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Why Resolutions Fail and What to Do Instead – The 2020s Edition

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Before you dive into any major life changes, please take the time to find out why resolutions fail and what to do instead, and not just because resolutions tend to fail, but because we are living in the 2020s. The onslaught of messaging around changing habits for health might not be as helpful as you think, and in fact could take you down a path of harming your health and well-being.

After the difficulties I’ve had with my own health, I’ve got some tips for you about how to start off 2024 or any other year of the 2020s in a way that nourishes you without the pressure and damage typical resolutions can do to your body, brain, self-esteem and overall wellness.

If you’ve made New Year’s resolutions, or you’re about to make some big plans to improve your health, please read this post, so you can change your life safely and effectively. Most importantly, please check your health thoroughly before starting to exercise or exercising more. Here’s why.

Exercise can bring on long COVID or make it worse if you already have it.

Currently, If you’ve had COVID-19 recently or you have it now, it’s best to rest your brain and body for as long as possible, at least 6-8 weeks if you can, to try to avoid long COVID. By the way, 1/13 in Ontario (1/20 in Canada) had COVID-19 from December 16-29, 2023 and that estimate was made by COVID-19 Resources Canada before everyone got together for the holidays.

I have a light version of long COVID since 2020, affecting several organs and systems. For about a month after an omicron infection that worsened my long COVID, I could barely walk, talk or think, even with tons of rest. 2 months after that, I went for my first short walk and it just took me 2 weeks to recover from the pain and fatigue. That’s just one of the many symptoms.

According to Long COVID: major findings, mechanisms and recommendations by Eric Topol in nature.com, “exercise is harmful for patients with long COVID who have ME/CFS or postexertional  malaise and should not be used as a treatment; one study of people with long COVID noted that physical activity worsened the condition of 75% of patients, and less than 1% saw improvement.” The study also mentions that long COVID has over 200 symptoms, and some, including neurological and cognitive, can be delayed by a month to a year after the initial infection.

Statistics Canada’s study released December 8, 2023 shows that “About 3.5 million Canadian adults reported experiencing long-term symptoms following a COVID-19 infection; 2.1 million reported they were still experiencing those symptoms as of June 2023. Almost half of those still experiencing symptoms reported they have not seen any improvement in symptoms over time.” Also, “1 in 9 Canadian adults have experienced long-term COVID-19 symptoms; most continue to experience symptoms.” It’s not as rare as you may think.

The general rule for protecting yourself from getting or worsening long COVID is to not get any more COVID and to rest your brain and body and abstain from activity for at least 6-8 weeks after your initial infection. Definitely DON’T start a new exercise regimen if you have or just had COVID-19.

New Year’s Resolutions rarely work. Here’s why:

Peer Pressure. New Year’s resolutions are based on peer pressure, which is based our innate need to fit in and belong. Quitting an addiction or forming a new habit to please someone else or some societal ideal rarely sticks, and if it does, it creates resentment. Think about it. If you are only doing something due to peer pressure, will you continue if that peer pressure disappears?

Momentum Loss and Shame. By mid-January or February, the novelty has worn off – not just for you but anyone else you know – and so that peer pressure goes away, you have fallen back into your usual routine and you lose momentum on fulfilling your resolutions. Without the collective push in December and January hitting your shame buttons and the peer pressure to keep you going, resolutions quickly become irrelevant.

No Solid Plan. Without a plan to keep you on  track, you’ve got nothing to stop self-sabotage. The New Year can get you all excited about improving your life but that excitement needs to be paired with aligned actions and it needs to be aligned with YOU and what you truly desire.

You might not be ready. You’ve got to be ready to take the action steps required to achieve whatever goals, intentions or resolutions you declare to the Universe (or to your friends on New Year’s Eve). You also need to be ready to recognize and handle self-sabotage as it shows up. A lot can get in the way, like trauma, grief or lack of support and resources. If you’re not ready, you set yourself up for failure, which is what most people do. Then you crash and feel even worse about yourself than before.

How To Safely Create the Best Possible Year in the 2020s:

Decide on What You Really Want. Again, don’t let peer pressure decide for you. Just because your girlfriend is quitting smoking or losing weight doesn’t mean you need to do it. Can you feel the desire welling up in your body for whatever your goal is? Can you feel passion rising up within you, even in the midst of fear about achieving your goal or creating your life in a new way? THAT is how you KNOW that you really truly desire something. You need to feel that passion, energy and drive inside you – and it might be buried and you  might need to dig it out and light up that flame again – but you need that. Truth is, that’s Source energy – life force – and we all have it but are not always tapped into it.

Your Why. What’s your why for what you want to change, improve or start anew? Make sure it’s YOUR why and not your mother’s or your boyfriend’s or whoever else’s because it’s YOU who has to face the challenges, take the actions and live your life. So what do YOU want and WHY do you want it?

Make a Manageable Commitment. Intentions are an awesome start. Commitment is what gets shit done. That includes a commitment to protecting your health the best you can while making life changes. What are you actually ready to commit to for the year, or even just for this week? Everyone goes overboard with the “new year new you” spiel. Commit to creating what you want and make it manageable. If you try to do too much, it’s too easy to give up.

Your Aligned Action Plan. What actions are you going to take and when? Get it into your calendar or set some alarms on your phone. Create some accountability via a mentor or trusted friend.

Get Ready! Be Prepared to Be Uncomfortable. True change means you’re going to have to do things differently and you’re going to bump up against resistance, fears and doubt. If that’s not happening, then you’re still in your comfort zone and not really creating true change. When you already know in advance what might come up for you, how your body might respond, or what your personal brand of self-sabotage looks like, you can stay in the discomfort longer and get through whatever comes up more easily. If you don’t get ready, the parts of you that freak out will pull you off course, which is what so often happens with New Year’s resolutions. If you take the time you need to truly get ready for the changes to come, and you take the other steps here, you have a fantastic chance of easing that transition or forming that new habit.

Create Daily Practices About What You Want and Your Why. If you keep telling yourself and your brain what you want and why you want it, you’re priming the pump of life force energy flowing from the Universe to you. That creates more passion and creativity within you, and it helps you to remember to pay attention so you don’t miss the memo when your requests to the Universe/Source/God/Goddess/your Higher Self are fulfilled. Remind yourself often of who you are, where you’re going, and how you plan to interrupt old patterns and habits.

By the way… THIS – creating a daily practice – can help you prepare to be with the discomfort, plus it can help you decrease the self-sabotage and propel you toward what you really want to experience and create.

Please don’t forget, if you have or have recently had COVID or long COVID, take it easy! You need rest far more than you need to twist yourself into a pretzel trying to stick to resolutions.



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About Brenda MacIntyre

About Brenda MacIntyre

Known by her indigenous name Medicine Song Woman, Brenda MacIntyre has shared her evocative melodic voice and fusion of reggae, rap and indigenous hand drum healing music with appreciative audiences of 30 to 3,000 across North America. The Toronto-based Juno Award-winning singer has been featured nationally on MuchMusic, CTV, CP24, APTN and most recently, Global and the front page of the Toronto Star.

Powered by her grief from losing her son to murder in 2016, Brenda MacIntyre pours her soulful voice over a confluence of indigenous hand drum healing, soft rap and conscious roots reggae in her album “Picking Up the Pieces,” released in September 2019.

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