It’s almost that time again. However, I won’t participate in the annual “purge” — the one where you banish bad health habits and promise to live a squeaky clean, high-protein, vegan, macrobiotic lifestyle, nor will I train for a marathon or even resolve to lose a few pounds.
Why? Some people might call me jaded, but I prefer to think of myself as realistic. Let’s be honest: If you genuinely wanted to change your life, you wouldn’t wait for a special day.
I hope I can convince you to kick well-meant, but ultimately harmful, resolutions to the curb. This is why I don’t set health goals for the new year.
My main reason for foregoing New Year’s resolutions is perhaps the most common. Many Americans have been overworked and underpaid for far too long. Yet, they’re falling further behind economically compared to their parents, and the ripple effect shows in poor mental health. Rates of depression and anxiety have soared since the pandemic.
My mental health matters to me. I already have a full life. I work full time, raise a family and am active in my community. Trying to add something else to my plate? No, thanks.
My morning routine currently includes a brisk walk followed by a quick yet relaxing yoga and meditation practice. It gets the blood flowing to my brain and adjusts my mindset for a positive day. I may not whistle into work every day, but I generally wear a smile.
That expression might fade, though, if I turned my routine into another chore. I participate in my morning ritual because it feels good. If I had to chart my progress, I wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much. I already have enough on my agenda without worrying that cutting my routine short one morning will throw off my training schedule.
Here’s a hard-to-swallow pill: Your body doesn’t store fitness. Think of all the folks who were star athletes in high school only to become couch potatoes by 30. If you want to embrace genuine health, you need to treat exercise as necessary as food and sleep. Short-term training goals won’t cut it.
What happens when you set a resolution and meet it? All too often, you plan a “cheat” celebration. Then, you slowly revert to your old habits over the next few weeks.
It’s far better to look at health as a lifelong endeavor. I’m not going to magically earn a “Get Out of Exercise Free” card once I hit that magical weight or complete a marathon. Since I’ll be sweating it out until I’m gone, I’ll choose movement that pleases me.
If you’ve ever studied rhetoric or psychology, you might recognize all-or-nothing thinking as one of the biggest cognitive distortions and logical fallacies. Most people realize life comes in shades of gray, not black and white. But be honest, how many times have you said, “I shouldn’t have eaten that slice of pizza. Might as well have a donut since I broke my diet”?
All-or-nothing thinking can stand in the way of your health goals. Letting one mistake become an excuse to quit is far too easy. You might even start beating yourself up: “I never stick to my diet. I’ll never lose those last 10 pounds.”
Please, stop. The fact is, life is constantly changing, yet you remain human through it all. That means, some days, you’ll have killer resolve. Other days, you’ll call a bag of Cheetos dinner.
That doesn’t mean letting the occasional, yet very human, mistakes derail you from your goals. Look at life as a series of choices, and do better when the next decision rolls around.
Self-care has a bad reputation. Far too many people associate the term with indolence, lying around a pricey spa with an umbrella drink in hand.
In reality, self-care means priming your pumps and undertaking routine maintenance to keep functioning at your best. It spans everything, from brushing your teeth before bed to enjoying an extra-long Ashtanga practice on a Saturday. It’s the necessary feeding of the human body, mind and spirit.
You couldn’t experience anything in life without first being you. Self-care is self-preservation, and it should celebrate what it means to be alive, not become another chore on your to-do list.
You now know why I refuse to participate in New Year’s resolutions. It’s not because I don’t cherish my health — quite the opposite. I value my well-being enough to realize it isn’t a once-and-done endeavor but an ongoing journey of self-care.
About the Author
Kara Reynolds is the founder and editor-in-chief of Momish Magazine, an inclusive parenting magazine filled with parenting hacks, advice and more to keep your beautiful family thriving.