As 2022 approaches, I find myself in a state of different thoughts and emotions. The end of the year is usually a time of reflection on the experience you’ve had during the current year and a look to the future for what you hope the next year to be. I imagine many of you are like me: not certain about what the next year will bring. I have a lot of hope that 2022 will finally bring freedom from masks and isolation, and I know that the current state of the world and the Omicron variant brings familiar feelings of disappointment and fear.
If you find yourself in a similar place, it’s okay. The beauty of life is that you can feel two things at the same time, even if opposite, and both are true.You can feel hope for the future and also feel anxiety that you don’t know what it will bring. You can feel overwhelmed and tired and still see that very faint light ahead. The key is to acknowledge these feelings and anxious thoughts but not sit in the stew of worry. Worry doesn’t prepare us any better for what is ahead. It just forces us to experience what might be as if it were truly happening now. If something bad will happen in the future, why would you want to experience it twice? I often ask myself that when I find myself sitting in the worry stew.
Resolutions for 2022: Stop Dieting
A new year is not just a time of reflection but also is a time where many of us choose resolutions. We choose to do something different this next year to better ourselves. Unfortunately, we are rooted in a culture that breeds the belief that you can only be happy if you have $$$, have the perfect body, or the perfect life. So many of our clients are fighting for their lives when it comes to challenging the idea that weight loss provides happiness; they have found that in their pursuit of being thin by extreme dieting, extreme exercise, and fasting that only the opposite has resulted—binge eating, emotional eating, purging, feeling miserable, feeling like a failure, and then the cycle continues. Or they have found themselves in a prison of rules and rigidity that sucks all the joy from their lives and relationships. None of these outcomes sound like a perfect or happy life to me.
If you find yourself experiencing any of this, even in a mild way, do yourself a favor: STOP. Take a step back and observe what your values are. Identify whether it’s really a number on a scale that will make you happy and tell you your worth? Does worrying about the calories/fat/carbs/sugar/gluten/dairy/etc. in your food make you happy? Or does spending hours counting, planning, choosing whether or not to eat and then feeling guilty if you do make you happy? I haven’t met one person yet who has said yes to this, though that’s the message we receive daily—that nasty, untrue rumor that being thin will make everything better. The truth is: diets don’t work. There is a plethora of scientific data that tells us that. Here is an amazing TED talk to tell you why: Why Dieting Doesn’t Usually Work by Sandra Aamodt
Non-Diet Resolutions for 2022
So for those of you who are looking for resolutions for 2022, I encourage you to do something different this year. Focus your new year’s resolution on something other than weight. We know that connecting to others, engaging in activities you enjoy, and being productive improves mood and satisfaction. Below are a few suggestions to improve your overall mental health and increase positive emotions:
Accept yourself instead of trying to change.
Instead of trying to change your body, why not work on acceptance? Stop dieting. Think of what you could do with all the time spent on criticizing and hating your body! Two podcasts our clinicians enjoy are: Maintenance Phase and Nourishing Women
Read more books.
You might choose fiction, non-fiction, paper pages or e-books or join a book club
Try new things.
Go a different way to the grocery store or to work, travel to a new town, try a new food or restaurant, try a new recipe.
Conquer a fear.
Change requires discomfort. Identify a situation or activity that makes you uncomfortable, and then work your way up to doing it. If you don’t like to do things on your own, go to a movie alone, go to a coffeeshop or restaurant on your own, take a road trip on your own. The more you avoid the things that make you scared, the more fear you will have about them.
Find your spirituality.
Perhaps you have disconnected from prayer, meditation, going to church, or with a spiritual force outside of yourself. Make a goal to reconnect on a regular basis.
Connect more with friends.
Make plans to see each other in person, or there are other ways to connect with others, such as sending a card or letter or sending an e-mail.
Start a new hobby.
Try knitting, cross stitch, gardening, calligraphy, drawing, painting, antiquing, photography, coding, or learning a new language.
There are many ways to volunteer your time and skills. Do a search for volunteer opportunities near you.
Reduce Social Media time.
Increased social media time increases our self-loathing, comparison, and criticism. Reducing social media time has positive effects on self-esteem and worth.
Be more present.
Put the phone, iPad or other electronics down and reconnect to the present moment. Being more present in the moment allows you to reduce worry and regret and connect to those around you.
Improve your mental health by setting daily time aside to practice mediation, journaling, self-compassion, and gratitude. Say no to people—setting boundaries is a GOOD thing.
Focusing on any of these resolutions and goals will lead to more sustainable change and more positive emotions.