The Case Against New Year's Resolutions
On finding momentum and making gains. Plus, a show, book and podcast about transformation.
When I was in the hospital, I found myself using the word “momentum” a lot. In my final week, the morale around me shifted, threatening to regress my progress. And so I discharged myself out of fear, fear of losing my momentum.
The next day I checked my horoscope. One word stood out above the rest—momentum. I took it as a sign that I made the right choice—discharging myself from the hospital enabled me to maintain my positive momentum; prevented my momentum from swinging in the other direction.
A couple nights ago in restorative yoga, the instructor announces the theme of the session…you guessed it—momentum. She asks us to contemplate how positive momentum propels us toward improvement and negative momentum causes us to regress. As we lie on the floor, our bodies held by bolsters and blocks, I feel the passing streetcar rattle the ground beneath me—the instructor asks us to find momentum in stillness.
What an idea—momentum in stillness. It’s exactly what I had in the hospital. While the word “momentum” conjures the image of movement, it’s ironically been the periods of slowing down that I’ve found positive momentum. It’s when I’ve stopped moving completely, when my life has ground to a halt, that I’ve gained the most momentum.
I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions—self-betterment is something I work on year-round. But over the past few years, my addiction to improving productivity and performance has ironically created negative momentum. While career success may look like positive momentum, for me, it’s negative, because it’s come at the expense of my health. Negative momentum disguised as positive momentum has kept me trapped in a perpetual burnout cycle.
The thing about momentum is it propels itself. Like a snowball that keeps packing on layers of snow, gaining speed and size as it rolls down a slippery slope, it becomes increasingly difficult to reverse the longer it moves in one direction. Over the past year, I’ve been trying to halt my negative momentum, and it’s only in recent weeks that I’ve been able to turn it around. My health has become my priority and through a lot of determination, discomfort and sacrifice, I’ve gained 20 pounds of strength. While most people would view gaining weight as negative momentum, I see it as positive for it’s forced me to embrace slowness and rest.
Between my apartment renovation and physical transformation, 2021 has been a year of achieving resolutions, even if I never explicitly stated them as goals. The great irony is that I’ve undergone such major transformation amidst a year of stillness. For most of us, the pandemic has made the past two years feel like life’s been put on pause. But as I head into 2022 in my new, well-rested body (if you know me you know I’ve struggled with insomnia for years), in my revamped space, it’s clear to me that the pandemic didn’t halt my life at all.
Even when life feels stagnant, there is momentum building behind the scenes. Whether it’s positive or negative momentum depends on you; your priorities and values. Rather than make resolutions—lofty aspirations that typically do little more than make us feel inadequate—perhaps try noticing the momentum in your life. What have you been moving towards or away from over the past year? Where is that momentum taking you?
Instead of setting goal-posts, perhaps we’re more likely to make meaningful, lasting change by focusing on momentum, taking baby steps in a positive direction, little movements day-by-day that over time pick up speed and size, until one day you’ve reached, perhaps even exceeded, an image of your life you didn’t even know you wanted.
Even before the rise of coronasomnia, over one third of American’s struggled with their sleep. As we head into the new year, sleep is sure to be at the top of our new year resolutions. And with omicron on the rise, it’s never been a more crucial time to get some shut-eye.
I’ve tried countless products, but lately I’ve been sleeping with a weighted sleep mask and pillow that feels like a big hug. Before bed I’m drinking a steaming mushroom elixir and snacking on melatonin-infused chocolate, while sleepy scents waft from my portable diffuser (both Canadian brands). My white noise machine lull me to sleep, and in the morning, I rely on my Oura ring to give me the details on my slumber.
Another resolution for the new year? To travel more. I’m itching to get back on the road, especially somewhere warm. But in the meantime, I’m dressing like I’m about to embark on an arctic exploration, even if I’m only walking a couple blocks in the city.
The key to staying warm? Layers, especially ones that regulate temperature and recycle my body’s energy—like this breathable base layer, these moisture-wicking leggings and this travel uniform. A light, packable down coat and stylish fleece covers everything up while my feet stay warm and dry in wool sneakers and comfy winter boots.
The cover of The Atmospherians looks like an Instagram post—fitting given the protagonist, Sasha, is a wellness influencer who gets cancelled after a troll blames her for his suicide. Shortly after her 29th birthday, she teams up with an old friend Dyson—who she used to binge and vomit with as a teenager —to create a wellness retreat that doubles as a mindfulness cult. They call it “The Atmosphere,” and recruit 12 middle-aged white men to be reformed.
Landing somewhere between Fight Club and Squid Game, author Alex McElroy’s satirical look at toxic masculinity, eating disorders and wellness feels fitting for the times. I started reading it while I was institutionalized—as an examination of herd mentality it felt like just the escapist novel I needed—but with such a suspenseful plot, I haven’t been able to stop reading it since.
💁♀️ Some Gen Zers and millennials aren’t waiting for the new year to better themselves.
✈️ Others are looking to travel for self-improvement.
📆 Maybe 2021 is the year to forget about New Year’s resolutions altogether.
“‘We love a transformation — especially linked to failure,’ says Julie Graves Krishnaswami, head of research instruction at Yale Law School and resolution skeptic. ‘We love it when celebrities or, you know, people in the world do something really horrible and then they redeem themselves.’ So long as we perform the intent to do better, it’s almost as though we already have.”
🥂 I’ve shared this story, before but it’s one of the best essays on transformation I read this year so I’m sharing it again.
🏋🏻♀️ Please don’t start working out to compensate for what you ate over the holidays.
“Exercise is not punishment, and eating is not a punishable offense. To add to that: your body does not have a moral value. It is valuable and worth reveling in because it is your home.” - Anne Helen Petersen.
😴 Maybe you’re better off embracing your insomnia.
🎄 For a laugh, here are this year’s top holiday trends.
We’re not supposed to call it a reboot. So in line with this week’s theme of transformation and reinvention, I’ll call it a reincarnation. And just like that… the ladies of Sex And The City are back—older, wiser, and fashionable as ever (at least in the wardrobe department).
Less fashionable? Their social consciousness. Critiqued for being sexist and racially homogeneous, the series is using the latest season to resolve the woes of its past. Miranda strives to be woke, even when she bridges on Karen-like, while Carrie does her best to stay relevant as a sex expert in an increasingly gender fluid and sexually liberated world.
After two disappointing movies, I couldn’t help but wonder—could a television remake possibly live up to the hype? Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for watching boomers on screen or that the show attempts to tackle one of my favourite topics—grief—but I have to say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. At the heart of this season is the theme of change, and as I undergo my own internal and external transformation, I love watching Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte do the same.
I’ve been thinking a lot about recovery lately, how everyone’s idea of it is different. So naturally I loved This American Life’s deep-dive on the topic. From physical paralysis to recovering from an eating disorder to post-pandemic recovery in the form of hot vax summer—this three-part episode dishes up three unique recovery stories.
I particularly loved Susan Burton’s discussion about her own eating disorder (her memoir Empty is a must-read).
“One afternoon this spring, my husband made cookies. I took one from the cooling rack, and I ate it with him and our 16-year-old son.
Maybe that sounds like a small thing. I have to curb that impulse to tell you how small these things are, because with an eating disorder how you relate to food connects to and disrupts how you relate to everyone in your life.
Eating something sweet at that time of day—for me, that's not nothing. That happens alone, in secret, because the pleasure is so intense. It cannot be seen. It cannot be shared. There will be no pleasure if it's shared.” - Susan Burton.
She’s getting a bit long so I’ll save the foods that changed me in 2021 for the next edition…