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Why self-compassion should be included in your resolutions this year

Want your resolution to last? Couple it with a resolution for self-compassion.

The new year is upon us, and with it come resolutions. Magazines and lifestyle blogs like to capitalize on this time of year, inundating readers with resolution solutions—for losing that last 20 pounds (or the first 20), for finally quitting smoking, for saving money. You name it, there’s a “sure way” to do it this time of year.

You’ve probably tried a revolving door of these solutions, only to throw up your hands in defeat after each one. Once you slip up, it seems impossible to keep going. You missed a day at the gym or cheated on your diet—all seems lost.

You think, “If I just had more willpower, I could succeed.” You promise to start again, tomorrow, next week, or next year. You’ll really do it right next time. No more mistakes.

If you relate to this journey, you are not alone. Our culture often perpetuates the idea that there is one simple solution that has been in front of your nose the whole time, and without it you can’t succeed. This can lead to a host of maladaptive thought patterns and shame when those solutions don’t pan out as advertised.

For example, the diet industry is worth $72 billion. While many of us see dieting as a positive thing that will, ideally, last for a short time and lead to permanent change, the industry is dependent upon people succeeding temporarily. If people were to succeed permanently, the industry’s revenue stream would go right down the drain. Understanding this is the first step toward succeeding in your resolutions, whatever they may be.

A healthier mindset toward your resolutions:

So how do we get off the treadmill of broken resolutions? Ironically, the way to do your best is to stop reaching for perfection. When you slip up, you need to practice self-compassion instead of beating yourself up.

Many people hold the mistaken idea that if they cut themselves some slack, they will become complacent and never reach their goals. Research shows the opposite is true.

People who are overly rigid and expect perfection from themselves end up burning out, which leads to them plateauing with short-term changes. When people were able to forgive themselves and comfort themselves, they were able to approach their goals with a much more level-headed and constructive approach (Mantzios). It doesn’t take away the disappointment you may feel about your misstep, but it does set you up to stay on the right path.

How to make self-compassion your New Year’s resolution

Be kind to yourself when approaching this year’s resolutions. Here are a few ways you can embody self-compassion as you work toward your 2020 resolutions:

  • Practice mindfulness. Temptations happen, but being able to observe these moments without attaching can really help you make more-conscious choices moving forward.
  • Feel your feelings. It’s OK to be disappointed. Whatever you are feeling is valid. Instead of trying to shut down your feelings, picture yourself as a small child and try to comfort yourself the way you might comfort the child (Abrams).
  • Practice getting back to your goals as quickly as possible. A slip (where you miss a goal) is going to happen, but you can stop it before it becomes a full relapse (where you completely go back to how things were). Instead of expecting yourself to be perfect, practice getting back to your positive behaviors as soon as possible to minimize long-term damage to your goal.
  • Call a health coach. We have board-certified health coaches who can provide UPMC Health Plan members with help, support, and accountability while they make lifestyle changes. Our programs in stress management, weight management, nutrition, physical activity, and tobacco cessation are available to our members at no cost.

References

United States Weight Loss & Diet Control Market Report 2019: 2018 Results & 2019-2023 Forecasts—Top Competitors Ranking with 30-Year Revenue Analysis. Cision PR Newswire. 2019 February 27. Accessed January 8, 2020. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/united-states-weight-loss–diet-control-market-report-2019-2018-results–2019-2023-forecasts—top-competitors-ranking-with-30-year-revenue-analysis-300803186.html

Mantzios M. Egan HH. On the Role of Self-Compassion and Self-kindness in Weight Regulation and Health Behavior Change. Front. Psychol., 2017 February 16.(8):229. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00229 

Abrams A. How to Cultivate More Self-Compassion. 2017 March 3. Accessed January 8, 2020. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/nurturing-self-compassion/201703/how-cultivate-more-self-compassion