New Year, New Thinking
After the indulgences of the festive season January is seen as a time for new beginnings; a time to get into new habits, behaviours, lifestyles and diets. Often these involve the desire to better oneself – to lose weight, do more exercise, drink less alcohol, and generally to give things up. Often the focus is on what is wrong with oneself. This way of thinking reinforces stereotypes about what is the perfect life or the perfect body and, frankly, makes everyone feel inadequate.
Maybe it’s time to reframe our New Year’s Resolutions. Kavita Daiya, a professor and director of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at Columbian College of Arts and Sciences says the most successful resolutions focus on self-acceptance and specific goals, rather than a desire to reach an arbitrary number on the weighing scales.
Start with Self-Acceptance
Self-acceptance can be defined as having a realistic awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s about knowing you have a unique contribution to make to the world despite being aware of one’s short comings in certain areas. Self acceptance is thought to be necessary for good mental health. Some psychologists believe that self acceptance is necessary in order for change to occur. It starts with stopping the endless self-criticism that so many of us engage in, and accepting that you are imperfect, and so is everyone.
The Bright Side of Self Acceptance
Benefits of self-acceptance include better mood regulation, a decrease in depressive symptoms, and an increase in positive emotions, independence and self-esteem. It also leads to the ability to take more risks without worrying about the consequences, and a reduced desire to win the approval of others.
Reframing begins with the premise that how you are right now is fine. Focus on gratitude for what you have, who you are and what you’ve achieved. As well as accepting yourself, accept others as they are. Avoid judging others for how they look or what they wear. Avoid magazines and social media that reinforce body stereotypes.
Rather than aspiring to be a certain weight or have a certain body shape aspire to something that has a positive message driving it. This might be to be stronger, to learn something new or to do something that you really enjoy every day.
Be Inspired by Joy
From the starting point of knowing that you are fine just as you are, decide on some healthy habits that will improve your well being and bring more joy into your life. These might be getting more sleep, dancing, taking up painting or learning an instrument. You might decide to cook from scratch at the weekends, or learn a new recipe each week. Or you might aim to run 5 kilometres by May. Choose things that are inspiring and fun for their own sake, rather than aiming to be a certain weight or to have a certain body shape.
See also the blog post on Tips for Changing Habits which gives tips on how to go about adopting new habits. The blog post on Habits Worth Adopting will give you ideas as to which habits will give you the best returns on the changes you make.