For Resolution Success, Focus on Joy - Not Deprivation

Most of us approach resolutions as something that requires discipline, something that we have to push ourselves through. Here's how one player is upping her chances of success by flipping the script.

I chose two pretty hefty (for me) New Year’s resolutions: one was to do Whole30, the clean eating program, for January, and the other was to train for and run a half marathon in May.

It would be pretty easy for me to focus on how these things are hard, and in the past, both eating healthily and training at the gym have made me grumpy. I’d think about the pizza I want, or how much I just want to curl up in a blanket and read a book—and then immediately feel like I’m lacking something.

But this year, I challenged myself to take on a different attitude: I challenged myself to tackle these resolutions for the joy of them. I didn’t want to spend January complaining, and so I’ve been trying to notice the great things about my new choices. This doesn’t mean every moment is easy, but it really does mean that I feel like it’s an honor to be able to live this way.

Where I Find My Resolution Joy

For instance, instead of focusing on the many sugary or alcoholic drinks I have given up, I’ve really been enjoying the lightness of drinking sparkling water or black coffee – they never give me that rotten-stomach feeling I get from sugary soda, so I’ve been savoring every moment with these drinks.

Instead of being grumpy about tired muscles, I’ve been focusing on how well I’ve been sleeping, how much my thirsty body loves cups of water and water-filled salad veggies, and the strides I’m making toward my goals – adding a half a mile to a run that I couldn’t have done last year is so invigorating.

I also love that I’ve relieved myself of some mental fatigue—I made the decision one time, right at the beginning of the year, that I’m going to follow the Whole30 diet and exercise frequently to get into half-marathon shape, so I’ve given up having to decide again and again. I don’t want to constantly have the “option” of cheating or quitting. I am just continuing on something I’ve already chosen.

This resolve, this lack of decisions, has actually made me a lot happier – last month, I struggled when faced with unhealthy food, and I beat myself up for giving in. By filling my house and my work lunchbox with only foods that nourish me, I’ve cut out the dithering, the bad decisions, and the guilt – I’m left with food that is surprisingly satisfying too.

I made some meatballs last night with shreds of sweet potato in them, and I swear, I’ve never enjoyed something so much! Being hungry after a workout and creating a surprising taste combination gets new meaning when I cannot order take-out or cook something cheesy to temporarily satisfy me.

I feel the same way about sweetness: I never would have sought out apples and oranges before for their sweetness, but with no added sugar in my diet, those two are sending all kinds of sugar happiness to my mind lately. It also doesn’t take as much to make me happy, which is pretty thrilling.

I’m not saying that all people should pick these two interventions; you know your body, your cravings, and your joy. I’m saying pick something that, by becoming your new “normal,” gives you more joy than before. Those are the kinds of resolutions that it is a pleasure to stick with.

Make it WayBetter

How can you reframe any resolutions you’ve made in ways that emphasize how good they make you feel or how positive you feel about the future outcomes? It will make the resolution easier to keep and give you joy on the journey.