For years, whenever the First of January came about, I would dread to think about making a New Years Resolution. I think most people can agree that we usually intend to lose weight, cut down on our alcohol intake or reduce sugar in our diet. Mostly our Resolutions are about minimising or cutting something out of our lives, and it’s a shame that often or not it’s something that actually gives us a little pleasure, which is often why we fail. Taking away those little joys makes us miserable and more often we realise that drinking a little less during the week or cutting out those biscuits at tea time are just not worth it if it takes away those little pleasure moments that keep us going.
For years my New Years Resolution was that I was going to lose weight, get fitter, get healthier and I always failed. The problem is that New Years Resolutions are almost always too ambitious, losing weight, for example, require a complete change of lifestyle, a change of mindset. One year I became so obsessed with losing weight I very nearly became a full-blown bulimic! I came to realise that my eating habits go hand-in-hand with my depression. If I get low, I comfort eat and if I can’t comfort eat when I’m low, I will find other ways to express my sadness which can manifest itself in more dangerous ways, like self-harming. It’s only recently that I’ve realised that in order to lose weight, I need to change the way I think about food and how I use it in relation to my depression. These are things that will take a lot of time and a lot of hard word which at present I’m not in a position to put myself through.
Of course no one says that you have to have a New Years Resolution, you can just carry on as you do any other time of the year, but it’s nice to have a fresh start, to reflect on your past year and go about making changes to better yourself and those around you, but the important thing to remember is that New Years Resolutions should be attainable, something that you know you can achieve but also something enjoyable! It doesn’t just have to be about improving your physical health, as your mental health is just as important and doing things that make you happy or relaxed are just as valid as losing weight or cutting carbs. They also don’t have to cost you money, like an expensive gym membership or equipment for a new hobby. It also doesn’t have to take up lots of time, perhaps you could have a bath once a week, or read a book, or bake a cake?
This year, I have given myself one simple task to do, I will do it everyday if I can and it will neither cost me money nor time. Before Christmas I found myself a little diary, a bright yellow one that has ‘Do more of what makes you happy‘ written across the front. My task is simple. Everyday I will write something in my diary, either about something I achieved, some kindness someone gave me, some kindness I gave to someone else, or something that made me smile.
Now when I say achievement, I’m not talking about saving a cat from a burning building or assisting an elderly person across the road, no, I’m talking about simple things, like just being able to get out of bed, or brushing my teeth, especially on those bad days when such seemingly trifling tasks are huge mountainous trials. It could also be that I helped a client overcome her fear of clipping her dogs nails, or that I successfully did a head bandage! These are all small things on the day but they are instantly forgotten when the fog of depression swoops in and your mind plays back all of your failures. It would be nice to be able to reach for this little yellow diary and read through the positive things that have happened to me, to remind myself that my life is not worthless, it has light and moments of achievement and joy, no matter how small they are.
After enquiring on Twitter what others will be attempting to achieve this year, I was impressed to see many were looking at bettering themselves as nurses, being better at caring for themselves and their own mental wellbeing. It was refreshing to see that mental health is starting to be discussed more, and that the veterinary profession is starting to see that depression and anxiety is a real issue within our community. I hope that all of those who are making New Years Resolutions this year are making them with their own mental well-being in mind.