Resolutions: Set Intentions for the New Year from a Place of Self-Compassion 

Every year following New Year’s Eve there is a lot of talk about resolutions and goals for the upcoming year. Many of the goals people set are driven by what people feel they need to change and what they dislike about themselves. What concerns me the most is the unhelpful and even punitive ways I have seen people go about trying to achieve these goals. This shame-driven mentality can fuel depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. It can be difficult to look at resolutions and set intentions for the new year from a place of self-compassion.

When talking about New Year’s resolutions, I always find myself reflecting back to when I used to teach yoga and how attendance trends in the month of January consistently looked the same each year. On January 1st my class would be packed with people. As the weeks went on this number would slowly taper down. By the end of January, it would be back to the usual suspects in my class every week. I have done a lot of reflecting on this pattern. This helped me develop some tips to help everyone successfully achieve their goals. More importantly, when thinking of resolutions, set the intentions with self-compassion rather than shame. 

Let Go of Extremes 

Contrary to popular belief there are no rules or qualifications for New Year’s resolutions. If you achieve your goals you can always set more. People set goals that feel too large which sets them up to be disappointed or burn out quickly. The people who became regulars are those who set more realistic and manageable goals. For example, coming up to class at least 1x per week instead of aiming to exercise every day. 

Practice Patience in the Process 

Not only do people tend to want extreme results or changes, but they often want them fast too. This urgency can serve as a barrier that leads to giving up. Yoga is called a practice for a reason. No one will ever be perfect at it. The regulars are the people who could tolerate slow growth. They have a willingness to be challenged and are not defined by the ups and downs they experience. Slow and steady may not yield as much instant gratification but it will also lead to more sustainable change 

Make goals Specific and Tangible 

Resolutions that are too vague or broad can feel too overwhelming to approach. In many cases, people will feel lost and often avoid the goal completely. The more specific you can make the goal, the more you can visualize what it would look like to achieve. This will also help you create more concrete steps for taking action. The regulars in my class aimed to come to the same class, at the same time, and would show up each week to integrate it into their routine. 

Figure out What Helps you be Accountable 

To help you feel accountable, think about goals you have accomplished before and what helped you do that. Was it a support person who met you at yoga each week? Was it checking in on your goal regularly to assess how it is going? Is it blocking off that time from work each week so that you can have your self-care time? Is there a value that drives this goal? If so, what is it? Become aware of what this really means to you. When something matters to us we are more likely to want to keep up with it. Explore methods for keeping you consistent that feel like kind methods of support. Rather than forcing or shaming yourself into a habit or shift.

Be Willing to Adapt 

I find that rigidity is a big barrier to change. There is no best path to take when it comes to your own personal journey. Notice both what is and is not working for you and be willing to shift your plan as you go to make it work better for you. Maybe your work schedule changes and you can no longer do morning yoga. Maybe this means doing a couple flows at home to get you ready for the day or trying a new day and time that you can commit to class. Life happens and the more accepting we can be and willing to adjust the more resilient we will feel. 

Practice Self-Compassion 

The way we talk to ourselves is often not the way we would treat or talk to someone we love and care about. Notice the negative dialogue that comes up as you go through the process of working towards goals. Practice reinforcing more kind and caring words to yourself. If you miss a week of yoga instead of beating yourself up be curious about this rather than judgmental. Consider if any adjustments need to be made to the goal. Or acknowledge that life happens and the process does not need to be perfect to count. 

As a final call to action, I would like you to consider one way you can be more self-compassionate this month. I want it to feel reasonable and try making it even smaller and more specific than you would typically do. Maybe you make the goal to deep breathe for 30 seconds 1x per week. And i want you to take my recommendations to heart. At the end of the month, I will be sending out another blog that will help you reflect on how it went and how it felt. Remember there is no grade or right or wrong. This serves as a self-assessment to reflect on what does and does not work for you and to non-judgmentally observe your experience. So if you’re going to be looking at resolutions, set your intentions for this new year with self-compassion. If you did at least one thing that felt self-compassionate this month you are coming out ahead!!!

Article written by Dani Parmacek, LCPC

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