5 Tips on Approaching the New Year in a Healthy and Positive Way
Posted on December 18, 2017
The New Year is often seen as a time to start fresh, put the past year behind you, and set goals and wishes for the next 365 days--all of which may sound great to some, but unfortunately, to many others, it can feel like this daunting pressure to set as many unrealistic expectations as possible, only leading to disappointment and a sense of "failure" later on. For those recovering from an eating disorder, this time can be even more challenging, as almost everywhere you look, New Year's Resolutions are all about weight loss with headlines like "dropping X pounds in 10 days to start the new year off right" and other unhealthy and unrealistic ways to live up to the "New Year, New You" mentality. Although it's hard to avoid these messages and the temptation to set a similar type of resolution for the New Year, below are some tips on approaching this time in a healthy and positive way, making it a meaningful time in your life and ongoing recovery:
1. Instead of rushing to focus on the year ahead, take some time to reflect back on the past year.
We often tend to want to speed our way into the "new", taking any opportunity to start fresh and put the past behind us, particularly if the prior year didn't feel like a good one. However, no matter what type of year you had, there is almost a guarantee that you can identify some positive steps towards personal growth that happened along the way. Even just one day in the entire year that you may have pushed yourself in recovery counts as something and deserves to be recognized. The recovery process can take time, and it's crucial to identify even the smallest steps as progress to help you keep going, and taking the time to reflect can really help with this process.
Make a list of all of the accomplishments (from tiny to major) that happened this past year. You may be surprised by how much is there! And for an added bonus: try to involve supports while making the list since they might be able to point out something you wouldn't have noticed!
2. Steer clear of "all or nothing" expectations when it comes to setting goals.
How many of us have entered into the new year with the mentality on January 1st to conquer the world, and then by January 5th, we realize nothing has changed so we just throw in the towel and give up. I know I am certainly guilty of it. We would do ourselves such a favor to avoid this type of extreme mindset, that more often than not only leaves us feeling defeated. Instead, when thinking of goals for the new year, really take time to make sure they are realistic and your expectations around the timing of it also remain fair to what is truly within your scope. And with that, always remember to hold onto to that dear friend of ours in the recovery world: flexibility! Approaching life's goals and challenges with flexibility in hand can really help combat that "all or nothing" thinking trap.
3. Ditch the resolutions that have to do with your physical self, and focus on what's inside.
As we all know, so much of the "New Year's Resolution" culture is around some type of physical appearance change, which is not only unrealistic (and unnecessary) with how it is put there, but it also misses so many important qualities of life that would be so much more fulfilling to work towards. Instead of focusing on a physical attribute that you want to change, identify a positive character trait that you would want to work towards instead. Some ideas could include deciding to become more involved with volunteering in the community; advocating for a cause you feel passionate about; getting in touch with your creative side (even if you think you don't have one!), and so on. The options are endless! Not only will this allow for more realistic goals to be set, but the reward in the end will be so much greater than anything a physical change could bring about.
4. Find the time for self-care from Day 1 all the way to Day 365.
Ongoing attention to self-care time is crucial to recovery and life, but it tends to be one of the first to be forgotten when schedules get busy and chaotic. At the start of the new year, it would be a great idea to take out those fresh new planners, and go through week by week for the entire year, building in special "you" time throughout your schedule. Not only will this be a great reminder as the year goes on, but you also might be more likely to stick to it since it's already written in.
5. Surround yourself with the ones you love and who love you back, reminding yourself of those key supportive people who are there for you.
The New Year can be a great time to reconnect with those in your life, whether there are people with whom you may have lost touch over the year, or those relationships in your day-to-day life that you can strengthen and grow even further. With the holiday season all wrapped up, it's a great time to take advantage of the "calm after the storm" that the holidays tend to bring on. Schedules tend to be freer all around, and there is more energy available to devote to making your own plans, rather than being stuck with the non-stop holiday party.
Some ideas on how to do this:
• Call a friend and make plans to grab some coffee to catch up
• Schedule some individualized time with family that you may not gotten quality time to talk to with all the chaos of the holiday gatherings
• Reach out to a friend from treatment that you haven't talked to in a while and reestablish that recovery bond
• And most importantly, get back in touch with your relationship with yourself—find that "me" time and engage in activities that you truly love