. Because you are allowed to change your mind, and to change. You are allowed to change resolutions if you’d like. You are allowed to abandon them altogether.
- What do you think would be fun to do? Often as adults we become very serious (understandably). What would happen if you let fun, play and curiosity create your resolution?
- Put on your favorite music and get out some art supplies (whatever you have on hand). Think about the new year, and what you’d like it to look like. Then start drawing, painting or coloring. Don’t think much about it. Just let your hands work. Welcome whatever arises. After you’re done, reflect on what you’ve created. Does it provide any hints for the resolution you’d like to set? Or maybe it simply reminds you to add more art-filled sessions into your life.
When setting resolutions, the key is to do what works best for you. Maybe that’s a simple, clear-cut, practical goal that inspires you. Maybe that’s a single word that guides everything you do in 2019. Maybe it’s something else entirely.
Either way, a meaningful, fulfilling resolution originates from you. From your heart. From your soul.
Happy New Year!