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2020 making New Year’s resolutions into habits

`New year, new parenting goals
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2020 making New Year’s resolutions into habits

`New year, new parenting goals
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With 2020 just around the corner we’re surrounded by articles about creating a ‘new you’. A thinner, healthier, calmer, happier, better you. It’s time for your 2020 resolutions, hail the articles. But pause a moment; if you’re going to make resolutions, how can you make sure they’re positive?

As parents we’re already striving for so many ‘shoulds‘ that are put upon us by society. Whilst we all want the best for ourselves and our families, these pressures can add to already full lives. Resolutions can take a damaging toll on our mental health.

Making resolutions

It’s easy to get into the ‘new year, new start’ mindset. We can make lots of resolutions about what will be different this year. But, how many ever stick past the first month?

Amongst the plethora of articles out there about resolutions the most interesting are about the psychology of habit formation. Much common New Year’s resolution practice does not align with the evidence! Contrary to popular belief it’s pretty easy to change your habits. However, the more consuming the habit, the longer it takes to change and the more small steps you’re likely to need to take to get there.

Many resolutions are things like “this year I’ll:

  • lose 2 dress sizes
  • blog twice a week all year
  • or some other large changes to your life or routine.

And whilst you might complete those out of sheer bloodymindedness (yay!), chances are that you won’t.

The science says to complete these changes you need to break them into much smaller goals. You also need to create actions you can take to cement the habit.

Example: eating mindfully
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Instead of ‘This year I will eat healthily’ achievable habits could be:

‘Each week I will eat one meal cooked from scratch’, or,

‘Each day I will eat 2 different fruits’

These things are small changes to which you can attach an action. Over time these become habits. The key to these is to be realistic. If you currently eat no fruit because you dislike it, then perhaps it isn’t realistic to immediately aim to eat 5 protons a day.

Also, remember to make resolutions about things you want to change, not only what you think you ‘should’!

Making Resolutions As A Parent

Parent often feel like there’s a lot of areas of life where they ‘should’ do better. Parents frequently seem to be the most aware of how they live their lives impacts on those around them. It can be easy to look at your life and feel drawn to making resolutions like ‘I won’t shout at my kids anymore’.

But remember, you are a person caring for other people. Your small people rely on you day in and day out. Making changes to your life also means changes to their lives. Adding pressure to your life can add pressure to theirs too.

Give yourself the grace to think about what’s realistic for you and your family. If you wanted to exercise more, would you need more childcare? Are there alternatives that mean you don’t? Give yourself the opportunity to see how you can make positive changes for you all together.

Making positive resolutions

In 2018 I made two resolutions. I told myself I’d make major changes in two significant parts of my life. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, neither of these became reality. There were two glaring issues with my mental state that year and I fell into two traps.

  1. I made large resolutions
  2. They were ones I could not control the outcome of.

The ‘failures’ I felt at the end of 2018 led me on a really interesting journey. I’m still on that journey. I am now embracing a different way of looking at myself and slowly changing my habits in small steps. I am taking control of my choices and seeing where that leads. Rather than setting an end goal and assuming it will just happen. All I have learned means I’m looking at resolutions in a very different way.

In 2019 my resolutions were for positive changes, which were small and which I had full control over. This year I have made those changes. I have slowly and gradually met small incremental goals which I celebrated, and then set myself new ones.

Too often we make resolutions which actually take more of a toll on our mental health when we ‘fail’, so this year why not embrace making smaller goals to give yourself that buoyant feeling of success. And then make yourself another small goal, and keep it going. It doesn’t need to be new year to make small positive changes.

Alternatives

Resolutions don’t have to be about something you will change.

Resolutions could be a list of family activities you would like to do this year. You could make list of places to visit. Plan to see a list of people. Think of a list of books to read, music to listen to, or anything you can think of. Perhaps choose a word to live by for the year.

There are no ‘shoulds’. You can choose to make this new year about anything. Go ahead and make your new year a positive one.

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