New Years Resolutions in a Time of Uncertainty
by The Mind Faculty
New Years Resolutions are a way that we reflect on the previous year and plan for the year head. It’s an inventory of what we liked and want to see more of. Conversely, we can also view it as a check list of what we didn’t like about the past year and what we would like to change about ourselves and our circumstances.
However, 2020 was not the year we expected. The pandemic has changed the way we live, work and play. We had to cancel travel plans, and move our curriculum and office spaces online. Consequently, many of us may be reluctant or unmotivated to set our goals for 2021, knowing how easily these plans can be derailed.
To address uncertainty, we need to identify the things we can control and the things we can’t. While we may not have any control over our wider environment, we still have control over our thoughts and actions. That is why our 2021 New Years Resolutions are looking inwards instead of outwards.
Break down your New Years Resolutions into smaller steps. Instead of “I need to lose 10 kgs” or “I need to save XX money”, you can reframe this as “I will move my body 20 minutes a day” or I will put aside “RM 5 a day”.
By creating consistent achievable goals, we can remain motivated to keep our resolutions despite what is going on around us. For example, if your favourite pilates studio closes, you may feel demoralized and stop your exercise regime. However, if you are committed to moving your body for 20 minutes a day –whether this is walking up and down the stairs in your apartment building or stretching at your desk – you are more likely to stick to your New Years Resolutions.
New Year, New You
Often, when we make New Years resolutions, we focus on one aspect of ourselves whether this is to find love, save money or getting fit. This year, we are defining new “you” as the physical, emotional and mental body that make up who “you” are.
Our physical body plays an important part in our mental health. Our resolution is to connect back to our physical body through intentional movement and breath. When we are in touch with our physical body, we learn how to befriend the physical sensations that may arise. If you have anxiety, you can start to identify when you are triggered such as your heart beat quickening. Engaging with your breath or exercise can teach you how to address the bodily sensations. E.g., deep belly breathing activates your vagus nerve, which in turn slows down your heart rate.
Example of resolution: I will move my body 20 minutes a day; I will breath from my belly for 2 minutes a day.
By ‘mental’ self-care, we mean your thoughts. Contrary to popular belief, we are not just our thoughts. Our thoughts are just neurons firing in our brain. We have 60,000 – 70,000 thoughts a day, and we are often not aware of all of them.
Journalling can help us to clarify our thoughts and make us aware of thought patterns that are showing up. Writing affirmations and gratitude lists can also help us to redirect the focus of our thoughts, and help us to strengthen our mental health.
Examples of resolution: I will journal for 5 minutes everyday about my experience/ I will write out 5 things I am grateful for everyday.
Many of us are afraid of strong negative emotions. Often, we try to rationalize or minimize how we feel – e.g., “I shouldn’t be sad; it wasn’t a big deal.” When we ignore our emotional experience, we can become separated from the things that bring us joy and meaning. We may not know what makes us happy or unhappy.
This year, our New Years Resolution is to take care of our emotional health by honouring what we feel. This could be: learning how to identify what you’re feeling and expressing it in a productive way.
Examples of resolutions: I will set aside 1 hour a week to do something creative.
Therapy and New Years Resolutions
A common misconception about therapy is that therapy fixes what is broken. Therapy is more than that. It can help you to define your goals for the upcoming year(s) and how to achieve them. It's helping you to find your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the things that bring you joy and meaning.
The Mind Faculty is a private mental health clinic in Solaris Mont Kiara that offers psychiatric, psychological and counselling services. With over 20 practitioners in our multidisciplinary team, we believe in a compassionate and integrated approach to mental health care.