January is the prime month of the year when the majority of people crumble under the pressures of setting themselves New Year Resolutions. The resolutions themselves don’t seem like a bad thing on the surface; after all, it is just people trying to improve themselves. However, in my view — and not only mine — these resolutions focus heavily on the negative. Specifically, our most negative opinions about ourselves are usually based on some kind of social trend, and frequently involve unrealistic expectations. Bottom line: we create goals that are impossible to attain.

There is an idea that has been trending on Instagram and also receiving support from a few celebrities, including Matt Haig and Scarlett Moffatt. Matt Haig is an author of various mental health books including Reasons to Stay Alive, Notes on a Nervous Planet and most recently, The Truth Pixie — a book for children to help them through anxiety and grief, among other things. Haig is an amazing role model and and accomplished writer to look to, and his books are a great comfort. Lately, he has been emphasising to his followers that there is no need to set yourself strict goals or feel you have to change yourself, just because it’s the new year.

The new year is a made-up concept according to the Gregorian calendar, argues Haig. He’s right too. Time is a concept made by humans to help us organise the day more efficiently. With this in mind, your life doesn’t just reset when the new year starts; you don’t magically start with a clean slate. The bad things that happened last year still happened, and the good things that happened last year also still happened. Why give yourself a year to improve yourself? Why feel the need to improve yourself because of a made-up trend? If you want to improve yourself than kudos to you, but do it for you and not because of the time of year!

The new year is a stressful time for many of us who have the tendency to succumb to social pressures. It’s easier said than done to just ignore the overwhelming pull from mass and social media. We all have it shoved down our throats constantly, with adverts selling the idea of a ‘new year new me’ hard and persuasively. So you begin thinking, I should get some new year resolution to make myself feel better — right? Well actually, by cutting various things out of your life or setting yourself impossible goals, all you’re doing is paving the way for misery and disappointment if you don’t achieve them quickly, or if you slip up at some point.

Mark Manson, author of The subtle Art of not Giving a f*** explains that telling yourself you need to do something, such as lose weight or become more financially stable, just highlights your lack of these things. He explains that to really be happy, you shouldn’t care about the things you don’t have; instead, care about the things you do have and appreciative that.

With this in mind, there may be more positive ways of looking at the new year instead of the usual ‘I won’t eat this anymore because I want to be skinny’. The TV personality, Scarlett Moffatt has suggested that we use the new year to add things to our life instead of taking things away. Scarlett did a post about how the new year is always focused on people wanting to cut things out. But why not use it, she argues, to introduce new things instead? Try a dance class, explore new travel destinations, or learn a new skill and have fun rather than setting your mind on cutting things out and making tortuous restrictions.

The new year can be positive. It can be about adding small things to your life, setting yourself small goals throughout the year in order to achieve a bigger goal eventually. But it doesn’t even need to be about goal-setting. The main thing to remember is that you don’t have to change your whole personality and life just because it’s a new year. It’s only a new number on the calender, not a new stamp on your life. Be a bit kinder to yourself and remember that life itself is a journey of experiences and lessons and it can take more than one year to reach a goal.

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