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What’s Driving Your New Year’s Resolutions?

“This year I will…” These are familiar words uttered by millions at this time of year. January 1st is seen as a new beginning for a large part of the population regardless if you share these goals on social media platforms, or keep them to yourself. All you have to do is look at TV commercials, advertisements, and billboards on the side of highways from Boston to Miami, San Francisco to Anchorage. Almost overnight, a shift occurs from indulgence to deprivation. Where there once were ads touting delightful sweets and 80% off sales from stores open 24-hours, there is now a call for renunciation—eat less of this, do less of that, push harder, work longer, make more, spend less.

New Year’s resolutions are so popular that many industries rely on our desire to be more than we are to improve their profits: anything from a boost in gym enrollment, to the purchase of diet products and programs, or the increase in sales of athletic gear. It has also become good fodder for comedians, TV sitcoms, and internet memes to mock the spirit of “New Year, New Me.”

What is it about a new year that draws us to want a fresh start? What are the traps we find ourselves in when on December 31, at 11:45 p.m. we authentically want a change, and yet by the end of January, many of us simply fall back into the white noise of our everyday lives, and then use our ‘failure’ to fuel self-hate, shame, and self-sabotage?

Take a moment to reflect on the resolutions you have made. What was the focus of those resolutions: lose weight, eat better, exercise more, save money, get out of debt, quit smoking, get a better job, find a partner, get organized/declutter life? The list could go on and on. Let me take a moment to be very clear—there is nothing inherently ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ about wanting to make a change in any of these areas. The trap is setting yourself up for failure and creating an externally focused goal that you may or may not have complete control over. The true secret to creating meaningful change in your life is… STARTING WHERE YOU ARE and keeping the goals based on small achievable goals that you actually have the power to change.

Consider the outcome if we focused less on losing weight and gaining wealth, and instead, placed our energy and intentions on losing EMOTIONAL WEIGHT and gaining RELATIONAL WEALTH.

I had a mentor who works in the eating disorder field once state, “FAT stands for feelings are terrible.” Initially, I was confused because therapists LOVE feelings (I should know, I am one!), however, she clarified that often when we feel fat, it is due to emotional needs we are ignoring. We may feel ‘fat’ because we misuse food as a means of self-soothing and self-medicating or our emotional struggles distort our ability to see ourselves accurately reflected back to us, or perhaps a combination of both. Either way, the best route for feeling better is not to start an unrealistic diet and exercise plan, but rather to concentrate our goals on paying attention to our bodies and emotional needs and to find a compassionate way to help ourselves feel, deal, and heal with whatever we discover.

This is not exclusive to food/weight-based resolutions. We are groomed to engage in a shame-based Binge-Purge-Restrict cycle in all areas of our lives intended to self-medicate—with money, relationships, work, and careers as well. So then it makes sense that when January 1 comes around we all feel compelled to ‘erase’ the failures of the past year and change, but due to our programming, we measure our success on an external number, outcome or person.

My challenge for each of you this year is to take time to reflect on where you currently are spiritually, emotionally, and physically. What do you need to live a more authentic life? What are the patterns that keep tripping you up and keep you from living your life out loud and fully awake? What are you keeping in your life that is toxic to your health (again, spiritual, emotional, and physical)? What are the things in your life that bring joy and light into your life?

The answers to these questions may ignite something inside of you that desires change, but how then do you get there? Make YOU the most important person in your life this year. No, I am not promoting self-indulgence or self-righteousness, in fact, quite the opposite. When you place yourself as the most important person in your life, you take better care of you, which can have a ripple effect on your life from physical health to improved connection in relationships. The best part is that you do not have to figure out how to fix anything in your life. Simply be present with the things that hurt and the things that heal in your life.

If you find that your answers left you with a desire to jump into healing work, let yourself spend the resources to make space for that growth. The Meadows offers a wide variety of programs that can help guide you through your healing—whether that looks like battling an addiction or eating disorder in our residential programs, or taking five days to delve deeper into what roadblocks keep tripping you up as you walk your healing journey. Click here to check out the wide variety of workshops offered at the Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows. One is sure to speak to the specific healing needs you have this year and then consider making your New Year’s resolution: This year…

I will allow myself to FEEL my pain, so I can DEAL with my roadblocks so that I can HEAL!

Written by Lauren Mehr, Workshop Facilitator, Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows