Friday, December 29, 2006

A Resolution to be Kind

I have conducted a thoroughly unscientific study of various resources and have discovered what the most popular New Year's resolutions are that the vast majority of us will be making (again) this year: We would like to lose weight, exercise more, and get organized. I suspect that a fairly good case could be made that these popular resolutions are inter-related issues for many of us. Now, I'm not saying that all overweight, out-of-shape people are disorganized, or that all disorganized people are overweight and out-of-shape, but work with me here just in case this scenario sounds familiar to you.

Based on my own thoughtful but thoroughly unscientific reasoning, I ask that you consider these possibilities. While there are many factors that lead us to being overweight, one significant reason that we over-eat is depression. Over-eating is "self-medicating" and, honestly, who doesn't feel better, at least momentarily, after something chocolate? And where does that expression, "comfort food," come from? Notice that it's never applied to salads. Unfortunately, after feeling better, we usually feel guilty and that makes us depressed.

Depression and being overweight also leave us feeling fatigued and that is hardly the frame of mind that prompts us to leap off of the couch and exercise. That produces guilt and then that usually makes us inclined to self-medicate even more. Perhaps brownies.

I'm not trained to offer profound insights into all the various causes of serious clinical depression. However, I can pretty much guarantee that, for the average person, living in a cluttered, over-crowded environment and constantly feeling overwhelmed by extra stuff can be enough all by itself to make just about anybody feel pretty depressed. And if you're feeling depressed and overwhelmed, you might decide to self-medicate with an extra snack or two. Also, if you're feeling overwhelmed, you might begin to wonder what's wrong with you, to blame yourself, criticize yourself and feel like you've failed somehow. Well, at least some candies will help, won't they? Only temporarily. Then, more guilt, more depression. And all those excess possessions stay right where they are, continuing to torture you.

It's not a healthy cycle but I think it's an all-too-common one. If it's a cycle you know well, you're probably wondering how to snap out of it. I'd like to suggest that you stop resolving to diet, stop resolving to exercise, and even stop resolving to get organized. Instead, try making a resolution to be kind to yourself. Unload all the guilt completely. Stop berating yourself for your perceived "failures" and start treating yourself the way you'd treat a friend or family member who simply has a problem. My bet is that you would never say to someone else the type of critical remarks you say to yourself in your own head; you'd simply try to figure out a way to help fix the situation.

Because I believe that our environment has a profound effect on our state of mind, naturally I'd suggest that you start trying to fix your situation by eliminating clutter. My book covers different approaches you might take, various obstacles you'll undoubtedly face, and lots of little tips and tricks. But however you tackle your clutter problem, simply be kind to yourself as you're working on it, the way you'd be kind to your closest friend as you helped her out with her troubles. Be kind, but firm. It is a challenging job you're taking on and you will be required to make some difficult decisions.

My theory is that if you make progress un-cluttering your home, your spirits will be lifted. That means less need for those extra cookies to make you feel better because you'll already feel better. And you'll have more energy, too. Maybe a walk around the block wouldn't be such a bad idea. You'll come back refreshed and ready to un-clutter even more.

I'd love to hear if this approach is helpful to you. All it takes is making one resolution: Be kind to yourself. Happy New Year!

© 2006 Cynthia Friedlob

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