New Year, New Goals: How to Keep Your Resolutions

New Year… new you… new goals! Right?

The new year is a great time to look back on last year and prepare for the upcoming year.  People get excited about making new goals and resolutions and swear they “won’t be doing that again!”; especially when it comes to relationships.  It seems that resolutions related to physical fitness are most popular.  But people also resolve to make healthy choices and routines related to their own mental, emotional and/or spiritual health as well. 

Sometimes it doesn’t last very long though.  Strava conducted research that suggests that January 12 is the day that most people begin to give up on their new years resolutions.  That’s means we are almost reaching the weekend where our best intentions and efforts will begin to wither. 

So how do we keep our resolutions beyond January 12? Here are two tips to try:

1.         Create good goals

Goals are really hard to attain and maintain if they’re impossible to reach to begin with.  Making sure that your goal is SMART will help you keep striving towards it.  If you don’t feel a resolution is manageable or you feel you won’t ever “make it” then you won’t be likely to keep trying.  Make your resolution(s) S - specific. M – measurable. A - attainable. R - realistic. T - time-based.

If you are having trouble with this click here for help.

2.     Pursue accountability

Two are better than one.  There’s nothing like a friend telling you “you promised you would go on a run with me” to get you moving, especially if you’re a people-pleaser.  It’s a lot easier to brush off exercise when it’s not scheduled or planned.  Making your friends or family part of your new resolution can be beneficial.  Whether they reach out to remind you about your goal or they are your ‘workout buddy’, another person can encourage us to push on (or through) when we may not feel like it.  Maybe you’re not a people-pleaser like me so other people aren’t a good motivator.  If that’s the case, find something else that will motivate you and use it.  Maybe you’re also ‘thrifty’ like me and paying for a gym membership will encourage you to actually use the money you spent and not let it go to waste.  Find your motivator or accountability and use it to support your desire to fulfill your goals for 2019.

If you feel comfortable to share some of your resolutions from this year or year’ past feel free. Also, what are some of the ways you find help you stick to your goals?

Prepare Room For Grief

The following blog post is used with permission and taken from Victoria Marie’s blog. Victoria loves to write and uses her blog to encourage others with what she is processing and learning. Her words so eloquently and beautifully speak to the challenges of grief at this time of year. You can find this post and more of her writings and ideas here.

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I’ll never forget the Christmas my brother shocked himself with the electric fly swatter and mooned my Grandma while trying on the new, albeit probably too tight, pants he’d also been gifted. Always trying to make us laugh, and easily one of the most entertaining people I’ve ever known, Alex always seemed to shine at Christmas time.

When I want to remember the best version of my brother I usually reflect on who he became at Christmas. Over the years as he fell head first into depression and addiction, not every season was his best season. Most of the years were marked with stress, frustration, discouragement, and a deep overarching pain that Alex lived daily, and that my family also carried.

The Christmas season always seemed like a sacred space of much needed family unity and rest. I don’t know what it was about the season that helped things to settle, but Christmas just felt like a deep breath after months of barely breathing. Every little revelation we were granted of who my brother use to be before depression and addiction took over allowed hope to slowly step in.

I’m always amazed at the power of hope. Hope pressed us to anticipate something better than what we’d known. It whispered of a future full of peace, joy, and love. Hope instilled a sense of courage to press into, and persevere towards what was coming. Hope carried us forward even when we felt broken.

This Christmas will mark the third we’ve had without my brother Alex. Alex passed away in April of 2016 really unexpectedly, throwing my family into rhythms of grief I didn’t know existed.

So what did Christmas hold for us in the wake of loss?

It could’ve held busyness, and diving into any and every activity, to forget that another year had come and Alex was not here.

It could’ve held forging new traditions so any memory of Alex at Christmas was not easily stumbled into;

It could’ve held anger and sadness;

It could’ve held all these things, but thankfully it did not, and it does not.

We held space for grief, and as we prepared room for the deep sadness we knew would accompany this season, something beautiful happened.

Hope still found a way in. She stepped in, and sat quietly with grief. She didn’t press grief into a corner or push grief out. Hope and grief can live together, I know I’ve hung out with them both.

Allowing grief in during this season is not a sign of weakness, it doesn’t take away from the hope of Christmas time.

My brother was one of my favourite people at Christmas, and because I hold space for grief, I also hold space for him. His memory lives on through stories, pictures, and traditions, where yes he is missed, but also where how important he is can be fully felt.

The hope I get to sit with in my grief is a more matured hope than before Alex passed away. Where hope once whispered, she now speaks confidently of a future filled with peace, joy, and love. She knows what I’ve been through and the heart of endurance I carry. She’s seen love prevail in hard circumstances. She proclaims a brighter future than I ever could’ve imagined for myself and she no longer needs to carry me. I know how much courage and bravery I have, and now she only needs to light the path and remind me there is good coming.

Prepare room for grief this season. Prepare room for your own grief and disappointments and hold space for those who may be grieving around you.

This season is hard, and it is different without Alex. Tears and laughter often find themselves as companions. Grief is heavy, but there is healing in recognizing that grief is a normal and important part of any loss journey.

In a season that is full of so much more than other seasons, remember that “the more” is sometimes grief: prepare room for grief.

-Victoria

P.S. It’s really important to remember that everyone grieves differently, so preparing room for grief will vary for each person and circumstance. It may look like setting aside a day to honour a lost loved one, hanging a special decoration up they would’ve loved, or enjoying their favourite meal. It may also mean letting go of anger, bitterness, and hurt around unfulfilled dreams and expectations and taking steps forward. Surround yourself with people who can help you see hope. Be gentle with yourself and allow for space to find how the rhythms of grief will sit this season.

How To Curb Loneliness Over the Holidays
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Family.  Wonder.  Fun. Hope.  Friends. Peace.  Bright lights.  Giftgiving.  Joy.

This is normally what people think of when Christmas comes to mind, isn’t it?  Fun, excitement… why would anyone dread the holidays?

It seems there’s something inherently peaceful about Christmas time and the origins of the celebrations.  Yet, culture’s focus on Christmas has made a natural shift over the years and become quite solely focused on family and consumerism.  Most holidays have become this way, but particularly Christmas.  Family is definitely not a bad thing to prioritize and celebrate but when the focus becomes heavily centered on community, it often marginalizes those that don’t have it.  The reminders are painful; the loneliness experienced at other times of the year becomes even more palpable. 

In many ways, the loneliness is exasperated because we feel alone in our grief or loneliness, we can feel as if we are the only ones that feel this way.  When we glance at social media or look around in our daily lives we see couples in love, new romances flourishing, families together, engagements, new baby arrivals and many joyful photos popping up everywhere…  We feel like nobody else is experiencing loneliness, that nobody understands our pain, that we are alone.  The reality is this may not be true but the pain, the misery of feeling alone – it’s still there. And it’s not easy to experience, especially at Christmas.

Loneliness is painful, but reaching out or putting oneself “out there” is also scary.  Taking small steps towards community can add value to our lives and, although sometimes scary and difficult, intentional small actions can have long term gain.  So here’s a few tips on how to deal with loneliness during the holidays:

1) Pick one person to deepen your connection with over the holidays

Finding community isn’t about going out and finding as many people to hang out with as possible.  Extroverts may love this idea but for most people, extroverts included, finding deep and meaningful connections fulfills some of the longings of a lonely heart and mind.  A small step to take this Christmas season is to find one person in your life that you can reach out to and build a relationship with.  Perhaps do an activity together, spend some time catching up over coffee or over text.  Make an effort to check in and ask them about their life.  Finding a good friend in this season is important; a reciprocal relationship that is deeper than surface level can add meaning and value to this difficult season.

2) Say yes to one social invitation

Even if you just go for an hour, say yes to one social invite over the holidays.  It’s hard to put yourself out there but it will get harder and harder the more that you isolate yourself.  Many times people who feel discouraged and lonely will believe that an invitation isn’t genuine or that they are only receiving the invite out of pity.  The reality is that oftentimes the person extending the invite genuinely does enjoy their friend’s company, doesn’t feel it’s a bother that they spend time with them and is often happy to extend invites and include friends in their holiday plans.  Don’t overthink; take a risk and challenge yourself to go, even for just a bit.

3) Try something new

Especially for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones during the holidays or those who are discouraged after heartbreak, breakups or family conflict, the holidays hold many memories of activities and calendar dates that can trigger more sadness and pain than happy memories.  It’s important to allow space to grieve and honor memories of loved ones and the happy moments of life, but it’s also helpful to challenge yourself to try new things and create new memories and traditions that will honour the stage of life you are in.  If you are single but grieving the loss of a romantic relationship, perhaps you can go with a friend to a new and fun Christmas event or market.  If you’ve experienced estrangement in your family due to family drama over the holidays you could create a new tradition with friends like doing a White Elephant gift exchange over a brunch.  In any stage of loneliness, you could also serve at a soup kitchen or create a gift basket for someone in need.  Serving others is a great way to give meaning to your time, while also taking the focus off of yourself.  It is a distraction for a time from the loneliness you may feel.  

4) Be honest

As discussed, it’s so important to have authentic and meaningful connections in our lives.  Our loneliness is a craving for intimacy and intimacy involves deeper relationships where we can feel known and loved just the way we are.  We will not feel fully known and loved if we are not open about how we are feeling.  When you find that one person to reach out to – that one friend you trust, that one person in an online community that you feel safe to share with, etc – be honest; take a risk to build a real relationship with someone.  You do run the risk of rejection but starting small in trusting a friend with personal things can help you test out the person’s safety level.  Be honest about how you are really doing when they ask.  “Actually I find this time of year challenging for me. I get lonely.”  Perhaps they may not say much. BUT, perhaps they’ll share they feel the same way, or maybe they’ll invite you to join them in some of their Christmas plans.  What do you have to lose?

Let’s face it, the holidays can be a hard season when you feel down or lonely. What’s helped you make it through?

Building your Boundaries
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A common topic that arises when discussing romantic relationships is boundaries. Not just physical, but emotional, social, and every aspect that makes us who we are. Knowing our limits, expectations, and clearly communicating those to our partners is not only important to our well-being, but to the foundations of our relationships. It helps us to not only value ourselves, but protect ourselves from potentially painful situations. If our partners know from the beginning our expectations in a relationship it allows for a smoother and more compatible relationship.

Often when I hear the word “boundaries” I immediately think of a wall being built to keep certain things out and certain things in. It may be helpful to visualize those barriers when talking about healthy relationship boundaries. It is a way to keep those healthy wants, needs and desires in and keep their unhealthy counterparts out. You may want respect, honesty, compatibility, and similar beliefs to be inside of your boundary. On the outside, you may want disrespect, abuse of any kind, and differences on bigger issues.  Each list is unique to the person that makes it, so finding someone with a similar list can help you stay true to your own.

A boundary that you may set in your relationship could be that your partner is not in control of your every action.  Your partner should respect that you have friends you want to spend time with. If they insist that you cancel your plans simply because they don’t want you to go, that is an example of an unhealthy relationship and broken boundary. If you have trust and mutual respect, they should trust your judgment and encourage friendships and vice versa.

Another boundary example could be that you would like your arguments to be talked about amongst each other, and not to others. My partner and I give space after a disagreement to decompress and then talk face-to-face about it after. If there is something I need help processing, I have a select few people that I will talk to. This is only with the permission of my partner as I do not want to disrespect their privacy. A common practice is to rant to friends, or online about how you are being treated in a relationship. This leads to a lack of respect for each other’s personal lives and could be infringing on your partner’s boundaries as well.

These are just a few examples, but there are many more to set and choose from. It is important to set your own boundaries and find a partner that not only respects your boundaries, but has a compatible list. This allows not only for the obvious compatibility, but also allows you to be on the same page and work as a team.

 

What kind of boundaries have you already established in your life? How can you incorporate healthy boundaries in current and future relationships?

Healthy Relationships
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Last month we talked about how a healthy relationship starts with looking at ourselves. When we come at dating from a place of knowing our reasons for dating and what we’re looking for, we’ll be less likely to waste our time and someone else’s time, eliminating some of the inevitable risk of getting hurt and hurting others as well.  But this still doesn’t mean we’ll find ourselves a healthy relationship, even if we know ourselves really well and are in a healthy spot. 

So this month, we want to explore a few characteristics of healthy relationships. Begin to think about your own relationships or future relationships... are these qualities there in your current or potential relationships and partner?

Finding someone else who’s in a healthy place and creating a healthy relationship together is not as easy or simple as we hope it should be.  In many ways that’s why we date people, to find out if they could be a good long-term mate.  So while you go on dates, assess your relationship or are considering getting into the dating scene, here are three really important things to look for to determine if you have a healthy relationship that you may want to consider moving forward with.   

·              Mutual respect

Relationships shouldn’t be one-sided.  Yes, there are moments and seasons where one person needs more support than the other but in those seasons you should still feel respected.  If you find yourself giving constantly and not receiving anything in return, feeling anxious, alone and unsupported, you may want to reassess whether you wish to continue with the relationship. 

Healthy relationships include fairness and equality.  If your partner is going through a hard time there is a difference between supporting them through a hard season and being taken advantage of by someone who is not super healthy or doesn’t have the ability to ever give you what you need.  Even if your partner is going through a hard season of life, they should be able to recognize the support you are giving them and appreciate it, not take advantage of it.  If their struggles will likely be a long term thing, it’s important to consider how this will play out for you, your emotional and physical health and your relationship in the long term.

You should also feel comfortable to share your own struggles in a healthy relationship and should feel respected and heard.  Even if your partner is not in a place at the moment to be able to support you in the way you may hope, there should still be a willingness to hear you, try to be there for you and a respect for you and your feelings. A cold shoulder, ill-treatment or disregard for one’s time, energy and feelings can feel disrespectful.  Both people in a relationship should feel cared for, admired and safe to be vulnerable.

·         Good communication

Healthy relationships involve getting to know one another and understanding each other (or at least working towards understanding each other).  Two separate people will not think or act the same way all the time.  There will be disagreements and differences to navigate, even in a healthy relationship.  So it’s imperative that a healthy relationship involves communicating feelings, thoughts and expectations.  It involves being vulnerable about our own thoughts and feelings so the other person gets to know us and, in turn, also listening well so we can understand and get to know the other person.  Communication builds intimacy and understanding. These are healthy things that result from growing in relationship with someone.

·                  Honesty

Honesty has a lot to do with both respect and communication.  If you can’t trust what your partner says and there are repeated patterns of lying or withholding information, it will be very hard to grow together in true intimacy.  In a similar sense, if you don’t feel you can be yourself in a relationship, there is no opportunity to truly be known and loved for who you are. Look for someone you can trust. Relationships require both people to be trustworthy and honest. 

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Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list of what a healthy relationship looks like but perhaps it’s a start.  It is important that we value ourselves and our partners, challenging each other to work towards bettering ourselves and the ways we communicate and do relationships with others. 

If you think you may be in an unhealthy relationship but aren’t sure, or don’t know how to move forward in a current relationship, you are in good company. Many of us desire to improve our relationships and struggle with finding the right companion. I encourage you to reach out to a trusted friend, family member or mentor about your concerns or questions.  You deserve love and respect. As humans that have also been through our share of healthy and unhealthy relationships, our client advocates at Pregnancy Options are also available to talk with you about your relationships and how to move forward in life and love with confidence and hope. You are not alone.

What are some other characteristics of a healthy relationship? Comment below if you want to share some ideas with other readers.