Ahhh, a new year. The perfect opportunity to finally get that gym membership you’ve been putting off, to shed a few pounds and save for that car you’ve always wanted. A new chance to reinvent yourself, to change your style, make a career change or to give up alcohol once and for all. Only to find yourself in the middle of January feeling deflated, downtrodden and completely restricted by the resolutions you seem to give yourself every year. We’ve all been there and it’s no wonder, given the ‘new year, new me’ rhetoric we’re all blasted with from the media outlets and brands wanting to sell us the ideal.
Quite often, January is a time where we are all shamed for the hideous amount of chocolate we ate throughout December, with discounted annual gym memberships and home workout DVDs being shoved down our throats. We’re told that we didn’t quite fit the mould throughout 2017, but 2018 could be different. This could be your year to shine – the year you get the ultimate ‘revenge body’ on that ex who still has a place in your heart, or the year you finally get your dream job or move to a new city.
Quite frankly, we’re putting ourselves under an immense amount of pressure to reinvent. I see the end of the year as a perfect opportunity to reflect. To look back over one’s achievements and shortcomings throughout the year and to look back at previous years for a bit of perspective. We all make mistakes and it’s far more productive to accept where we’ve made bad decisions, to learn from it and to box it off as experience. Don’t self-deprecate or spend too much time focusing on it.
For 2018, I’d like to propose two alternative challenges: to cry more and to detox your digital life.
Recent Ditch the Label research found that the majority of us have negative attitudes towards crying. In addition, the analysis of over 12-million online conversations found that the measurable lack of emotional openness we have within society is having a clear and detrimental impact upon our mental health; leading to surges in depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia and eating disorders – amongst others.
The notion that it isn’t okay to cry is a dangerous one. Our culture of ‘stiff upper lip’, discourages the natural and healthy ways in which negative emotion must be processed. This is an issue that affects us all, but disproportionately more so men – leading to a stoic masculine culture, where men are encouraged to use violence and aggression as a way of coping with negative emotions.
Acknowledging negative emotions and dealing with them through talking, crying and exercise, for example, is an important fact of life. Good and bad happens to us all and it’s okay to have a sulk now and again, so give yourself the space to do so. The people who are seemingly happy all the time are lying. It isn’t normal or healthy to be happy all of the time and it’s okay to have a bit of a cry sometimes. We should be giving people the space and encouragement to process emotions in healthier ways.
Aside from a lack of crying, one of the biggest trends affecting mental health at the moment is social media. It is clear that the constant bombardment of seemingly perfect lifestyles is having a negative impact upon mental health, and particularly of younger generations who are not necessarily equipped with the critical skills to negotiate between fact and fiction when it comes to heavily edited and filtered within an inch-of-their-lives Instagram snaps.
The subliminal message is clear: everybody is having more fun than you; their lives are better and your lifestyle sucks. What people often fail to recognise is the fact that the content people post online is purely augmented – most of us admit to only sharing the positive things on social media, seldom shining light upon the negatives.
Throughout 2018, be aware of the fact that people only show what they want you to see online – and some of it is completely made up or taken out of context. If you’re leaving your favourite social network feeling inferior or bad about yourself – it’s time for a digital detox. And no, I don’t mean switching it off, I mean taking the time to unfollow the profiles and people who you once considered ‘aspirational’ and recognise that they are selling you an unrealistic ideal and it’s affecting how you feel about yourself.
This blog is part of HuffPost UK’s 12 days of Christmas series. From 20 December we will bring you blogs and vlogs from individuals at the centre of some of 2017′s biggest news stories. They will reflect on the past 12 months and also look forward to new year. To find out more follow our hashtag #HuffPost12Days or visit our series page.