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Gentle and Subtle Resolutions for 2021
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Gentle and Subtle Resolutions for 2021

Try small, simple and achievable goals

For 2021, local mental health professionals advise being gentle with yourself when creating the daily schedules and resolutions that often come with the beginning of the New Year. As many are feeling drained and defeated after a tumultuous 2020, making tiny, downsized resolutions can offer reassurance and hope as we embark on a new year.

“The year 2020 really highlighted that we can’t control what happens, but we can control how we respond, said therapist Marla Zometsky, manager of the Wellness, Health Promotion for Fairfax County. "We are resilient and we can learn how to adjust based on the changes that are presented to us. It is okay to grieve things that did not turn out how we wanted, we can grieve and move forward."

Create a routine by making a small change to one's day, advises Karina Guzman, Director of Wellness, Prevention and Education at Marymount University. "It might be helpful to create a simple daily routine or make uncomplicated new year resolutions focused on being present," she said. "Meditating, practicing gratitude and staying connected with our support networks like friends and family are some quick and free activities to incorporate. They can be done at your own pace and are easy to include into a daily routine long-term."

Simple daily routines are great for producing structure. “Most people thrive on having structure in their daily lives and find that it makes them feel more productive, which then helps their mood and feeling good about themselves,” said Bethesda therapist Carol Barnaby, LCSW. “A great way to add structure is to think about what your goals and responsibilities for yourself are daily. Then make a plan for your day that includes these goals. Make sure the goals are small and specific.”

Some have created broad and generalized goals like getting fit in 2021, but Zometsky suggests starting with a purposeful, meaningful and achievable goal. "Instead of focusing on a resolution, which is something that typically focuses on what is lacking, in 2021, perhaps set an intention," she said. "An intention helps us to focus and it is mindful that we are on a journey.

“2020 may have been the most challenging year many of us have experienced,” said “As we plan for this brand new year, perhaps the best resolutions won’t generate additional stress, but help us focus on positive self-care, reducing stressors and nurturing human connections,” said therapist Tara Wooldridge, LCSW of Arlington County Government. “Routines and rituals can provide comfort. Scheduled physical exercise, mindfulness, meditation, quiet, reflective moments, support groups, and sharing with others are all ways to foster well-being. Choose what feels right for you and follow through. Our mental and physical health must remain priorities as we battle the ongoing global pandemic.”

What do you aim to do more of this year? Intentions can give you a sense of purpose, and focuses on what is motivating you. Maybe your intention is to slow down or to continue to form deeper and meaningful relationships? Maybe your intention is to be more present in certain situations, or be more holistic in your health and wellbeing. Setting an intention will help you...identify your actions and navigate your response when faced with adversity."

For those who've created broad and generalized goals like getting fit in 2021, Zometsky suggests replacing those with purposeful, meaningful and achievable goals. "Instead of focusing on a resolution, which is something that typically focuses on what is lacking, in 2021, perhaps set an intention," she said. " An intention helps us to focus and it is mindful that we are on a journey. What do you aim to do more of this year? Intentions can give you a sense of purpose, and focuses on what is motivating you. Maybe your intention is to slow down or to continue to form deeper and meaningful relationships? Maybe your intention is to be more present in certain situations, or be more holistic in your health and wellbeing. Setting an intention will help you...identify your actions and navigate your response when faced with adversity."

Practical resolutions might feel comforting in this year of uncertainty, says psychologist Jerome Short, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology at George Mason University. "Try small changes, evaluate, adjust, and praise yourself for improvements, he said. "It may help to have a daily schedule, usual healthy meals and exercises, and specific times alone and with others.

Paring down ambitious resolutions to those that are practical can feel satisfying this year, suggests Short. "Declutter your house, wear a basic wardrobe, and eat simple meals. Share work and household tasks with others," he said. "Evaluate when you work most efficiently and what energizes you. Make sure you have time for breaks and enjoy your five senses with favorite sights, sounds, foods, and hugs".