New Year Resolutions for the Soul
New Year Resolutions have a complex history and connotation with me as person who is always looking to self-improve and also as a therapist. While it’s definitely a good thing to work towards self-improvement and self-actualization, now more than ever, I’m in the mindset of being great exactly as we are in this moment, while at the same time also working towards feeling better (note that I didn’t say, ‘being better!’). While one might think that this is contradictory, it falls under what Marsha Linehan (developer of Dialectical Behavior Therapy) two opposing truths existing in the same space. Seeing things and ourselves in this dialectical way helps us move beyond rigid rules of behavior, inflexible thinking patterns and all-or-nothing stances toward ourselves and others. Therefore, for people who have complicated relationships with New Year Resolutions due to not feeling good enough, or that something is wrong with them, I propose these 22 New Year Resolutions that are good for the soul, based off of compassion and self-care, and can help us improve the way we feel internally. As an added bonus, it helps us see improvement from a decolonized mindset since they encourage listening to your body, slowing down, resting, and setting necessary boundaries.
1. Rest. You are worthy of rest and slowing down. Listen to your body.
2. Say to yourself a lot more, “I am worthy.” We are worthy simply because we are human. That is all. We are worthy of medical treatment, rights, justice, human dignity, simply because we are alive and breathing. Absolutely nothing makes us unworthy. Even if you did something wrong, you are worthy of self-forgiveness (since it’s the only forgiveness you can control).
3. Delegate. The more we take on and do on our own, the more others will expect that from you. Plus, when you’re able to count on others to help you, it can increase your gratitude and sense of community triple fold.
4. Tell others “I won’t be able to ______, ” I need you to _______.” It’s a mix of boundaries, limit setting, and delegating. To add to #3, it’s a way for you to communicate what you can’t do and what you need help with. We need to give others the opportunity to step up and have our backs. This is essential in collectivistic cultures.
5. Acknowledge your struggle. This one is rooted in self-compassion and acceptance work. We must first acknowledge our struggle or pain to be able to sit with it, listen to it, have empathy for ourselves. It helps us acknowledge our common humanity as a person who is suffering.
6. Declutter negative thoughts. Every time you notice yourself having a negative thought, try turning your mind to a more compassionate stance. You can do this by going back to #5 and acknowledging the struggle or suffering. This can help you stay in the present and prevent your brain from taking over into the negative.
7. Accept help. This goes well with #3, except, every self-respecting “got it” person knows that it’s super hard to ask for help, and even receive it. So with this resolution, when someone genuinely offers to help, simply accept it. Let them carry something in for you, or even bring a dish to the celebration.
8. Accept a compliment. How many times has someone complimented you and you made a “this old thing,” “it’s because I finally combed my hair” or put a compliment down because it was too hard to accept that someone said something nice to you? I can think of many times I was self-deprecating as a way to soften the compliment blow. Simply say thank you.
9. Try something new. Sometimes we’re feeling stuck in a routine or the things that used to excite us, no longer do. Perhaps the things we’re doing have an association with pain or they’re simply not helping us anymore. Experiencing new things can help your brain feel excited in a new way and the more you do this new thing, you are building mastery and getting better at it, which also makes us feel good. A dear friend of mine Violeta Huerta, LCSW (Instagram: @whimsicalhealinglcsw) felt like she wanted to try something new. One day she made the decision to make bread from scratch. She researched and got all the ingredients. She would soon find out that it would become a new passion for her and she exercised a lot of creative energy and felt an immense amount of joy and pride (not to mention how delicious it was).
10. Try something old. Sometimes when we’re depressed, or simply due to new life circumstance we let go of doing something that used to bring us joy. Do that! I absolutely love to crochet, but since I have a small child, I’m not able to do it as often. But I miss it when I don’t. I miss the soothing rhythm and warm yarn. I also like challenging myself with new patterns and feeling a sense of accomplishment with each finished product. Try something that you used to love to do.
11. Thank kindness. Anytime someone is kind to you, whether it’s opening a door for you, showing you compassion, bringing your favorite snack, offering you water, or letting you know you dropped your glasses, understanding your limit or decision, genuinely thank them. Going back to #3, #7, and #8, small acts of kindness can restore our sense of goodness in the world.
12. Give yourself TLC. This is part two of #5. After you acknowledge your struggle or suffering, be good to yourself. Go easy on yourself. Rest. Make yourself a delicious meal. Drink tea or something that is essentially good for you. This is how you show yourself tender love and care.
13. Breathe through pain & stress. Breathing is an understated skill that we all need. Breathing into our bellies before reacting to pain or stress can help us react with wanted reactions, rather an unwanted. Think of breathing as you taking over the steering wheel, versus your emotions streering. It can be a big situation saver.
14. Show your body love. This one is clearly tied to #12, except that we can expand it to add going to doctor appointments, exercising so that you feel less physical pain, stretching or getting a massage to help the emotional and physical pain to relieve. It can even mean eating the foods that help your stomach feel good (they’re different for everyone). It can mean drinking water instead of that 3rd caffeinated drink. Or it can mean making sure you have your coffee with plant-based milk (because dairy hurts your stomach) in silence before walking in to work. Maybe it’s a nap, or maybe it’s going for a walk. Get to know your body and be good to it.
15. Let go for one minute at a time. This one is about acceptance of reality in the present moment. It can mean accepting that you’re struggling. It does not mean liking or approving of it, it simply means acknowledging that it’s happening. Like, “It’s raining today” versus “I hate the rain. It shouldn’t be raining. It wasn’t in the forecast. I wasn’t prepared for the rain.” When we accept and “let go” of expectations or ‘shoulds’ we suffer a lot less. (See below for a reflection journal focused on acceptance and letting go). Try this for one minute at a time. It’s a muscle that has to be worked on and nurtured.
16. Challenge yourself. If you practiced letting go for one minute, practice for one more minute. Same goes for going on walks or holding a plank. Maybe it means challenging yourself to take the next level class, or a difficult recipe. If you put a boundary with one person, try challenging yourself and setting another boundary with someone else. We can find mastery and sense of personal achievement in new skills.
17. Do a hard thing. This is similar to #16 except that I wanted to use the language of “do a hard thing” because it’s something we’ve all mouthed at 5 years old and above. Things just seem too hard sometimes. This might mean leaving a toxic relationship, or tolerating the urge to feel a hard emotion like loneliness, pain or boredom. Sometimes being able to tolerate something that seems hard can get us over the avoidance hump and into mastery in no time.
18. Forgive yourself. We might engaged in real or perceived wrongs, mistakes, toxicity, etc. Start by forgiving yourself. Then move toward acceptance, compassion and TLC. You only have control over your own forgiveness, and just like acceptance is a muscle we have to practice and continuously nurture, so is self-forgiveness.
19. Be around ‘safe’ others. Try to spend your time around people that are good to you, people that celebrate your accomplishments and see your inherent worth and dignity as a person.
20. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. When you feel the urge to chastise or scold yourself, give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Trace your steps to see if you’re operating from a place of hurt, fatigue, burnout or illness.
21. Nurture the relationship with yourself. Sometimes loneliness or boredom can be a blessing in disguise if we start to nurture the relationship with ourselves. Get to know yourself in this age, stage, body. We’re constantly changing and evolving. Take sometime to be your own companion. New passions and sense of purpose can emerge.
22. If it’s worth it, try again. If you find that you tried something a long time ago, or recently that perhaps you didn’t master or it didn’t pass muster and you think it’s worth it to try to master or learn it, go for it! I consider myself a pretty good cook and was incredibly disappointed at the 6 different times I tried to make pupusas and they were not like my Tia’s! But it’s worth it to me to keep trying because the pupusa is a tradition dish of El Salvador, my mother’s homeland and it’s a way for me to feel close to the culture and my roots. Plus, I have a large bag of masa that I have to use, so here we go. Perhaps one day I’ll write a post on mastery when I’ve mastered the pupusa!
You can download the free New Year Resolutions for the Soul 8.5 x 11 Pdf where you can pick and choose which you’re attempting and on the reflection page write how it went for you. You might realize that it’s harder than you first imagined, especially if you’re used to the ‘hustle and grind’ or being so busy that you don’t know how to relax or even know what you like anymore. Self-kindness can be really hard if you’re not used it to, so know that it might take some time to develop this skill.
If you’re interested in journaling gratitude or similar reflections for well-being, I have a few journals and guides on Amazon that can help you build this muscle. (Disclaimer: These are affiliate links and I will earn a small percentage for any item purchased through these links).
I also have two 8×10 Vision Board Undated Monthly Planners that can help you visualize your goals for your well-being. The interiors are exactly the same, just the covers are different. What I love about them is that they’ll help you brainstorm values and goals for the year, visualize them by drawing or using images in blank pages, and planning behaviors to get people closer to the life they want to live. These are great planners for the year as it’ll get you thinking about what’s important to you, short and long term goals, and focus on the next steps you can take to reach them. There are 12 undated monthly calendars for you to fill in. In the pages after, there is are blank vision board pages with a habit tracker for each month to keep you focused and reminded.
Know that you are worthy and exactly where you’re supposed to be right now in this moment. You are worthy in this year and the next.
Please let me know how you like this New Year Resolutions for your Soul Reflection Page and feel free to share with others.
Disclaimer: This post is for ideas only. It does not replace a relationship with a medical or therapy provider.