CN: eating disorders, depression, autism, ADHD
I don’t care what anyone says, I absolutely love new year’s resolutions. The best decision I ever made was to fully embrace them as a way of reflecting on progress, visualising goals, and thinking change into existence.
It took a while to cleanse myself of the idea that ‘new year, new me’ was somehow just the shell of a sentiment, or that by openly committing to a thing at a set time makes it solely performative, especially with social media meme culture preferring dark scepticism over sunny optimism (there’s a fine line between making light of cynicism, and wallowing in it). It never sat right with me when people felt the need to mock those who attempt resolutions, especially the vitriol reserved for those who don’t seem to outwardly commit to them.
Firstly, since when did the New Year also have a Grinch? Secondly, why would people not dedicate the arrival of a new year to change? As a species, we’ve been attributing significance to the passing of time whenever we get the chance – from day to night, season to season, birthday to birthday. It seems slightly redundant to extravagantly acknowledge the transition from one year to another with fireworks and champagne, without at least allowing some of us to make it mean something more profound. Also, thirdly, personal growth is not always consistent, nor is it measurable or validated by spectators or visible outcomes (mind your business).
“It took a while to cleanse myself of the idea that ‘new year, new me’ was somehow just the shell of a sentiment”
I made my first resolution in 2014, coincidentally also the first New Year after properly beginning to heal from my breakdown/autistic burnout a few years prior, and it’s become not only a critical part of my recovery and self-care, but also one of the most enjoyable ones. So, coming up to four years on, I’ve stuck with my decision to dedicate the end of each December to reflection, vision boards, and mind maps of how I want my year to go, and I’m honestly revelling in it. Each year I commit to an element of my life that I want to improve – whether it’s to be more fearless, or confident, or to develop a skill or new habit, or to let go of an unhealthy attachment – and then I plot out how to do it mentally and practically in small, realistic steps.
Since then I’ve gone from being stuck in a stagnant cycle of dead-end jobs, unfulfilling home life and poor mental health, to living my best life filled with opportunities to keep getting better and better. Most importantly, it’s created a solid framework within which I can track the reality of how much I’m capable of when my brain is trying to convince me otherwise. Even though I still struggle on a regular basis (shoutout to my aspie/ADHD brain), I’ve also grown exponentially in many ways over the past few years, and it’s difficult to not look back and see it that way when it’s so clearly mapped out.
“I’ve gone from being stuck in a stagnant cycle of dead-end jobs, unfulfilling home life and poor mental health, to living my best life filled with opportunities to keep getting better and better”
Even at the best of times, goals, routines and structure are useful in keeping track of the fast paced world around us, but when we struggle with processing or regulating feelings and thoughts, it can be even more important in helping us to place ourselves or measure how we’re doing. Having regular opportunities to consciously evaluate and decide that we need change when something isn’t working for us can be a massive part of recovery, or managing fluctuating mental health. The objective process of using set dates and timeframes to develop healthy habits, or using those moments in times as cumulative markers of progress, can be a welcome relief from the subjectivity of distorted, destructive and self-sabotaging thought processes. It’s hard to reflect on how much you’ve actually overcome or achieved when spiralling into a depressive episode or relapse, and this is where resolutions can transcend being a performative sentiment into a very real and healthy coping mechanism.
Over the next few days I’ll be celebrating how far I’ve come, and what the next steps are for me. Taking eating disorder recovery a bit more seriously is a hot topic, and I’ll also be working on consistency over impulsivity, and growing out of the comfort zone that holds me back in my career. But even if your new year’s resolutions aren’t as deep as mine, remember they’re just about deciding that we want something to change: a way of setting intentions, and focusing time and energy on making that a reality in a structured way. Ignore the claim that we ‘shouldn’t need to wait for the new year’ to start something. When your brain or body doesn’t facilitate ‘just do it!’, then sometimes waiting until January 1st – or even just the ever elusive next Monday – is the self-compassion we need to allow us to muster up enough energy to take steps in improving our lives.