The term “self-care” is such a treacly cliche, conjuring up images of narcissistic millennials paying an arm and a leg to do yoga while cats or baby goats take a walk on them, mid-pose.
But after a year like 2018, this is a really good time to rethink the wisdom of New Year’s resolutions.
Resolutions — usually to lose weight, get more exercise, eat healthier, save money — require resolve. That means determination, discipline and a sacrifice of some sort.
It’s a well-meaning impulse driven by the symbolic start of a new calendar.
But why do we do this to ourselves every year? Why do we decide on a well-intentioned form of deprivation in January — one of the coldest, bleakest months of the year in most parts of the country — right when it’s hardest to get outside for exercise and the dreaded tax season is around the corner?
It’s a recipe for failure and, by some reports, a scant 8 percent of people who set New Year’s resolutions actually succeed in keeping them.
Let’s reimagine it.
Many resolutions involve taking something away, such as favorite foods or time spent relaxing that’s supposed to be funneled toward strenuous exercise.
We should be focusing on adding, not subtracting.
How about resolving to take the stairs as much as possible, rather than the escalator or elevator, instead of committing to an expensive gym membership? Or adding a serving of vegetables to one meal, every day; or selling something you rarely use in order to make a little cash?
How about the power move of vowing to enrich your life in ways that aren’t readily measurable like your weight or bank balance?
Example: My husband and I are in such a food rut for our weekly dinner date that when we arrive to our usual places, the wait staff just put in our orders and set our drinks on the table before we’ve even gotten our coats off. Our resolution is to try 10 new restaurants in the next year.
This is a major departure from my usual punitive mindset when it comes to New Year’s goals.
For the past few years, I’ve set unrealistic expectations for how much progress I can make at learning the piano — resulting in disappointment that I wasn’t able to master a certain piece and burnout from straining to practice daily.
This year I’m going to focus on trying to enjoy the time I am able to devote to practicing without beating myself up for not doing it “enough.”
Plus, I’m taking a magic class.
Yes, a class taught by an expert magician to learn to do Chicago-style close-up magic.
Listen, a few months ago I looked at the Social Security system’s actuarial tables and did the math: I’ve got about 45 years left. It wouldn’t be very wise to spend them being hard on myself or ignoring all the crazy little interests I’ve always wanted to indulge.
The same goes for everyone else.
Being smart with your money and being healthy are important goals that should be attended to as lifestyle changes, not mere annual January gimmicks that fall by the wayside sometime around Groundhog Day. Do those things in a way that will last.
But also consider adding something to your life that could improve your mind, your spirit or your figurative heart (and maybe even your physical one).
Sign up for the classes in tap, ballroom or square dancing you always dreamed of. Take up an instrument or try singing lessons so you can actually join your co-workers at karaoke night.
Form a bowling league, learn to knit, start a podcast, write your novel, start juggling, make sculptures out of Legos, buy a paint-by-numbers oil-painting kit, volunteer at your local animal shelter, take free massive online open courses (MOOCs), start a side business, listen to great music, help someone learn how to read, donate blood or vow to brush your teeth after lunch.
And yes, if it sounds like fun, go take a yoga class in the hopes that a goat will stomp on your back.
Life is hard. It’s full of work and inevitable setbacks, unpleasant surprises and soul-crushing news. Start your year by planning to nourish yourself instead of vowing starvation.
What’s the worst thing that could happen (maybe getting nipped by a goat)? There’s nothing wrong with adopting a youthful mindset and caring for yourself.