You don’t need me to sit here and tell you that 2020 was a year for the history books. The past twelve months have tested the population in ways they’ve never been tested before, and it isn’t surprising to hear that many people are having to pick themselves up and drag themselves into a brand new year rather than bouncing into it full of hope and positivity of their own accord. As such, I also imagine that the notion of New Year’s Resolutions has gone firmly out of the window for most of us. After a year that’s already required so much adaptation and self-sacrifice, who on Earth would voluntarily want to take on even more drastic lifestyle changes? However, it’s this very fixed idea of what New Year’s Resolutions should look like that I want to challenge today. In the UK, the most common New Year’s Resolutions are to lose weight, do more exercise, spend less money, and cut down on alcohol. All admirable, if somewhat predictable, goals if you ask me… but notice how they all require some form of self-disciplining or retribution. Although there are ways to go about each of these in a more positive and self-compassionate way, what we typically see during the beginning of each New Year is a week or so of stringent commitment to these goals before motivation wavers and people simply return to their old ways. Now, something us disabled and chronically ill folk know all too well is that smaller, more sustainable steps can be the key to achieving longer-term change. Something else we come to know first-hand is that self-compassion can be so much more impactful than self-sacrifice. Instead of resolving to give up one of my own bad habits this year (of which there are plenty!), I’m going to try and adopt a small positive change into my life instead; I’m going to try and get back into practicing mindfulness. I want to add short mindfulness and meditation practice into my day, rather than take something else away from it. I could have decided that I’d strive to spend less time on my phone or to stop bulldozing through my day in a way that wreaks havoc on my symptoms, but rather than taking something away from myself in this way, I’m instead going to add in something positive that could inadvertently help me tackle these other two issues anyway. If you’re feeling inspired to make a change but you too want to avoid sacrificing anything else as we head into 2021, allow me to share a few ideas for more compassionate resolutions you could consider instead…
- Spend more time socialising. Many chronically ill people find themselves having to be strict with how much time they spend with others. I completely appreciate that physically spending time with loved ones may be out of the question for those with more severe chronic conditions, and that socialising often just doesn’t fit nicely into our ideas of pacing and activity management… and I know first-hand how tough this can be. However, one positive we can take away from 2020 is that our perceptions of communicating with others have changed. Even when the world no longer necessitates 100 billion Skype calls and Zoom quizzes, don’t be afraid to be the one who initiates them in the future. Get yourself cosy in your favourite comfy chair, and enjoy the company of your loved ones in a way that’s more accessible to you.
- Volunteer for a worthy cause. I firmly believe that volunteering and fundraising are two of the most fulfilling past-times in the world. If you happen to be feeling a little lost or without purpose in the world, a feeling all too common at this time of year, putting your time and energy towards deserving causes who are desperate for the support of people like you can honestly be a gamechanger. You can read more about finding remote and flexible volunteering opportunities in this blog post.
- Prioritise your health and wellbeing. The most ironic thing among us younger disabled folk is that you’d think we’d be the most proactive with looking after our health needs. In reality, dealing with these things on the regular means we can sometimes become a bit complacent. I don’t mind telling you that I’ve been taking the same medication in the same patterns for years, and I still routinely miss doses simply because I forget about them. The life admin struggle is real, but I can firmly advocate for the benefits of pill reminder systems for the brain-foggy folk among us.
- Try a new hobby. Is there an activity you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve never quite been able to justify it? Give yourself permission to try new things, just for the fun of it. I know it can feel tricky to self-justify the exertion and recovery time such things can require (as you’ll see in this blog post about my first experience of adaptive skiing last year!), but provided it’s safe to do so, please allow yourself the time and energy to just give it a try. Even if it’s not for you, you’ll feel all the better for having found out for yourself.
- Share random acts of kindness. Finally, a straightforward resolution that can be perfectly tailored for your health condition or circumstances is simply to commit to performing more acts of kindness towards others. Whether it’s making a cuppa for a loved one, surprising somebody with a little gift appropriate for their needs (perhaps they have some of these pain management tools on their wish-list?) or simply sending a thoughtful message to somebody going through a tough time, we all know that even the smallest gestures can make a world of difference to somebody else. And with the serotonin boost that comes from sharing acts of kindness in this way, it’s a win-win situation if you ask me.
We’ve all had to contend with so many restrictions in 2020. Do we really want to kick off the New Year by imposing even more… on ourselves? Instead of characterising this month with self-sacrifice, here’s to enhancing our lives with more compassionate resolutions instead. Who’s joining me?