New Year, New You, Right?

New year, new you, right? Wrong! “I am going to quit drinking. I’ll start going to the gym more. I am going to lose weight.” These are just a few of the common and often unrealistic New Year’s resolutions many of us make. Studies show that 80% of people fail to achieve the resolutions they set. We put unrealistic demands on ourselves and when we don’t meet them, we feel a sense of failure and shame.

Recently, I was presented with a different approach to the New Year’s resolution when a bunch of us were asked the question: What is something new you would like to try this year? Oh, how fun. I hadn’t thought about it that way.

The answers varied wildly and all elicited reactions of joy, excitement and curiosity in the group. “I want to learn how to play the Kalimba (a thumb piano);” “I want to compose a full song;”  “I want to experiment with new recipes;” “I want to travel on my own, without kids and spouse;” “I want to try kick boxing;” “I want to learn a foreign language;” “I want to teach myself how to play guitar.”

These goals coincided with who each person is, what their interest are, and where there are in their life. Each seemed attainable and would potentially bring the person joy. So, try a new twist on the New Year’s resolution and promise to engage in something NEW this year.

Speaking of joy, I recently discovered a wonderful book, The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage, by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.  McGonigal, a research psychologist, a lecturer at Stanford University, and an award-winning science writer, is also a Jazzercise instructor (you have to love that combo)!

In The Joy of Movement, McGonigal illustrates the direct connection between mental health and movement.  She shows how movement is intertwined with some of the most basic human joys, including self-expression, social connection, and mastery–and why it is a powerful antidote to the modern epidemics of depression, anxiety, loneliness and also addiction.  She draws on insights from neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and evolutionary biology, in addition to memoirs, ethnographies, and philosophers to teach us how to fall in love with movement instead of lecturing on why we should exercise.

Kelly McGonigal reveals how movement in all its forms is of course health-enhancing and life-extending, but also how it can and should be a source of joy, not a chore or a failed New Year’s resolution.  Her other books worth reading include, The Willpower Instinct and The Upside of Stress, Why Stress Is Good for You and How to Get Good at It.

So, this new year, this new decade, choose joy in whatever form it may take for you!   — Andrée Corroon