Get rid of the specifics. Instead, pick the things that matter to you! Usually, I enjoy setting New Year’s resolutions. It’s kind of a chance to let things go that aren’t helping me and maybe pick up a new thing that will make my life better. I hate to be stereotypical, but usually, my resolutions have to do with eating healthier, unplugging, or sleeping better. These have always been pretty simple things that I could control (even if the resolution only lasts until February…). But this year, the idea of New Year’s resolutions is just another thing that makes me feel different. For people like me with a chronic illness, we may not have the luxury to make the changes we want; and that can leave us feeling like we aren’t in control. I can’t just change my diet whenever I want; I sometimes NEED the distraction of my technology, and I’m already doing my best to sleep as much as I can. Still, despite the challenge of chronic illness, this year like every year, I asked myself, “In spite of my current circumstances, how can I make my life better?”
What I came up with is that resolutions don’t have to be so specific.
While forming my resolution, I came up with three categories I value greatly: happiness, kindness, and simplicity. I figured that my life could be better if I did something everyday to feel happier, kinder, and live more simply – whatever those things turn out to be within the realities of my condition!
For example, when going through a difficult time, no one expects you to be happy 24/7. Committing to a daily act of happiness helps me to combat negative feelings when they inevitably arise. But feeling happy doesn’t mean that you’re not still angry with your illness, or sad about what you may be missing out on. It’s not like you say, “This year I’m going to be happy!” But you say, “every day I’m going to do something that makes me happier.”
Maybe a better word is “appreciative.” Just thinking about the things I’m appreciative of can help shift my perspective to the positives. Personally, I feel most appreciative and thus happiest when I’m spending time with my family, friends, and pets. I love to take the dogs for a walk, cook dinner for my family, and go for a leisurely bike ride. When I’m doing these activities, I feel content.
Another thing about sickness is that it doesn’t have to deprive us of our kindness. Illness has a strange way of putting the spotlight on us, but doing something kind for someone else can help take the attention off of us, and bring it upon someone else who may appreciate it. Something I like to do to spread kindness is calling or writing a card to someone I care about, and telling them how much they mean to me. It only takes a few minutes, but creates an experience that leaves both of us feeling warm and gracious.
I’ve also come to the realization that part of my daily self-care comes from the idea that I become overwhelmed when there is too much going on around me. To me, simplicity includes saying no. I’ve learned that it feels great to turn my phone off for a little while, and let all those texts, emails, and social media notifications go unanswered. They’re still there when I’m ready to come back to them. If you feel like being alone, it is perfectly acceptable to express that to friends and family members. Quiet time can be hard to come by, but it is not impossible to make happen. To me, keeping it simple means doing what feels best to me in that moment. Prioritizing your needs is a valuable form of self-care. It’s something you can do every day, maybe in small ways, no matter your challenges.
With any of these actions aimed at happiness, gratitude, and simplicity, I find that the most significant part is doing everything with intention. I do these things because I MEAN to do these things, not just because I’m going through the motions. Mindfulness matters. When I perform tasks without consciously thinking about what I’m doing, I might as well not have done them at all because I can’t recall any of the important details. Just like any other resolution or goal, mindfulness takes commitment. With mindfulness and intention, no matter our current situations, I believe that we can all work toward goals that improve our lives.