When we start a new year, we often feel a whole lot of pressure. After all, we’ve “indulged” for the past few months or weeks. We’ve “given in” to our crazy cravings, and eaten terrible things like cookies and cake. And now it’s time to get serious. It’s time to “get back on track,” get into the gym, “eat clean,” count calories and keep ourselves “accountable.” It’s time to work off the weight we likely gained during the holidays, when we were being “bad” and “naughty,” when we were left to our own—devious and deplorable—devices.

When we start a new year, we also often feel the pressure to set goals. Big goals. The goals. Be successful. Be productive. Stop wasting time. Slow down. Ramp up. Become a newer, shinier, slimmer, stronger, better—the best!!—version of ourselves. Conduct some kind of overhaul: New year, new you.

Margarita TartakovskyMargarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.

Editor:  Saad Shaheed

After all, this is what we see, hear and read. And it seems like we see, hear and read it everywhere. Everywhere. So we start believing that this is normal. That this is good and important and helpful. And we start believing that we should do these things. We start believing that we’re major messes, and we need to be cleaned up and whipped into (smaller) shape.

Instead, stop for a moment. Put down the magazine. Close your browser. Shut out the noise. Get quiet with yourself. And ask: What do I really need? What do I need to feel the way I’d like to feel? What do I want my days to look like? How do I want to spend my time? What do I want to direct my attention and energy to? What inspires me? What contributes to my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being? What do I look forward to every morning? Every night? Do I really need to make any kind of changes right now? If so, what changes truly honor me and my heart? What changes am I excited about? What do satisfaction and fulfillment look like for me?

These questions may help you arrive at meaningful answers—instead of setting empty resolutions or following external rules or trends or searching for some secret to “transform” your body, which only makes you miserable (and, interestingly, not very healthy). Because here’s the real problem with a lot of resolutions: They originate from a negative, punitive place.

That is, we’ve eaten too much, we believe, so we put ourselves on some detox diet and renew our membership to the gym we really can’t stand. We start drinking green juice (and we hate green juice). We cut our calories, all the while convincing ourselves that we aren’t hungry (but oh we are; we are hungry for food and so many other things we believe we don’t deserve to savor). Or all the while convincing ourselves that we’ll never eat dessert (because it’s not as though we like chocolate, anyway, right?). We worry that we wasted too much time in 2016, that we weren’t efficient enough, and so we vow to get up earlier and work harder and get more done.

Courtesy: PsychCentral

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