I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I think a lot of yoga teachers and people in similar professions see a lot of people joining classes in the first week in January, and the majority will be gone by the end of the month. In fact, a lot of gyms rely on this – their profit margins are based in people paying for membership and then not turning up. I also don’t think your worth as a human being should be based in always striving to be healthier. There’s a lot of moralising about exercise and diet that I find more toxic than whatever ‘bad’ habit you’re trying to fix. Indeed, anything that’s a habit for you is doing something positive for you. Making healthier choices is often about figuring out what the ‘bad’ habits are doing for you, and finding less destructive ways to get the same benefits.
However, self-care is important, and most of us have things we’d like to do differently about our usual routines, whether it’s getting more sleep or eating more vegetables. I just think that it’s only sensible to use the natural rhythms of the seasons to help you, rather than lurching straight from the mid-winter feasting season into nothing but long runs and brown rice without a pause. So here’s my recipe for a New Year’s revolution, tailored to fit.
Find your rhythm
Focus on getting back into the routine that already helps you thrive, whether that’s getting to bed at a sensible time, or getting to your weekly yoga class. This will be the best way to sustain you through the damp, dark days of winter.
Press the snooze button on that New Year’s resolution and let yourself and those around you off for being a bit grumpy at the moment. It’s winter. Embrace your inner bear for a little bit longer.
How do you feel after that third cup of coffee? Are the longer days starting to make you feel cheerful? Is Saturday morning the time you always enjoy getting out in the garden? Do you feel uncomfortable and a bit helpless every time you pass that Big Issue seller on your way in to town? Before we can even identify the changes that would help us most, it’s best to have an idea of what’s working and not at the moment.
Make the happy things easier
Can you identify one small and easy change that would make it more likely for you to make the choices you want to make? This is so much easier than feeling guilty about when you don’t make those choices. We’re buying a pressure cooker. It’s a greener, thrifty, and fast way to make hearty and healthy veggie stews and soups in the winter. It probably won’t blow up the house. It feels like a small thing that would lead to happy, healthy things.
Plan for the longer days
Experiment with a couple of things that you might want to explore further. If you haven’t been to a yoga class in 2 years and you’re feeling guilty about that, just pop along to one or two rather than committing to going every week right now. And try that Zumba class as well. But try them as an experiment for January at least.
Be the light
It’s been a hard few years for a lot of people. Access to self-care is not evenly available to all, and many people struggle to look after themselves for all sorts of reasons. If you’re one of those people, it’s really not your fault. But the world is also full of just as many signs of hope and everyday people reaching out to help each other. How can you be part of the change and help care for others?
If you manage to follow this plan, you’ll get to the end of January with: a sense of your established routine; more compassion for yourself when it all goes a bit wrong; more understanding of what really works for you; one small change and ideas for bigger ones in the direction of more self-care; and even one thing you do to help others out too.
This sets you up at the end of January, as the days are longer and brighter, to try for any big changes that make sense to you. Which, traditionally, is the start of Lent. It’s said by some people that it takes 5-7 weeks to make or break a habit. So by Easter, you’d know if that habit was going to stick.
And if you’re wondering what my self-care looks like at the moment, it’s taking a few days extra break to breathe right at the turning of the year, just before my PhD is awarded, any day now. The roller coaster will be rattling along again soon enough.