Jan. 6, 2021Print | PDF
The beginning of a new year is often filled with hope and anticipation as people make resolutions and let go of disappointments from the year that was. But that positivity may be hard to muster for some in Ontario this year as we enter 2021 under lockdown restrictions.
“New Year’s resolutions typically have to do with health and physical activity, finances, social connection, and work or productivity, things that are directly impaired by our current circumstances,” says Anne Wilson, a professor of Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University whose research focuses on goal pursuit, identity and the psychology of change. “Also, many of us probably won’t be celebrating the new year as we normally do, so the whole psychological feeling of turning a new leaf may be hampered.”
Nevertheless, Wilson believes that there are many intentional ways to make 2021 as fulfilling as possible. Below are some of her suggestions.
“Setting long-term goals and striving toward bigger accomplishments may be even harder than usual because the more uncertain a future endpoint is, the harder it is to sustain motivation. Setting goals that are more focused on making our present day-to-day better may actually do a lot more in terms of building and maintaining life satisfaction under these circumstances.”
“Often, the things that we do to fill our days, such as increase screen time, tend to not really benefit our well-being. If we replace them with one of these more deliberately chosen activities, it can actually make quite a big difference in the long run:
“I have a postdoctoral student who just completed a study in which he asked people – during the height of the first wave of the pandemic – to write a letter to their future selves, one year from now. Some people wrote a letter from the perspective of their future selves back to the present. Both of these experiences increased their ability to recognize that this too shall pass. In the long run of our lives, this is a temporary phase.”
“Recognizing and accepting that this time sucks is okay. I think it’s worthwhile to acknowledge that you are missing out on things that should be happening for you right now and it’s not pleasant or fair. It’s something that we are all experiencing and just trying to manage as best as possible.”
“I tell my students that although it may not feel like it right now, you are living through a pivotal time in our history and some of the things that you observe and learn about yourself right now are the things that you will tell your children or your grandchildren about. I would encourage you to do some journaling or photo-journaling and capture some of the things about this time that you find striking. Even moments that seem very mundane at the time may come to be quite significant in retrospect.”
“A lot of our contact with other people is mediated through what they put out into the world, which we know is a curated version of their lives. That may be especially true right now. Although some people are being pretty honest about the struggles that are happening behind the scenes, a lot of people are choosing the two or three best moments to share with others. We may not recognize how much of a slog other people are experiencing and that we are all in this together.”
“2020 was not an easy year, and there may have been goals or intentions you set for yourself and were unable to achieve. We know from research that there is a lot of value in self-compassion. Think about how you would treat a close friend that’s going through this kind of loss. We would generally speak to them in encouraging ways, talk about how this kind of thing happens to everyone, and tell them that there will be other opportunities in the future. Self-compassion is really just treating ourselves to that kind of supportive talk.”
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