We’ve made our seemingly-endless slog through 2021 (no, we also can’t believe that the photo of grumpy Bernie in his mittens at the Inauguration was 11 months ago and not 11 years). For those of us who made it, we achieved a weary victory—so let’s celebrate by making the resolution not to make any New Year’s resolutions.
Why not? After all, isn’t it a good thing to try to be optimistic about 2022? To promise ourselves that we’re going to get a fresh start, make things better, get our lives back on track? Isn’t it a positive thing to have some motivation and take charge of our lives?
The problem with resolutions isn’t the intention to change our lives for the better. They are, however, problematic in other ways:
- The most common ones are really a way of punishing ourselves for not being “good enough”. Lose weight, spend less/save more, quit smoking, home-cook all meals, get organized—we’re great at going full Puritan on ourselves right after the winter holidays.
- Many people make a laundry list of resolutions, vowing to change just about every aspect of their lives, which is both overwhelming and very unrealistic.
- Resolutions tend to be vague, or to overestimate what you can do—so for example they’re likely to either be “Lose weight” or “Lose 50 pounds by spring”.
- We’ve been sold the idea that “willpower” and “discipline” are all anyone needs to achieve anything. Therefore, if we just buckle down and pull ourselves up by the bootsteps and personal responsibility and gumption and and and, we’ll claw our way to success, in pain every step of the way but soothed by self-righteousness. And that’s just not how change works.
- Resolutions tend to be about what we think we “should” do based on what the world tells us is worthy and admirable and responsible, and not on what actually matters to us or would make a difference in our lives. We’re not just trying to meet the goal, we’re trying to muster up interest in the goal in the first place.
So what’s the answer? Just chuck the whole “resolutions” thing in the trash, ignore the January self-improvement hype, and enter the new year just like it was any other day?
That’s actually a perfectly valid, even healthy thing to do. We’ve just made it through the stress of the holiday season, it’s still the dark time of year when our natural urge is to hibernate, and it’s quite reasonable to just take care of ourselves and rest.
On the other hand, what if you like the “clean slate” feeling of the new year, and you want to do something to channel the burst of energy and initiative that you feel? There’s nothing wrong with feeling that way, so let’s talk about some alternatives to traditional resolutions that might fit your life better.
But first, a word about weight goals, fatphobia, ableism, and the wellness industrial complex
We could write (and maybe will!) a whole series of posts about the shame-based, cash-hungry, dangerous propaganda of the so-called “wellness” industry and especially how it ramps up every December and January. For now, suffice it to say that it’s an industry that does tremendous mental, emotional, and physical harm to the people it claims to want to help. And New Year’s is its prime time to target your deepest fears and insecurities.
Wanting to eat fresh, whole foods, drink enough water, and move your body are all good things. We’re firmly in favor of strong self-care practices. But you don’t owe the world a body that is any particular size, shape, gender presentation, or level of health or ability. You’re not a “better” person if you’re thinner or can lift bigger weights. And the demand for everyone to be obsessed with being in top athletic shape, to be the “right” size, to “eat clean”, as a means of “self-improvement”—that’s not about improving your life or your worth or your happiness. That’s about giving other people control over you, your mental health, and your money. That’s about keeping other people comfortable so that they don’t have to challenge their ideas that external beauty=value as a person.
Our hot take? Don’t tackle any nutrition or fitness goals in January. No, really. Live your life, tune out the brainwashing of the deadly diet industry, and maybe take a few extra naps like your body craves. If there are changes you want to make to how you eat or move or take care of your body, revisit them in February when resolution panic is well behind us and you can make a good plan without feeling tons of pressure about it.
Alternatives to traditional resolutions
In the meantime, here are some ways you can make good use of your deep-rooted urge to get a fresh start on January 1. We’ve included tips on how to keep them effective all year long.
- Pick a word of the year. Popularized by people like life coach Christine Kane, the Word of the Year is a word or phrase (or a few words—it’s up to you!) that feels inspiring or empowering to you and captures something about your hopes and intentions for the year. It could be a concept like “Compassion” or “Joy”, or something tangible like “Home” or “Degree”. Pick something that gives you a strong, positive emotional reaction, and then put it in places where you’ll see it all the time. You could have it put on jewelry or a shirt, make art out of it and hang it by your desk, find or make a calendar themed around that word, create a playlist of songs for it, make a vision board for it—get as creative as you want, or keep it really simple if you prefer. Do with it what excites you and don’t overwhelm yourself.
- Plan a treat each month. Doing things that feel exciting and fun are a way to add something juicy to your life instead of taking something away from yourself. Think about something that would be a real joy for you to do each month: maybe it’s a little adventure like visiting a new restaurant or shop in your home city, maybe it’s picking a new book to read, maybe it’s cooking a new-to-you dish. Put an appointment in your calendar early every month to remind you to pick out your treat– and if it starts to feel like work? Just stop doing it!
- Make love, not war (on yourself). January is blah, gray, (often) cold, and kind of boring. What better time to liven it up with some sexploration? Treat yourself to a new sex toy, a book of erotica, or a how-to book or video about something you’ve always wanted to try. Take an adult sex ed class (yes, there are plenty online!) If you have a partner or more than one, propose some sex dates or cuddle/touch dates. Explore areas of your sexuality that haven’t fully bloomed yet. Take time to masturbate and really explore your own body, to learn better what you like. At the end of January, decide how much of it you’d like to spill over into February, and the same for February into March, and so on. Since you’re not committing to it long-term right away, it’s okay if you feel like you want to focus on other things after this month.
- Lean in to being “lazy”. Here’s a secret: We don’t really think that laziness is a thing. We believe that what most people consider lazy is much more likely to be burnout, overwhelm, depression, or executive dysfunction. Regardless of the reason, it’s not helping anything if we’re beating ourselves up about how we should be less lazy and do more. Instead, defy society’s demands that you make huge changes this month, and absolutely wallow in “laziness” whenever you can. Obviously, you can’t blow everything off—kids still need care and you probably don’t want to get fired (or do you?)—but all the times when you’d find yourself slumped on the couch trying to get up the energy to do something, instead just enjoy being a potato. Let a few chores pile up. Sleep late on your days off, or go to bed ridiculously early. When people ask what your resolutions are, tell them it’s to be as lazy as possible and enjoy their reactions. If you’re feeling suspicious about whether this can possibly be good for you, check out Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price and see why this might be the healthiest choice you can make right now.
If there’s one thing you take away from this post, let it be this: Our culture pushes us to always believe that we’re not enough, that our worth comes from the labor we produce or from our achievements, that we are inherently flawed and owe it to the world to work hard to fix ourselves. We propose that you are enough, that it’s your worth that’s inherent, and that you have the right to hop off the hamster wheel this January and simply be.
Looking for a place to start to explore your sexual wellness? Sign up for our mailing list and get our free download, “5 Simple Ways to Level Up Your Sexual Wellness”, followed by your weekly dose of mental health self-care. If 2022 is your year to start therapy in DC, Maryland, or Virginia, take a look at our services.