If you’re anything like me, you likely take part in the reflection, resolve, evolve, disappoint cycle that is January. It can be difficult to rise above the self-deprecating thoughts that weigh heavily on our minds when we inevitably don’t live up to our lofty new year expectations– especially when these goals revolve around our diets and self-image.
This year, however, feels much different. After spending 11 months and counting at home because of the pandemic, grappling with setting boundaries between work and home life when those lines became blurred, and allowing myself to indulge in more treats than I normally would, I walked out of 2020 with a much different perspective on my self-image and what that means during an incredibly unusual time.
While I would usually set goals surrounding ‘healthy eating’ and working out in the new year, this year, I have decided to try something a little different—something that allows me the flexibility to find opportunities on a healthy lifestyle journey, that will enrich my everyday experiences. My focus for 2021 is appreciating my body for all that it allows me to do and the amazing thing it allows me to feel.
Below, I have taken the top three most popular “New Year’s Resolutions” and provided helpful cognitive shifts, moving into a more positive mindset for 2021. I am hopeful you will join me in shifting your thoughts from negative thoughts.
“Find enjoyable ways to move throughout the day” vs. “Exercise more”
Throughout the pandemic, I have spent much of my time at home, switching between my desk, dining table and couch. Because there are few boundaries between work and life these days, it can be easy to get caught up in the cycle of going from computer screen in the morning to tv screen at night, and not leaving home for days.
Instead of forcing myself to feel like I have to do an intense at-home workout, this year, I am giving myself permission to be kinder to my body and listen to its needs. Movement doesn’t always mean going to the gym and sweating out a gallon of water. It can be as simple as walking my dog, gardening, roller skating throughout my neighborhood or a short yoga flow—all of which bring joy to my life and allow me to move throughout the day.
“Focus on a balanced diet” vs. “Eat clean or healthy”
I would like to start this by saying there is no such thing as clean food. Why? Because the opposite of clean is dirty, and food can’t be dirty. Sure, our fruits and veggies may need to be washed when we bring them home from the grocery store, but that is about the extent that food gets clean or dirty.
With that in mind, this year, I am focusing on shifting the adjectives that I use to describe my food, instead of assigning it negative terms that shift my perspective and ability to enjoy certain things. I am allowing myself the flexibility to satisfy my cravings, within reason, and not focusing on restricting myself.
Studies show when we ignore our cravings, there is an increased desire for those foods. By focusing on a balanced diet, we can allow ourselves to incorporate appropriate amounts of each food group, make room for foods we crave, and shift our overall mindset about our relationship with food.
“Be kind to myself and my body” vs. “Losing weight”
Throughout the pandemic, many of us have noticed changes in our bodies. Some of us have indulged more than usual, while some of us took to working out multiple times a day as a way of coping with the uncertainties we faced. However you chose to deal with it, we all did our best to protect our mental health, which is just as important as physical health.
This got me thinking a bit about my priorities. Instead of focusing on how my body looks or the ‘need’ to lose weight, I am taking a positive approach to evaluating myself when looking in the mirror. My body allows me to show love, chase my puppy around, smell the pine and firewood smells of the season and practice soul-restoring yoga. These activities have elevated my spirit, especially during quarantine, and reminded me that I am so much more than a physical body.
Realizing the implications and impact of positive cognitive shifts is the first step on my journey of appreciating all the things my body allows me to do. This year, I am giving myself permission to let go of the negative self-talk about losing weight, eating clean and exercising more. Instead, I will focus on allowing myself the freedom to appreciate all the ways my body enables me to experience joy (and survive a pandemic). Will you join me?