You’re Doing it Wrong

So, how are your New Year’s resolutions going? If they’re making you miserable, you’re doing it wrong.

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Resolutions usually involve giving things up, but I think that’s just because we’re blaming our problems on the obvious rather than identifying and resolving their root cause. We get so caught up in the routines we’ve fallen into sometimes that we don’t realise when we’re unhappy; or, more importantly, why. New Year’s resolutions are the perfect chance to reflect on this and make a conscious effort to change things.

Realising that something is hindering your happiness is actually very difficult, especially when everything is ‘fine’, so we often need a little outside help. Fine just doesn’t cut it. Why not ask someone you’re close to if they think you’re happy? If they shrug and reply ‘yeah I guess’ then you’re not. That’s not good enough. Push for details – when do you seem particularly happy? When are you clearly unhappy? Don’t feel like you’re asking too much with this either, that’s what friends and family are for; free therapy.

Once you know when you’re happy, work out why. Places, people, activities – whatever it is do more of it. Place influences our psychology so much more than we realise, but so many of us live in environments we don’t want to when we don’t have to. If you always go somewhere on holiday, why not just move there? Don’t tell me why it wouldn’t work, just find a way. If you’ve allowed hobbies to lapse maybe it’s about time you gave them another go, even if you haven’t done them since you were a child. You never know what will turn into a career, and who doesn’t want to be paid for doing the things we love. As for the people we interact with and make a part of our lives, they affect us hugely, so avoid those who you don’t enjoy being around and make an effort to see those you do – show them at every opportunity how much you value them.

Again, you’re not being self-indulgent with all of this. We’re taught to always work hard and always make safe decisions from the moment we’re self-aware, but you should be absolutely certain that the things you’re working hard for are what you really want. As for what makes you unhappy, identify it. Put it in a little glass box and examine it from all angles, then work out how to make it go away. Give yourself achievable targets and deadlines, and plan very carefully how you’re going to reach them, and the reward you’ll get when you do!

I know that resolutions do often focus on losing weight, and reaching a size and shape that feels good can have a big impact on your confidence, so I’d never suggest taking it out of the picture if it’s something that’s important to you. Be clever about it though, and make it about positive changes rather than just tormenting yourself. Learning about nutrition for example, or an excuse to listen to your terrible music whilst you’re exercising that nobody will let you play out loud. My number one tip would be to keep busy. Frantically busy! I used to go to the gym nearly every day at university, but it wasn’t until I got a real job (and actually didn’t have time for the gym for a couple of years) that I dropped from a UK 10-12 to a 6-8. Rushing around and working hard is an effective and pain-free way of dropping a few pounds, and it’s productive. Double win.

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Being a healthy weight isn’t the only ‘body’ target to consider though – after those gym-free years, I’d lost so much strength and stamina that it actually affected my personality. I became much more cautious, worried about getting hurt or not being able to achieve physical challenges. Tom actually pointed this out to me (there was a lot of sulking, but I did know he was right), so I made plans. I got back into the gym, but I started riding again as well, and took up MMA. Exercise should be fun, not boring, and certainly not torture. I don’t run, because I hate running. It’s boring (sorry runners, you have my respect but you’ll have to tie me to your back to get me out running with you). I do like riding and climbing and hitting things though, so I do those instead.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that so much of modern life is artificial that it’s hard to see what’s real. What’s really happening to you, and the people you care about. Once a year it’s nice to cut through all of that, and devise plans to make you happy that actually work.

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