Around this time each year, like clockwork, we all adopt the "new year, new me" mentality. But what does that look like in 2021? With no idea when we’ll go back to the office, date, or travel, the question on all of our minds is: How can we make this year feel like a fresh start?
While the pandemic has certainly made life more complicated, there's still a great deal you can do. Most personal development work requires looking inward, and from there you can take the steps toward positive, lasting change.
And mental health experts agree. "Although this year presents many new challenges, pinpointing goals for the new year is still possible,” says Professional Counselor Eric Patterson, LPC.
As you embark on your self-improvement journey, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Set intentions, not resolutions
Why? Resolutions set you up to fail. “Resolutions often fail because we don't have a pathway to acting on them,” says Silvi Saxena, MSW, LSW. “As we enter 2021, we should be more mindful of what is realistic for us to do and work to set intentions rather than resolutions.”
Our intentions pave the path and keep us on track with our goals. To set yourself up for success, think less about what your long-term goals are and more about why they are important to you and how you're going to accomplish them.
Focusing on your "why" is what will keep you moving forward.
Change what you can
In other words, focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t. “New year, new you may seem more challenging this year, but in another way, the restrictions of COVID force people to focus on what they can actually control,” Patterson explains. “This requires focusing your goals inward and let go of resolutions that involve changing others or the outside world.”
Find a support system
Look for people going through similar challenges. Whether your intention is to lose weight, launch your business or find love, it’s helpful to surround yourself with a like-minded group.
Yohnit Spruch, Therapist and Head of Emotional Support at Circles, a digital emotional support group platform, says, “Meeting similar people helps you find mutual relief and encouragement, develop coping skills, and build personal resilience.”
There will be moments along the way when you may feel like giving up, which is why it’s beneficial to speak to people who make you feel truly heard and understood.
Let someone else set a goal for you
For many of us, it’s difficult to identify and solve our own problems.
“Because of this, consulting with a close friend or family member about your goals for the new year could be a great option,” Patterson says. “Gather some suggestions and brainstorm with your loved ones to find a resolution that you may not be able to discover on your own."
Of course, only do what you’re comfortable with. This is just meant to provide a new perspective.
Connect to the present
Looking too far ahead is what causes us to feel stressed and overwhelmed.
“Ground yourself in the present instead of the future and learn to appreciate where you are right now,” says Saxeena.
The present moment is where true happiness lies.
There’s no denying the strong connection between the mind and body. If your physical health suffers, it takes a toll on your mental health and vice versa.
“When we exercise, we release those positive neurotransmitters needed for us to be creative and to have clarity,” says Pervis Taylor, celebrity life coach and mental health expert. “Moreover, we need to move as much as possible. If we can’t go to the gym, we can walk, we can dance—as long as we’re moving that’s what matters.”
Remember that you’re running your own race
If you look at the person running next to you or who is right behind you, it will slow you down. Don’t compare yourself to other people, Saxena explains. Everyone’s journey is different, not to mention comparison can damage your sense of self-worth.
The bottom line? Stay focused on your onw progress.
Don’t overexert yourself
Taking time to rest is just as productive. “Remember that 24/7 productivity is counter-productive and steals the joy of the goals,” says Saxena.
Most importantly, check in with yourself and how you’re feeling on a regular basis. If you stay true to your authentic self, you'll never fail.
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