Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Where art thou summer? : Surviving the winter semester with Seasonal Affective Disorder

This piece was written for a newsletter for the Memorial University student group MUN Minds and is reproduced here on my blog.

I live on a rock in the frigid North Atlantic Ocean. If you’re currently attending Memorial University and reading this newsletter, so do you. Having lived most of my life in Newfoundland and Labrador, you get comfortable with winter. You may even learn to embrace it. But for some of us, the symptoms of our seasonal affective disorder are a daunting, yearly, inevitable reality.

I’m a current graduate student in my ninth year of post-secondary education. I’m currently working on my Master of Gender Studies degree. I also have anxiety-depression. I deliberately hyphenate those words because, for me, they are so linked and intertwined they are one illness. My anxiety is the more prevalent, manifest part of my situation, and the depression is the latent part. But it’s still there. I just don’t seem or act much like a depressed person, in the way many people imagine.

Most of us have probably experienced something that feels like the “winter blues.” The days get shorter, the darkness comes early, and it is perpetually cold. We may feel restricted by the snow and deprived of the sun. Seasonal affective disorder, as I understand it, is a subtype of major depression.

Maybe you will only experience symptoms related to your seasonal depression, or maybe you experience elements of depression year-round that are exacerbated with the seasonal change. This is the case for me.

In hindsight, I recall growing up and dreading the winter with a fear bordering on superstition. While I was diagnosed with anxiety-depression at a very young age, no one really talked to me about how I may experience my symptoms differently at different times. Maybe, in this province, we come to accept or expect a certain amount of winter sadness and lethargy. Looking back now, I can see that many of my mood issues were aggravated in the winter, especially starting in January. I always disliked January – the hype of Christmas is over and winter is getting into full swing. Winter 2014, a.k.a the Neverending Story, was a particularly harsh one. Growing plants is an example of something that makes me happy. Here’s how my plants were doing last winter:

I don't think this is how photosynthesis works.
I felt so trapped, as though I was suffocating in the snow. I started plotting all the places I could move away to in order to never see snow again. I know a lot of people felt this way.

It’s important to note, though, that not all seasonal affective disorders are winter-based, and some people may experience the symptoms of seasonal depression in the summer.

So, being a long-time student and seasonally affected, how did I handle winter semesters? It was often tough, especially in my undergrad. Had I been fully cognizant of my seasonal issues when I first started university, I may have planned better supports – perhaps a lighter course load in the winters, or a more dedicated plan to attend counselling.

Alas, I suffered through many challenging winter semesters with little to no extra empathy for myself. I was late for so many morning classes because I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Too cold, too tired. And I didn’t tell anyone who I should have, such as, perhaps, some professors. Again, I’m in year nine of university now. That’s a lot of winter semesters.

By contrast, I often took summer courses – while working full-time – and found myself to be so much more capable.

We have to get to know our own bodies and minds and understand how to support ourselves through different periods.

I say bodies because, regardless of the emphasis on “minds” in mental health, I will emphatically argue the interconnectedness between mind and body and how integral it is to look at how your body (as a result of your brain) is coping. One of the real challenges of my seasonal affective disorder is sleepiness. I am so tired! Of course, because one of the aspects of my anxiety is a fear of failure and not accomplishing things, I’m pretty much always tired because I’m always trying to juggle a thousand things. Slowing down may not be an option – some people with anxiety-depression are go-go-go because they are terrified of stopping.

That’s what makes it hard to understand symptoms versus causes. Is my depression making me exhausted? Am I exhausted because I should be because I’ve taken on too much to alleviate my anxiety? I also have b12 and iron deficiencies, the symptoms of which can include fatigue and low mood. GREAT. THANKS BODY.

This is all a way of saying that, while it can be so hard to understand which aspect of our mind/body is causing each symptom, we can still find ways to cope with the symptoms while pursuing our studies in non-ideal seasons. Here are some ideas if you think you’re coping with seasonal affective:

Make sleep a big priority. It’s amazing what a good night of sleep can do. Many students underestimate this – we have papers to write, exams to study for, no time to sleep! I was like this. I thought, “sleep is for the weak” and all the other foolishness we tell ourselves to bolster our sleep-deprived bravado.

Once I started making sleep a priority – more important than getting work done or finishing reading that last article – my life improved a lot. When we deprive ourselves of sleep we can’t possibly be as well equipped to cope with the other challenges we may face while awake. If insomnia is an element of your depression, talk to a qualified professional about different options.

Exercise is a wonderful anti-depressant. Move your body when you can. It won’t simply cure all your problems, but it definitely helps.

Try to get fresh air and sunlight when you can. I love the outdoors, and during the winter I tend to retreat to my burrow and wait for it to be over, like a badger in a bomb shelter. This is not good! Whether it be taking a walk or trying to find winter activities to enjoy, you can train your brain to feel less apprehensive. This isn’t to say that getting over mental illness is as simple as being positive – um, no. But, for me, working on thinking of things I may enjoy about the winter has been therapeutic. You can also look into light therapy lamps and see if that might work for you.

As a student, strategize options to plan your courses around your better seasons. School is important, but make time for activities that make you really happy and excited, too. During a winter depression is NOT the time to cut back on things that give you joy. Also, go to the Counselling Centre. They are great.

Remember, summer will come back. I know last April when we had another snowstorm and I had to shovel out my unplowed cul-de-sac it didn’t feel like it ever would, but it came back.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Response to "Pathetic in Pink"

 This was originally a stream of consciousness Facebook post but I have reproduced it here.

NOTE: This is an image of the article that was circulated online - I
 did not make the highlights myself.

A lot of people are commenting on Robin McGrath’s bizarre column in the Northeast Avalon Times “Pathetic in Pink.” Here are some thoughts:

As you may know or assume, I am indeed against excessive reinforcement of gender norms for children. To me, telling a little girl she can’t play with “boy toys” or a little boy that he can’t play with “girl toys” is on the same continuum that found trans teen Leelah Alcorn’s parents forcing “conversion therapy” to try to make her live as the gender she was assigned at birth.

This is because, 1, I think kids should experiment with their gender identity and expression to find a gendered way of being in the world that suits them and feels right. 2, because playing with toys marketed towards one gender or the other shouldn’t even be imagined as experimentation – they’re toys! There is not necessarily a correlation between make-believe and play and gender identity.

I was assigned female at birth, I always played as a prince, soldier, knight, warrior as a kid, and I still identity as female. I played with medieval Legos and Barbies side by side. Let kids play with any toys but encourage them to not believe their assigned gender restricts their creativity and play.

Next, this column isn’t just suggesting the more liberal minded perspective that girls need not only play with Barbies and butterfly wings to be girls. It’s depicting the things long associated with femininity (for better or worse!) as inherently bad, lesser, “pathetic.”

This is a very misogynistic sentiment. Instead of criticizing the systems that invalidate or restrict femininity, that make it into something perceived to be lesser, she is attacking femininity and feminine expression itself.

As Julia Serano writes, “We must move beyond seeing femininity as helpless and dependent, or merely as masculinity's sidekick, and instead acknowledge that feminine expression exists of its own accord and brings its own rewards to those who naturally gravitate toward it.”

The mental illness / eating disorder shaming of Princess Diana is disgusting and hateful. People with mental illness, who have battled eating disorders, can't be good role models? Thanks for that.
You can dislike the social imperative to change hair colours and the fact that many people have taken on the hair colour “blonde” when few have it, in adulthood, “naturally.” But don’t shame blondes, least of all children who haven’t made a choice what hair colour to have!

I colour my hair blonde and started doing it at age 11. I’ve lived more than half my life with blonde hair. I guess I’m a “fake blonde” and it’s important to you that I know it.

Finally, as Kelly Rippa says, “some of us were born blonde, and some of us were born to be blonde.

Part 2

I had to write my initial reaction in a hurry, but would now like to further respond to some problematic elements of McGrath’s opinion piece.

Pink does not send the wrong message to small girls, as she suggests. Pink is a colour, a variety of shades on a spectrum that we have labeled pink. It is red + white together. Pink is nothing in and of itself. Perhaps she could make an argument that a sense of entitlement could be taught to children through princess make-believe, but I think that’s pretty weak too. I think, even as kids, most little girls know they are not princesses and probably quickly grow out of any desire to be. They also probably make-believe they are other characters, animals, and people just as much.

I also want to emphasize that, in my opinion, being open minded about gender and how children play isn’t about permitting the girl to play with cars and the boy to play with dolls – it’s moving beyond the gendered association with toys and forms of play altogether. My partner and I recently got our nephew toy food to put in his toy kitchen. Males use kitchens too, right? Break down the idea of forms of play and gender, and promote all genders to play with all or any toys, games, and imaginative scenarios. 

Yes, Robin McGrath, let’s not limit our girl children to thinking it’s pretty princess or bust, but let’s also not invalidate or belittle the fun and creative play of wings and a fairy wand. Also, boys play with wands too – have you heard of Harry Potter?

By vilifying pink, linked most superficially and yet pervasively to femininity, you’re vilifying femininity itself. We can be critical of gender norms and the social strictures that dictate and regulate “proper” expression of gender without denouncing feminine expression as inadequate, lesser, or wrong. That is just about the worst message I can think of sending to any feminine identified child.

I sense that underneath McGrath’s abrasive approach to this topic, there is a modicum of sense that could be elaborated upon. I sense that she worries that pink, princessy things may be harmful and teach girls that they are weak and reliant. But I also think she needs to update her “Princesses of Pop Culture” library to get a viable sense of what’s out there currently. 

There are many problematic elements in the character princesses of yesteryear – Ariel is willing to give up her voice and become mute to meet her prince, wtf? But look at all the role models that have come out in more recent Disney films, from Mulan (not that recent – 1998) to Brave and Frozen.

On a separate and yet intertwined thread, McGrath ridicules blondness. Now, the white, blonde haired and blue eyed people of the world hardly need an advocate and no, this isn’t “reverse racism.” It is, however, prejudicial and frankly nasty. Being a (fake) blond haired, (naturally) blue eyed woman I am used to the cultural concepts of bimbos and dumb blondes.

I don’t even entertain that nonsense, but I do have a certain amount of educational privilege that allows me to feel invincible to such stereotypes, and the verbal capacity to shut down anyone who tries to ridicule or provoke me in this terrain. Not everyone does. Whether you’re a little kid who can’t help having light hair, or an adult who is blonde or chose to be blonde with hair colour (she deliberately writes “the peroxide” to try to diminish and ridicule the choice of colouring one’s hair), you are not (necessarily) an attention craving narcissist. There is no correlation.

McGrath has a real hate on for blonde women. It’s a prime example of women against women sexism. But remember, anyone can be blonde; get out the peroxide - you can be blonde too!

I don’t know, but I imagine, on some level, McGrath considers herself a feminist. Degrading or invalidating femininity is not feminist.

Friday, January 16, 2015

I'm OK with Being an "Angry Feminist"

Anger gets a bad name. We live in a world that often equates anger with irrationality, lack of control, lack of restraint. We teach kids and adults alike to manage their anger and move past their anger. Calmness and emotionless have become over associated with being logical, educated, and diplomatic. We are a culture of post-Enlightenment rational subjects who have been taught that anger solves nothing.

This is sometimes, maybe often, true. Anger can be destructive and harmful. Most of us have probably witnessed anger problems in those around us, the kind of anger that is persistent, maybe without an identifiable, “valid” reason, and likely damaging to the person and those around them. We know anger can hurt both the angry and the angry-at.

But anger can also be useful, motivational, and I would argue, necessary, for social change.

Anger is often dismissed in social justice movements. 

Who hasn’t heard the pejorative “angry feminist” used to dismiss gender inequality and the work of feminism? 

Who, among the feminists reading this, hasn’t at some point feared being thought of as an angry feminist?

Well, I am a feminist and, sometimes, I get angry. Maybe that makes me an angry feminist. 
And that’s OK.

Believe it or not, I can be angry and level-headed, diplomatic, and rational at the same time. Anger does not necessarily eradicate rationality.

Women have a lot of valid things to be angry about. LGBTQ* people have a lot of valid things to be angry about. People of colour have a lot of valid things to be angry about. Anyone who has been marginalized or discriminated against because of systemic social injustice isn’t being “oversensitive” or “irrational” when they speak up, make calls to action, or feel anger.

Trying to make outspoken advocates for change feel ashamed or irrational for feeling angry is just another tactic of silencing, erasing, and controlling.

It’s not specifically this headline; this headline is just particularly raw and direct in portraying the crux of this horrendous story (and I think we should be forced to remember just how disgusting this act was). It’s everything to do with Rehtaeh (whose name we can now say once again after the revocation of the publication ban, as a direct result of much protest by many people and supporters, including her parents). It’s the fact that this happened, the fact that this perpetrator isn’t being treated as a criminal, but as an adolescent who made a mistake and now we’re supposed to feel bad for him.

I’m angry that I see more questioning of why she was drinking, why she didn’t leave the party, how she let this happen, than what, in society, has gone so wrong to make teen boys feel compelled to not only rape a drunk 15-year-old, but to photograph it and share it with others.

I don’t know if any word really encompasses how horrific this is. Sickening is a start.
Not just that it happened, not just that her life was made unbearable because of the shame of being a victim of a sex crime, but that she is gone now, and there is no tangible justice.

Maybe the “accused” will live the rest of his life in agony and remorse. Maybe he will never get over what he did. But our justice system isn’t designed based on the promise of remorse. There needs to be something better. If morality – or whatever you want to call the individual impulse to consider the humanity of other people – isn’t enough to keep sexual assault, rape, and online harassment from happening, then properly punish the perpetrators. Full stop.

I’m angry because, as a woman, I still have to convince some people that my brain is not controlled by my uterus. That I deserve respect and equality on the basis on my personhood. I’m angry that some think that if I defend women and denounce sexism it’s because I’m a woman, as opposed to a decent, thinking human. And yet, I have many privileges that others lack, of which I am fully aware.

Feminists are often faced with a desire for a calm, collected, palatable feminism – in which one critiques, but has to be ultimately fair, cool, and sensitive to the oppressors. I do this – a lot. I naturally usually take an approach to speaking and writing that is balanced and respectful. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be angry, or shouldn’t be angry, or that anger isn’t a part of my politics. 

Anger doesn’t make me “crazy.” Anger makes me committed and steadfast.

I’m angry about Jian Ghomeshi. I’m angry about the Dalhousie “gentlemen.” I’m angry about Rehtaeh’s rapist. I’m angry that Margaret Wente still writes a column. I’m angry about missing and murdered aboriginal women in this country. I’m angry about all the lives that are hurt or lost due to sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia.

What are you angry about today?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Get a grip! Margaret Wente says we're overreacting about the Dalhousie Dentistry students

I’m not biased against Margaret Wente. I just happen to find all of her writing equally disturbing.

It was mid December when news first broke about the Dalhousie dentistry Facebook group and misogynistic, hateful, rape fantasy jokes contained within (see my previous blog post here). Yesterday, news broke that 13 male, fourth-year dentistry students have been indefinitely suspended from clinical activities (ostensibly fairly crucial to their program and ultimate graduation).

Of course, it was only a matter of time before the oracle herself weighed in on the situation. Margaret Wente has spoken, and it turns out we all need to get a grip.

Normally I might contextualize Wente’s latest column in relation to her larger body of work, but Wente needs no introduction (least of all to Newfoundlanders). Most people are fairly familiar with her views from dismissing the legitimacy of rape culture on campus to intimating that student debt is a myth and all in our imaginations. As such, I didn’t expect to be enlightened by her contribution to the Dalhousie discussion. I also didn’t expect it to be quite so regressive. To call Wente a rape culture apologist is not an exaggeration.

First of all, her column’s title is “Dalhousie’s dental hysteria,” which elicited an “I can’t even” moment from me. OK, I will: The deliberate and calculated use of hysteria over, say, “uproar,” “furor,” “fuss,” is so Wente. Choose hysteria, a word with long and persistent associations with female (sexual) dysfunction, volatility, and emotional excess, to further belittle and invalidate the reactions of people (including women) who have been calling for action on these students.

You only need to read that title to know where the column is going, but here are some choice quotes.

Quote #1

“Stupid, juvenile and way out of line? Undoubtedly. Should there be serious consequences? Yes. But let’s get a grip. Such coarse talk is not atypical of young male group behaviour. It does not mean that they actually wanted to assault chloroformed women.”

This is an extremely disconcerting normalization of male sexual aggression. Because it is not atypical does not make it OK. In fact, it makes it more urgently a problem that needs to be addressed. I imagine Wente, the ethnographer, peering at a group of male students with binoculars through the bushes: “on the university campus, the dentistry students form a pack and butt heads to display dominance, as is typical of young male group behaviour.” 

The fact that young men (ones nearing completion of professional degrees, no less) talking to each other about women this way is considered typical, rather than outrageous, is a symptom of a much larger problem. Wente seems to have a lot of sympathy for the “poor saps” whose careers may be ruined and very little sympathy for the women who may have been the target (directly or indirectly) of their gentlemanly banter.

Quote #2

“So now they are the latest villains in the ‘rape culture’ witch hunt that has gripped universities across North America.”

1 – “Villains.” Deliberate word choice to show you think they’ve been unfairly vilified, and a whimsical word to show your lack of conviction in portraying them as having committed actual transgressions.
1 – Rape culture in scare quotes because it’s not real (see previous Wente treatises).
2 – Witch hunt. Yes. Equate rapists and sexual violence perpetrators (which are real) with the victims of the witch hunts (which we know was insane because witches weren’t real). Tell all the rape victims that persecuting rapists is akin to witch hunting.

In that one short sentence she has packed in so much flagrant disrespect for victims of sexual violence.

Quote #3

“[Joan Rush, professor of health law and ethics] blames white men, who still run most dental schools and professional associations, for the “culture of hatred and chauvinism.” Personally, I doubt dentistry is quite that bad. Besides, the men are in decline. Like pharmacy and veterinary medicine, the profession is experiencing a huge influx of women.”

Everyone – relax. Rape culture isn’t real, systemic misogyny isn’t a problem, and women have nothing to worry about, because Margaret Wente doubts dentistry is that bad. Of all the disciplines and faculties across the country, I’d say we have some fairly reliable evidence that dentistry is, or at least can be, that bad. 

Not that all male dental students are chauvinists or that Dalhousie is worse than any other school, not at all. But we know this gentlemen club existed, and run by Dalhousie dentistry students. 

Sadly, it could be a tiny glimpse into just how bad it is.

Also, womenfolk – fear not! Because we’ve made so many strides in the post-secondary system generally and professional schools, specifically, chauvinism is dead! We don’t need men to change and think and behave better, we don’t need them to respect us – we’ll just bulldoze them with our sheer numbers! We’ll fight harder for opportunities while they don’t have to face the burden of changing!

Wente thinks everyone has overreacted. I think they reacted – just the right amount.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A Self-Supportive Approach to Goal Setting and New Year's Resolutions

This post is going to take on a slightly different theme – I don’t just write about feminism, you know! While feminism is clearly a main organizing principle of this blogspace, personal wellness, psychology, and lifestyle are important topics I spend a lot of time reflecting (and sometimes pontificating!) on. How we organize our lives and personal goals says a lot about the society we live in. “We” here means people generally and, likely, women specifically. 

As a woman, many of my thoughts on personal wellness and self-care tie in with feminism, and my self-concept, as it relates to self-care and self-love, has absolutely been shaped over the last several years by my ever growing feminist politics.

So, another New Year has begun, and I want to talk about New Year’s resolutions.

To start, I’m not against aggressive goal-setting. From a young age, I’ve often been an aggressive goal setter when it comes to embarking on a new activity, plan, or aspiration. I’ve been described as a workaholic, an overachiever, and a perfectionist (Note: these three aforementioned terms are all problematic in different ways, and often deployed very thoughtlessly, but that’s a topic for another time).  I’m also impatient, so absolutely empathize with how hard it can be to play the long game. I deeply believe in setting personal convictions to constantly evaluate one’s self and one’s life. 

Overall, though, I have a pretty skeptical/pessimistic view of New Year’s resolutions as a cultural tradition. If the symbolism linked to a change of a calendar helps you to set goals, that’s awesome. For me, I find sweeping resolutions, “cold turkey” changes, and all-or-nothing promises to be harmful and poised to foster self-loathing. Here’s why.

For many women in the culture in which I live, a lot of resolutions are linked to bodies – eating habits and exercise practices. Much of this can be motivational, and much of it can be detrimental and serve to foster negative self-criticism. Self-criticism can be positive, but it can also be really bad when it leads to (or exacerbates) negative self-worth, mental illness, body dysmorphia - anything that has a negative impact on your outlook and your life.

When discussing goals and bodies, it can be tricky to differentiate between a healthy desire for improving something – whether that be fitness, stamina, or appearance – and perpetuating self-destructive standards and societal pressures. Desiring to look better is a valid goal – how we perceive our appearances is closely linked to self-esteem and positive self-body image. To want to look or feel beautiful is not anti-feminist or regressive. 

Denigrating women’s interests in fashion and beauty is the farthest thing from my own feminist praxis and would be wildly hypocritical. However, I think it’s important to think critically about how our personal desires and goals are often influenced by larger social structures and regimes.

It’s complicated! How then, as a woman who cares about her appearance (I love clothing, accessories, hair, make-up – I have a fashion blog!) and cares about her personal fitness (grew up very athletic, nine years in the Canadian cadet movement, avid enjoyer of outdoor activities), do I navigate my own desire and goal to maintain a level of fitness, to improve my fitness from its current level, and to ensure I’m eating more healthfully, without uncritically buying in to the strictures of a culture that teaches women that castigating herself for looking fat, constantly assuming a flattering reflection must be the devilry of a “skinny mirror,” and feeling guilt about food, is normal.

This should not be normal.

I’m no personal trainer, but as someone who fears failing at her own goals and someone who has made a hobby study of psychology and “self-help,” here are some ideas for self-supportive goals:

1. Instead of big resolutions, focus on small, daily commitments.

I used to love McDonald’s. Growing up being able to eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight – I did just that. I remember in my undergrad, my friend and I going to one McDonald’s on our drive home from university with a buy one, get one coupon for McChickens. Then, in a different community, we went again to redeem another coupon. One McChicken each was not enough. I was a kid that thought six slices of buttery white toast was a great breakfast. My mom started reminding me about hardening arteries around age 12. In other words, I’ve always had a predilection for delicious grease and sodium.

Sometime in early 2013, while working two jobs and a total of ~60 hours a week, I decided I was eating too much fast food for convenience. I knew suddenly cutting out all fast food restaurants would be hard and would likely fail. Instead, I focused on eliminating one temptation: McDonald’s. But I didn’t want to vow: “I’ll never eat McDonald’s again” – I knew that would likely fail and then I’d be angry at myself. And to give up something for several months and then occasionally eat it should be viewed as a accomplishment, not a failure. The entire way we orient ourselves in relation to our goals can be very messed up. 

So, instead of quitting McDonald’s forever, I made a “strong commitment not to eat it.” On a day by day basis, I chose not to eat it. And then I soon forgot it was even an option and never went there. But it was important to me that I not feel like I “gave in” if I want it once in awhile – for example, I travelled to Portugal in September and ate it twice in the week I was there because I was craving fries and familiarity. Be gentle with yourself and your commitments.

P.S. I’m not suggesting McDs is worse than some other places I still eat; I really don’t know. I just needed to eliminate the most tempting, accessible option.

The same could go quitting any kind of food or reducing habits. There are many things in between, for example, eating meat and being a vegetarian. We are often so caught up with absolutes that we overlook all the things in between. If you want to try consuming less meat, try meat minimalism (it’s the best term I can come up with for my own lifestyle).

2. Think in terms of small, measurable goals and feel good about yourself when you make progress.

When I decide to go to the gym after not going for awhile, I am so overzealous I usually stay too long and overdo it – never a good idea and your body regrets it later. I now try to remind myself that every time I move my body – be it walking instead of driving or doing a rigorous workout – I am better for having done it. Instead of feeling bad that you could only run a couple of laps on the track, feel good that you ran at all and you will, most certainly, be able to run a little longer next time. 

We should construct our goals as imagining starting at zero and building UP to something great, rather than imagine the completed goal and cut ourselves down in all the ways we didn’t do enough.

This goes for so many things. Writing is a big one. As someone who writes a lot and enjoys it, but is also in the process of writing a master’s thesis and procrastinating and then feeling guilty about it, I know to remind myself that every.single.word is progress.

You don’t go from starting a writing practice to publishing a book overnight; there are so many words in between. Whether it be fiction or blogging or academic work, try to carve out time for small bits of writing routinely. Those who write and want to write tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves to produce shareable / publishable work immediately. Your portfolio won’t be built instantaneously. It goes for all hobbies or activities – every second spent trying it is progress.

3. Frame goals positively and ensure to set some that aren’t about your looks, body, weight, etc.

“I vow to try to eat healthfully more days of the week” is much more positive than “I vow to stop 
being a gluttonous monster.” This may sound like new age-y crap to some but I believe that how you frame your thoughts makes a big difference (if you’re interested in these ideas, I recommend the work of Zen Buddhist monk and philosopher Thich Nhat Hanh). 

I won’t suggest that everything comes down to attitude – not at all. It’s foolish to think that everyone can achieve anything solely based on attitude. There are many things I won’t succeed at no matter how positively and gregariously I approach them. Still, it’s a lot easier to feel satisfied with your progress and avoid self-loathing, punishing thoughts if you focus on incremental progress.

And finally, pick at least a couple of goals that aren’t physical or originating from something you feel bad about. Pick something you love and are already working on, and take it further. Maybe it’s reading a book for every series of Netflix you watch (something I want to work on) or maybe it’s rekindling an old skill you’ve neglected. 

Either way, the New Year may be a great time to re-focus and gear up for new aspirations, but be kind to yourself and critical about why you feel you should pursue certain goals :)