Trigger warning: suicide, self-harm
An online survey by Statista in December 2021 showed the top three most popular New Year's resolutions last year were "living healthier," "personal improvement or happiness," and "losing weight." These aren't very surprising resolutions. In fact, Statista has found that the most popular resolutions remain the same year to year.
As to whether people benefit from making such resolutions… Traditionally, 71% of those who make resolutions keep them for two weeks. But after six months, it's down to 46%. A success rate of 46%, by definition, implies a failure rate of 54%. So, beneficial? Not so much.
New Year's Resolutions are Hard to Keep
The truth is New Year's resolutions are hard to keep. "Living healthier" is a noble goal, but it's vague and doesn't include any way to track your progress. "Personal improvement or happiness" is not only ambiguous, but it can also be inconsistent. And "losing weight" is an uphill battle in a world of stress and foods that are designed to be addictive (I'm looking at you, chocolate peanut butter pie-flavored Oreos).
I am all for improving oneself; I think even those who barely know me can see that. But I believe that making New Year's resolutions is a way of setting yourself up for a fall. If you want to improve your life in 2023, don't just make a handful of vague promises to yourself. Mount a campaign! Draw up a strategic plan, marshal your resources (including supporters), make a timetable, set goals, and check in on your progress; something must be fixed? Change it- without judgment, of course.
I know, easier said than done. Let's see what we can do that may work in our favor.
My 2023 Campaign
I can only make an honest campaign for 2023 by looking back at 2022. Therefore, I don't just pick off events to remember (or in some cases ruminate over). Instead, and sincerely, in a self-reflective, non-judgemental way, I ask myself questions.
- What have I learned this year?
- What changes did I make that helped me feel better and truer to myself?
- Where did I find joy?
- Where did I experience heartbreak?
- What worked for me, and what didn't?
- What did I do that helped me grow as a person, understand others more, increase my ability to communicate
- What altered it all despite my efforts?
When I have answered my questions honestly, I begin working on my 2023 campaign.
So, what's on my list of how to do the next year better? First, I am pleased to share a few goals others have recently shared with me to spark your ideas.
"In 2023, I will control my anger and will not be controlled by it."
Anger is a natural emotion and almost impossible to avoid. We've been around long enough to know that when we are angry, the emotion is more damaging to us than it is to the person we are mad at. If we let it, anger will block our compassion and impair judgment. Researchers at Yale's School of Medicine believe anger can actually shorten our lives. You and I both know it can, at the very least, eat away at us and make us miserable.
So what can we do? Stop, drop, and roll. Feeling something angering you?
- Stop, don't say or do anything.
- Drop to the couch, the floor, your meditation mat; wherever you can sit for a moment.
- Roll with it: ask yourself the hard questions. "Is it worth it to feel my heart race, argue, throw a phone, flip someone off in traffic--
- Reflect. What do those experiences make you feel? Hot? Energized? Is your fight or flight kicked in? If you let the anger continue, will you feel good about yourself?
Most importantly: What will the person/thing/idea I'm reacting to take from my anger? Will they "learn"? Will they benefit somehow? Will anything change for the better?
Will I change for the better?
"In 2023, I will practice empathy."
Empathy can reduce stress because it helps us connect to others, two important things playing a role in our confused society today. Stress and human connection. Too much of one, too little of the other.
Time to flip that table.
Do you know that you can literally discipline yourself to avoid making assumptions about other people? Yep! You may judge as an immediate reaction, that's ok. What is important is noticing when it happens and making rational decisions before we act on our potential irrational beliefs whether it be toward a person, places, or ideas.
This allows us to practice learning more, understanding more, therefore showing more compassion which ultimately relieves ourselves of assumptions. We grow, we listen actively to others, and when we do, we can exercise more imagination to put ourselves in their place and see situations from their perspective.
So, what can we do?
We can start by doing a little googling. One search led me to a Masterclass article discussing how learning to show empathy in relationships can improve emotional communication skills. We can all benefit from that, yes?
"In 2023, I will forgive current and past slights and injuries."
We know the past is part of us, and it can't be changed, but it's hard to stop dwelling on it at; some of us struggle regularly fighting the past and fearing the future.
Holding a grudge raises cortisol levels, and allowing that to continue for long periods can damage our health: it can affect brain function, libido, and digestive processes. I will forgive others, and I will forgive myself. I will move forward and enjoy a future of wisdom, loving relationships, great sex, and healthy digestion".
So, what can we do?
By self-reflecting on why we aren't willing to let go of shame and fear, we may learn how to move on from those slights and injuries to better our lives moving forward. Practice does not make perfect, but it can boost our confidence, our relationships, and our lives. Yes, I believe that 100%.
Let's Think Big
A few paragraphs ago, I suggested mounting a campaign to change yourself. There are lots of resources on the web for managing change. Here, for example, is a useful article from Harvard Business School. Articles on change management are almost exclusively addressed to corporate types, but it's easy to translate the steps and principles outlined into something you can use personally. Just remember to think big.
Not an Overnighter
Becoming a better person might be the biggest project you've ever taken on, so before you do anything, start with this:
"I am amazing. I am kind". So then, on your clock, at your discretion, without judgment-- ever--go from there, get after those goals, check in on them, and pat your back at every itty bitty achievement.
Cuz' you can.
Ok, I Promised. Here's Mine.
2022 has been a year of growth for me in many ways. But what has stood out, over all things, is the finally-at-fifty gift I gave to myself. The gift of self-love.
Smirk & giggle all you want, but my friends, it's a thing. A real thing, and it is a game-changer.
I know, because of self-love, I have carried and practiced self-loathing most of my life.
When I started to change as a preteen due to situational experiences and my mental illness, my hope and love for myself began to diminish. With every incomplete homework assignment, discord with my parents, bully threats, and bad decision I believed, wholeheartedly, I was a walking piece of sh*t.
It wasn't until my twenties when I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Other diagnoses quickly followed; with that, my self-loathing increased, and my self-awareness disappeared.
The medically unnecessary shock treatments, the few terrible psychiatrists I came into contact with, and the paths I subsequently took from there ruined me and brought me to my knees in the form of self-harm and a suicide attempt.
For years I honestly believed I was no good. Not for me, not for my kids, husband, friends-- not for my parents, not for learning, understanding, my grandchildren, not for anything allowing me to live a good life.
But that all changed when I began to practice self-love. So, in 2022 I gifted myself to myself, and everything has changed since, for the better.
I've let go of the past. Yet I recognize when it's creeping up on me to derail my rational thoughts.
I have let go of the fear that my illness will eventually take over and I'll forget all I've worked for, learned, and built to live a better life. I've let go of the people who would rather see me as a something I'm not; who prefer me to be out of their lives altogether or in their lives and blamed for everything because "I'm the sick one".
Look, I've been through a lot. I've done a lot of stupid things. But there is no time machine. All my good, bad & indifferent decisions have created who I am now, just like you. And to me, living in the past, ruminating over what I've done or what I could have/should have done differently, is just another way of living in disgust, crushing every bit of work I've done to get this far.
My campaign for 2023 is learning more about myself. Nothing; not shock treatments, bad doctors, toxic relationships, irrational people, self-loathing, assumptions about the person I am- none of it will take me from me ever again.
Though this year will surely bring it's struggles, may we all find, welcome, and embrace the joy that inevitably comes along with it all. And may we all have a happy, healthy new year.
*Cover photo: My favorite picture of 2022. This was the end of the night at LIVE LIFE LOUD. These people, my heart. If I could hug every one of you i would. We got this.