We all know how challenging it is to follow through on our New Years resolutions.
Gyms and fitness centers report large membership increases in the early weeks of January, only for these numbers to drop dramatically by February and March. As much as we try to set mindful intentions, we get caught back up in the rhythm of our busy lives and we soon feel we won’t be able to achieve our goals. The disappointment about “failing” to follow through with our resolutions can bring up feelings of shame and self-blame that can push us back into the bad habits we were trying to shift away from in the first place!
You don’t have to get stuck in this vicious cycle. Broken resolutions do not have to result in defeat.
Below are some ideas to help you maintain your New Year self-care practices:
1. Keep everything in perspective.
The winter solstice, on December 21st, was the shortest day of the year. Now we are moving towards longer days full of more sunlight, and we are closer to Spring and Summer. When the winter days of January, February, and March feel like they’re dragging on, remember that the darkest point is behind us.
You can think of the slowly increasing daytime minutes as a metaphor for self-growth, the small amounts of extra daylight add up over time. While you wait for longer days, fill your home with warming light sources so that the darkness doesn’t get you down.
2. Hold on to your intentions, even if your habits slip.
When you indulge in behavior you promised yourself you would avoid, instead of falling into a self-punishing story and beating yourself up, focus on the good intention behind transforming the unhealthy habit.
Stay in touch with the reasons you want to create new, healthy habits. Remind yourself of the compassion, joy, and hope that are driving the intention, and let those feelings guide you, rather than reacting with regret and disappointment when things don’t go exactly as you planned.
3. Small actions add up to big results.
If you want to commit to a daily meditation practice, don’t start with 30 minutes in the mornings and evenings. Start with just 1-5 minutes once a day.
After you’ve eased into this routine, you’ll find yourself wanting to naturally add time to your practice because of how good the initial results feel.
Instead of beginning with a big goal like 30 minutes and feeling restless and resentful when you can’t make it through, start small and focus on building the habit that will naturally turn into the results you are seeking over time.
4. Associate healthy routines with specific places and things.
Turning a routine into a ritual gives it more meaning, which inspires consistent action. For example, use the same meditation cushion every time you practice, in the same room. You can set up candles, blankets, or hang up an inspirational quote. Coming back to the same space every time trains your brain to transition faster into meditation mode. The same goes for exercise. Find a running or walking route you enjoy in your neighborhood or at a local park. Once you start down the familiar path your mind will be better prepared to stick to the plan.
5. Identify what is really in your control to change and what is not.
We can get swept up in feeling we are powerless to help heal the world’s big problems, which causes us to not act at all. So focus on actions close to home where you can see the positive effects in your daily life. Over time, they will add up to impact the world around you.
For example, committing to making your daily habits more clean and green will allow you to immediately see the results of your actions. Replace plastic straws and bags with reusable and biodegradable alternatives, which not only helps the earth but minimizes clutter and waste in your home. Seeing the results of your actions will motivate other lifestyle changes, leading you down the slow and steady path of transformation.
6.You define what your own success and failure is.
Theodore Roosevelt famously said “comparison is the thief of joy.” Your vision for the New Year is unique and personal to you. If you constantly compare your progress relative to others, you will find yourself discouraged and disheartened.
Remind yourself that we are all on our own path, and if you quiet your mind and listen to your heart you will be able to get back in touch with the inspiration and motivation required to stick to your New Years resolutions and self care routines for the long haul.