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Setting Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions

With the end of a tough year on the horizon, one in which a global pandemic disproportionately affected Indigenous communities, millions of people are starting to plan out their New Year’s resolutions. However, many Indigenous communities’ new year, or time of renewal, is not always January 1st. Many Indigenous communities acknowledge and/or observe the Winter Solstice on December 21st as a time of reflection, celebration and ceremony.

While many Indigenous people are grounded in these ceremonial practices, others are doing their best to reclaim these practices. If you’re curious, seek out an elder to see what they may remember about traditional times of renewal. You’ll not only learn a lot but maybe you can fulfill a new resolution to give more time to people.

Speaking of resolutions, estimates show that roughly half of people make at least one each year. While there are real challenges everyone faces, each of us can and should envision a better life for ourselves and our communities. By following a few easy steps, you can improve your odds of following through. You may even avoid the frustration that often accompanies perceived failures by focusing on making resolutions sustainable and attainable.

Here are some practical tips for writing resolutions this year.

Define Your Goals and Track Your Progress

It doesn’t do you a lot of good to proclaim, “This is the year I finally get in shape!” That can mean several things. Are there a specific number of pounds you want to lose? Maybe a body-fat percentage you have in mind? Or a specific number of push-ups you’d like to accomplish without rest? The point is, it’s easy to lose momentum with your resolution if you keep it vague and don’t define why it’s a goal of yours in the first place.

Additionally, once you’ve set those specific goals, start to track your progress. Getting your goals on paper and mapping your progress will serve as a motivation and reminder of where you started and how far you’ve come. There are plenty of goal tracking sheets you can find online, like these. That will also help you identify any plateaus, so you know when to adjust your efforts.

Start Small and Keep it in Perspective

Choose resolutions that don’t overwhelm your time and resources right now. For example, some of us might aim to exercise more often in the new year. So, schedule three days a week doing simple exercises found on YouTube or by doing a quick Google search (examples here, here and here) or take afternoon walks more frequently instead of sitting on the couch. Or, if you’re trying to eat healthier, start by drinking more water (drink your weight in water: i.e., 160 lbs =16 oz. of water), eating smaller food portions and not eating after 8 p.m.

Set small goals before taking on the whole year. After all, the New Year isn’t an occasion for sweeping character changes. More than anything, it should serve as a time to reflect on past behaviors and make a promise to yourself to make positive lifestyle changes moving forward. Where you should find value is not in the degree of change you create but in acknowledging that improvements to your lifestyle are worth working toward, even if only one step at a time.

Talk About It and Ask for Support

This step is admittedly tough—it takes a dose of courage to share. You improve your odds of success considerably when you leverage the support and accountability of your loved ones.

You can also consider tapping into a support group to help you reach your goals, like a workout class or a group of coworkers who are all trying to quit smoking. Ultimately, sharing your journey with someone in a group that shares the same goal as you will build supportive comradery and help manage stress.

Go Easy on Yourself

Don’t set your sights on perfection because that’s impossible to achieve. Minor missteps are part of the process and necessary, as you find what does and doesn’t work for you. So, if you stray from your plan, adapt accordingly, but keep moving towards the goals you set for yourself.

The point is to keep trying and striving toward your resolution even when you miss the mark. Everyone has ups and downs. If anything, finding the ability to recover and get back after your goal makes the process more meaningful.

Hopefully, these tips will help guide you towards completing your New Year’s resolutions. And serve as a reminder that it’s never the wrong time to set goals for yourself if they’re about improving yourself.

Best of luck this year. You can do it!