Refreshed. Renewed. Ready for 2022.
In past years, returning from the holidays came replete with new energy to start the year. There were resolutions (be more active!) and lofty goals (write the book!) and restored energy to commit to them.
Staring down the barrel of 2022, though, the thought of conjuring energy to resolve to live a healthier lifestyle or some new habit or goal this new year is simply too exhausting, laughable even. It is enough to put pants on each morning. To brush teeth. To make sure the kid is watered and the plant is bathed. Or vice versa. It’s easy to forget. It’s all a blur after nearly two years of pandemic purgatory.
Indeed, many are facing increased stress and depression since Covid entered the scene, according to multiple studies, including a September 2020 survey in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found a three-fold increase in depression during the pandemic than before.
Resolutions feel like a great idea for well-rested and optimistic people. Even just going to the gym sounds like a wonderful goal if there weren’t the fear of contracting Covid-19.
This new year, you can do things differently. Make 2022 the year of the anti-resolution!
In fact, take something away. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, commit to New Year’s dissolutions.
How to commit to dissolution
1. Quit the guilt over shedding the New Year’s resolutions that no one can keep anyway, and which pandemic-weary hearts can’t tolerate. Most people quit their resolutions, according to a study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse.
2. Commit to getting rid of things that unnecessarily add stress. There are so many little things on people’s “to do” lists because we think those things need to get done – and yet some of those activities bring disproportionate anxiety or strain. This year, commit to not doing them. Holding onto those stressors, like having an argument with someone, or experiencing a stressful event at home, work or school can have a negative impact on your physical health even years later, according to a 2018 study in the Association for Psychological Science. So, get in the dissolution mindset! It’s cathartic.
3. Identify your New Year’s dissolutions. Is ironing that shirt for the Zoom meeting really necessary? Does the bed really need hospital corners? Do you need to finish reading that mediocre book? Is it really worth arguing with the kid about 10 more minutes of screen time? Do we need to keep buying cottage cheese when no one actually eats it, and it stinks up the fridge? Seriously. Gross.
Identify the specific tasks, activities and items that are detractive and, poof! Flush them all down the toilet!
4. Bask in the glow of fewer stressors: Gone is the promise to bolster the biceps, to perfect the pottery-making, hone those sourdough skills or write the next great American novel. Better to unbridle self-imposed obligations by saying goodbye to the things that stress you out than to waste time making resolutions that you know you won’t keep.
Letting go of things, both actions, habits and possessions, can de-clutter and de-stress. No, sorry, the kid doesn’t count. Neither does the spouse. Or the yappy dog. Ditching the elaborate and highly unnecessary toddler birthday party with homemade fancy cupcakes? Most certainly yes.
Removing time-consuming chores that don’t do much to improve cleanliness, like squeegeeing the shower or making hospital corners on the bed, but free up time or improve mental wellbeing are absolutely worth it.
5. Exhale. When the pandemic first hit, people were launched into flight-or-fight mode. Then everyone was languishing. Now, it’s OK to just be. It’s enough to be alive. It’s enough to be breathing and putting one foot in front of the other (even better if with socks). No need to shoehorn ambitious and unsustainable resolutions into 2022 planning.
As the preeminent Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, who knows a thing or two about the notion of shedding things that bring unhealthy attachments or stress, says, “Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything — anger, anxiety, or possessions — we cannot be free.”
Allison Hope is a writer whose work has been featured by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Slate and elsewhere. The views expressed here are the author’s.