New Year’s resolutions rarely end well. We have a tendency to think that just because the digits at the end of the year are changing, we’ll somehow become willpower machines. Beer will stop tasting so nice, the gym will miraculously become fun, and we’ll never lose our cool in front of our kids again.
One study estimated that 88% of resolutions end in failure – and that figure must be closer to 100 for people dealing with the exhaustion of parenthood. Let’s be honest with ourselves: setting ludicrously difficult goals is pointless – so how about committing to smaller changes in 2020?
Here are four suggestions for parents that are actually achievable.
Start, or work on, a hobby
If you’re as time-starved and knackered as most parents, there’s simply no point in proclaiming 2020 to be the year you write a novel, become a movie star or become fluent in Dutch. But you can do something.
The psychological benefit of learning a new hobby is massive. “Hobbies take you outside of your general working and family setup, and give you something to focus on yourself, which is a form of self-care,” says Dr Sheri Jacobson, of Harley Therapy. “They will occupy your mind so that you get a break from the other things that you might be overwhelmed with, and having something to apply a different skill set to than the one you use day in and day out has enormous benefits for your mental health.”
Find time for yourself
You can’t be a good parent if you don’t look after yourself, but the average UK mother has just 17 minutes to herself per day. In fact, one study found 78% of mothers put off looking after their own health in order to take care of others. That might feel like it makes sense in the short term, but in the long term, it’s doing everyone a disservice.
We’re not saying to secretly book a flight and disappear to the Bahamas (although it’s nice to dream), just to schedule in a bit of you-time each week – read a magazine, call a friend, or just sit with your own thoughts.
Think twice about ‘telling off’
It’s all too easy as a parent to get sick of the sound of your own voice saying “no”, but it doesn’t always need to be like that. Talking through your child’s behaviour might feel like it requires being more calm and collected than you can manage, but it’s more likely to lead to lasting results than yelling at them endlessly, according to Noël Janis-Norton, author of Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting,
“Kids know what they shouldn’t have done,” she says. “Ask what they should have done instead, or what they should do next time, and eventually the child will say something which will show you that they’re visualising themselves doing that.”
Leave your phone in the kitchen
Nobody is under any illusions about the addictive nature of phones – they’re just so dang useful, and entertaining. But something much more feasible is trying to be conscious of how much you’re using it – and what you’re missing as a result. Phones are bad for your sleep in umpteen ways, and parenting is exhausting as it is. Consider getting an alarm clock, instead and have your phone’s ‘home base’ outside of your bedroom. And not everything needs to go on Instagram – it still happened even if it’s not up there.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.