New year, new you: 2022 is here, and it’s time to reinvent yourself! The old you is out of date and tired, so you better be feeling motivated to create a totally new you in January! Are you ready to do whatever it takes to have a socially acceptable body? Impossible.
Hmmm, how about a new 5 a.m. meditation practice? Ugh, that sounds terrible even to me. A brand new car? 10x banking? New wardrobe? 75-day smoothie detox? New job?
If all this seems exhausting to you, it may be that what you actually need this year are some new ways to nurture yourself.
As the media, inspired by advertisers, encourages you to embrace new, superficial, performative, other-focused resolutions, I’d like to encourage you to tune out that garbage and listen instead to a fresh new voice: the one in your own head. For me, this is indeed a new and difficult practice, but I’m learning to really love tuning in to my own wants and needs.
Many traditional resolutions are giant “shoulds” created from outside expectations in which we are looking to avoid shame or seeking approval from others. However, external rewards are far less effective than internal rewards for motivating lasting change. This means that hopes may be high the first week of January, but when it comes to eliminating all refined sugars or never purchasing anything made of plastic for the rest of your life, we’re not that motivated to do the work needed to achieve it. It’s just easier to mark it as a “fail” and try to forget you ever resolved to do it in the first place.
Imagine what this next year might look like if you made choices and took actions that were motivated from deep inside yourself. That’s new! Intrinsic rewards are not tangible, and they are typically derived from a sense of accomplishment, fun, curiosity and connection. What would it look like to seek these internal rewards in our relationships, work and extracurriculars in the new year?
New Year, new commitment to calm and ease
Invest in the sleep you need (eight to 10 hours is the new normal), and explore relaxation or movement activities that feel good. If you experience stress and anxiety, try nervous system-calming activities like yoga, meditation, qi gong or swimming. You can also download one of the many apps, like Headspace, Insight Timer or Simple Habit, designed to make mindfulness and meditation accessible and achievable. Try it out, and if it feels good after the first three to five sessions, you’ll stick with it (because: intrinsic rewards); if not, then try something else, because it’s not the right activity for you.
New Year, new enjoyment of food, without shame
In the new year you may be tempted to swear off fatty, sweet or salty foods you enjoy because the diet police tell you they are “unhealthy,” but you don’t have to eliminate foods you love to get better nutrition. If the old paradigm is all about taking things away, restricting and shrinking, it’s time to grow, expand and embrace new ideas about how we nourish ourselves. Try adding nutrient-dense food when possible, cooking with seasonal fruits and veggies and exploring new whole grains like farro and wild rice instead of pasta and white rice.
New Year, new feelings of inspiration and excitement
The new year is a great time to get out your calendar and commit to something that will bring you joy. Go somewhere breathtaking, create something beautiful, take an online class to learn something new or plan a trip to somewhere you’re curious about. Intrinsic rewards come from doing something that challenges you a little bit, but doesn’t cause overwhelm.
New Year, new delight in your body
Explore pain-free activities like hiking, biking, dancing or skating that put a smile on your face, create helpful hormones and get your blood flowing. Take a moment to put your hand on your heart each day and feel it beating for you — how incredible. Avoid your scale, and stop punishing yourself with exercise that hurts, causes injury or floods your body with stress hormones. Your worth has nothing to do with your ability to fit into that old pair of jeans.
New Year, new connections to nature
The easiest way is to create an indoor or backyard space where you can observe the sky above, green growing things and the sounds of nature surrounding you, even in winter. When spring has sprung, you can reach out to a knowledgeable friend or local hiking group who can show you new trails or green spaces and create time for nature each month or week.
New Year, new meaningful connections with friends and family
Consider who helps you feel safe and supported, and create some plans to see them regularly, even for a short time. You don’t have to spend hours together to benefit from human connection. This is not the year to spend obligatory time with folks who exhaust you, insult you or don’t appreciate you.
You’ll find the benefits from these activities multiply when you combine them, so take a look at how many new connections you can weave together with friends and family in 2022. Notice along the way how good it feels to work from the inside out, connecting with people, places and actions that inspire and motivate you. Notice how new — and good — it is to do what feels good, safe and easy for you this year. After the past few years, you deserve it.
Petterson lives in Moscow with her husband and their two children. She left public education to become a yoga instructor, sleep specialist and mindful parenting educator. Her New Year’s resolutions for 2022 involve more afternoon naps and eating of cheese. She loves hearing from the community, so please reach out to her via her website at kristinepetterson.com.