By Kathryn Yingst
Happy 2024! How did you celebrate this year? My family kept things pretty low key …a spirited game of Canasta was on our agenda this year, with a side of pineapple fried rice. We traditionally order take out food so that no one has to cook (and there are no dishes to clean up!).
With the advent of a new year, my first thought is always “How many weeks (months) will it take before I stop writing the prior year’s date on everything?!” My second thought usually drifts towards whether or not I should make some resolutions.
“Should” can be a loaded concept. I mean, sometimes “should” is straightforward and clear, like “We should make sure to brush our teeth daily.” Other times, the “shoulds” feel obligatory: “I should really join a gym and get in better shape.” Friends, if our feet haven’t crossed the threshold of Planet Fitness in thirty years, maybe the gym isn’t our jam!
Where does the idea of resolutions come from, and is there perhaps an approach to them that better serves us? Is there a way to turn “shoulds” into practices that we actually look forward to?
New Year resolutions are believed to have originated in 2000 B.C in ancient Babylon during the festival of Akitu. In this agriculture based culture, many people made resolutions to return borrowed farm equipment along with promises to pay their debts, as well as to renew their allegiance to their king. The Roman civilization later adopted the Babylonian tradition of resolutions, but the date shifted to January first with the Julian calendar.
The root of this tradition was based in practicality: tie up loose ends so your neighbors don’t hold grudges, and commit to living civilly within the broader community.
There is also the idea of reflecting upon the past year, as well as how we might approach the coming year. Fittingly, the month of January gets its name from the Roman god, Janus–a two faced god who looks backwards to reflect on the past as well as looking forward. Quite apropos!
But what about resolutions in modern times? Is it a tradition that helps to keep us focused on our goals, or do we end up on a guilt trip if/when we aren’t able to meet our own expectations? The answer might well be a mixture of our intentions, convictions, and perspective.
If my intention, for example, is to improve my health through exercise AND it’s something I truly want to achieve, then I can best set myself up for success by choosing an activity that I enjoy doing. I might hate lifting weights, but love dancing. Maybe my motivation to stay active increases when I have a workout buddy–someone to go on a walk with, or a sangha that I enjoy practicing yoga with each week. When we tap into the vibes that inspire us, we stay committed to our intention because we’re actually having fun!
We’re also more likely to reach our goals when we keep a realistic perspective. If I set out to go to the gym 7 days a week but I also have a full time job with an hour commute and am parenting three young children, there are a lot of variables that may make my best intentions unattainable: a sick child, a traffic jam, overtime hours, school activities… We could easily find ourselves frustrated. A more achievable goal might be going to the gym twice a week, walking during lunch hour frequently, and perhaps having an at home workout video or stationary bike to fall back on when other options fall through.
Similarly, if our intention is to improve our overall nutrition, taking smaller, achievable steps towards this goal can help us stay on track. This might look like focusing on a particular meal–like instead of skipping breakfast, we make ourselves a fruity protein smoothie in the morning. Or it could be that we’re looking to add more fresh veggies into our diet, so we choose a new vegetable to try each week (or maybe we give meatless Mondays a whirl). If our goal is to better manage a sweet tooth, we might substitute cut up fruit for our usual after dinner dessert, but treat ourselves on the weekend.
If we’re looking to get others in our households on board with nutritional changes, inviting them to participate in the process can be really helpful. Asking a partner about dishes they might like to try, for example, or having a child help to put together a new recipe allows a sense of control rather than feeling like their usual menu has been ambushed.
Some of us may have intentions to improve our self care. Steps towards this goal might include:
- Setting aside 15 minutes every day to do something that nurtures us. Enjoying a soak in the bath with essential oils. Reading a new book with a cup of tea. Playing soothing or exhilarating music. Calling a friend.
- Scheduling regular social outings. Maybe meeting up once a month with a good friend. Having an occasional potluck with extended family or neighbors. Enjoying a date night with a partner.
- Letting ourselves rest. Simply giving ourselves permission to unwind, chill, breathe, think our own thoughts, and enjoy the gift of being.
Resolutions don’t serve us well if they feel like yet more additions to our already full To Do list. We are wise to be mindful of what (more) we ask of ourselves. Personally, I prefer thinking in terms of intentions because the language feels more fresh and not bogged down by the often unsuccessful modern day practice of keeping them.
What are my intentions?
Am I thinking in terms of “shoulds” or am I deeply invested?
Do I have a practical plan to achieve my goals?
What are you looking forward to as we begin 2024? We welcome your thoughts (and tips!), and we are here to support you along the way.
Happy New Year from all of us at Quinn Family Health!
QFH Staff Resolutions/Intentions
Rachel: I don’t usually make Resolutions. I often pick a “Word of the Year” and keep that word in the forefront of my mind from day to day. This year my word is “Breathe.” However, I did make one tiny, attainable resolution this year! My parents gave us a lovely cast-iron Dutch Oven as a Christmas gift. I have resolved to make more soups! I love soup, especially on a cold, winter night, or during a snowstorm…in a big mug, it’s so warm and comforting. Soup is a whole meal in one pot, and can be packed full of veggies you might not normally coordinate into your Meal Plan.
Dr. Quinn: I plan to focus on fun! Being a part of uplifting activities, checking out new places to visit, spending time with friends who keep me laughing… Also, taking moments to experience gratitude.
Kathryn: My intention is to check in with myself more often…to take time each day to pause. It’s easy for me to get caught up in responsibilities, so I want to also make sure that I nurture myself, too.
QFH STAFF Recipe FAVORITES
Chicken Butternut Squash Soup (from Rachel)
1 lb chicken breast, cooked (Time saver: use rotisserie chicken)
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced into bite-sized chunks, about 3 cups worth (more if you love it!)
2 tsp olive or avocado oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 package/bag of fresh baby spinach or kale — if using kale, give it a rough chop
1.5 large carton (or 6 cups homemade) chicken bone broth
1-2 bay leaves
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme — OR — 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
salt & pepper, to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon — OR — 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
- Set burner temp to low-med, and wait for the Dutch oven to heat.
- Add oil to the Dutch oven, followed by onion, garlic and celery. While stirring, cook until aromatic
- Add butternut squash and cooked chicken, stir to coat.
- Add broth, bay leaves, thyme and salt and pepper. Turn down low, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Add spinach and/or kale. Add more salt and pepper if needed, add lemon juice to brighten.
- Serve when spinach/kale is wilted and done.
(wellplated.com, from Nancy)
“An easy, healthy ground beef taco skillet made with rice, beans, veggies, and your favorite Mexican flavors. A fast family favorite that cooks in one pan for easy clean up!”
Slow Cooker Stuffed Cabbage “Un-Rolls”
(Katie Kimball @ kitchenstewardship.com, from Nancy)
“I present to you, the super simple, slow cooker version of “Stuffed Cabbage Rolls…”