At the start of the New Year, it’s customary to make resolutions; lose weight, stop smoking, drink moderately, learn a new language, or any other number of things. I used to pledge to make changes every year, only to spectacularly fail by the start of February. The problem with resolutions is that they operate on the assumption that we are in need of improvement. The collective narrative dictates that the post December body is unacceptable and the excesses of the festive season need to be followed by a period of puritanical penance. Although January feels like a time of renewal, the start of the calendar year is actually an arbitrary time to make any kind of resolution. If a change does need to be made, it can be done at any time of the year. We’re sold the idea of New Year transformation because it is when the diet industries turns over a massive profit. Dozens of studies have concluded that 95% to 98% of diets are doomed to fail. Diets monetise the triumph of hope over experience; they feed on our most basic insecurities and insist that this year will be different, although we all know it’s a brazen lie.
Of course, losing weight and cutting down on fags and booze has unequivocal physical benefits. But there are also changes that can be made that genuinely promote wellbeing and hopefully, happiness. Changes that are made in the spirit of self-compassion and kindness usually stick around longer than the ones inspired by insecurity. There’s nothing wrong with making healthy choices, but if it’s at the command of toxic commercialism, it can become problematic. Rather than buying into the spurious notion of ‘New Year – New You’, why not focus on making the current you happier? This can be a battle. I’ve struggled with self-esteem issues since I was a teenager and, even now, I often treat myself harshly, although I try not to.
I frequently bang on about self-care but it is essential, not only for you but for the people who depend on you. The old adage of putting one’s own oxygen mask on a plane before helping others is clichéd, but accurate. Self-care looks different for everyone, if that results in healthy eating and more exercise, that’s great, I know I usually feel better for doing that. But it also might involve chocolate and watching movies on the sofa, which is equally valid. Don’t let the diet industry make you feel guilty about not loosing weight in January, or even smoking and drinking gin. If you decide to cut down, do it in your own time, and with compassion and understanding. This year, I’m trying to take better care of myself and make choices that will support my mental health. It’ll be a continuous, year long project, and that’s ok.