The toll of the bells at midnight on New Year’s Eve has always been an unmistakable usher for change, albeit the transition itself from one year to the next, or rather personal change that one is adamant they will make in the coming days. Giving up smoking, losing some weight, gyming three times a week, and reading the books for my course; all of these are resolutions I made at the start of 2023 and have still yet to fully commit to, which frankly makes me feel awful!
The problem with some traditions is that they never change, hence they become a tradition. It is never broken away from. By this point, the breaking of New Year’s resolutions is almost just as much of a tradition as setting them in the first place. The classic certainty that within a month your life will have changed for the better, that a habit that you’ve kept for over a year will simply dissipate over the next few days is completely outlandish if you think about it. Then there’s the guilt and self-loathing when you skip leg day after a week, or you find no alternative but to ask your mate to roll you a cigarette after a stressful day at work, hence I’m beginning to wonder whether or not resolutions are just as toxic as the habits they aim to destroy?
Of course, there are always certain changes that can be made for the better. Giving up smoking is always a good one for health reasons, as is exercising once or twice a week, even if simply walking or stretching. However, why do we feel such a steadfast vow then and there? Am I, being only nineteen, to swear now to some higher power that I will never, perhaps, eat sugar again, or that I will routinely spend three hours in the gym every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday lest I be struck down by lightning? Hence, this year I have neglected to give myself such staunch tasks because, if I were to give myself a single resolution for 2024, that would be to not set myself up to fail when I already know how soul-crushing the aftermath might be whenever I break my promises to myself, whether that is in a matter of days or on the final day of the year.
However, is there perhaps some middle ground we can reach, some amalgamation of a resolution and a simple “I should like to do this to change myself, however, I shall not let my mental well-being suffer should I break my goal once or twice?” Well, firstly, the prior statement is toxic in itself, one does not need to change who they are for the sake of a new year, change itself is only good when enforced healthily and gradually the vast majority of the time, but instead see it as an adjustment, a regime change if you will. Secondly, a possible alternative was pointed out to me the other day by a friend who stated that she would be “changing New Year’s resolutions to New Year’s affirmations.”
Whether or not you believe in mantras and affirmation, I believe that this perhaps might be my way forward in combating my aims for the new year positively, instead of punishing myself for slipping up, as I inevitably will, through the idea affirmation there is a definite leniency. Instead of such an unwavering undertaking, the affirmation aims to simply challenge self-sabotaging activities and overcome them in a way in which one achieves their goal in a self-empowering and positive headspace as opposed to putting immense pressure on oneself to change. The idea may seem strange, and the cynics might say that I’m essentially labeling the classic practice with a different, more positive term, I promise that they are different and that I did do my research, but then what harm can it do to try something new this new year.
If it’s any consolation, I am about sixty to seventy-five per cent sure that by the time this article sees print, I most certainly will have broken one, if not several, of my New Year’s affirmations, however, I will most certainly not be beating myself up because of this. A challenge is a challenge for a reason, it is not designed to be straightforward, and stumbles are guaranteed and more importantly, allowed.