Positive Living Newsletter

Starting with Ourselves

Christy Gualtieri, M.A.

Before my kids were born, I worked at a coffee shop–the kind you could almost tell the time by depending on the seasonal drinks that were offered. Light and airy iced teas in the spring, for example, and fancy coffees that were little more than well-disguised milkshakes in the summer. The autumn was marked by aromatic, pumpkin-flavoured whipped creams and heavy syrups; and in the winter, one couldn’t throw a snowball without hitting fifteen different variations of a gingerbread latte.

January 1st, however, was something special because it seemed as though right at the stroke of midnight, invisible hands reached out of the universe and whisked the holidays clean away. Gone was the decadence, the devil-may-care use of salted caramel, and the chocolate shavings that dusted the tops of nearly every drink. What rose up in their place? Sugar-free lattes (made with skim milk, of course). It was now time for restraint where there once had been indulgence.

It’s not rocket science: most people use the hard beginning of a new calendar year to launch a lifestyle change; and it certainly makes sense from a business perspective to capitalize on that, like many a coffee shop might. It’s also widely known, however, that most New Year’s resolutions fade out nearly as quickly as they’re taken up; on average, they only tend to last three and a half months (Davis & Hall, 2023).

What tops the lists of most popular resolutions? According to a recent Forbes Health poll, resolutions to “improve fitness” topped the current year’s list, followed by “improve finances” and “improve mental health” (Hall & Davis, 2023),. Noble goals, all–but also decently quantifiable. Is there an increased stamina on a walk, or maybe visible abdominal muscles where there were none before? If so, it is reasonable to assume that fitness has improved. More money in the savings account and less debt to be responsible for? If so, it seems that finances, too, may have benefited from a resolution.

It’s the third resolution–“improve mental health”–that is, to me, most striking because it’s a bit more subjective than the others, and leads to results that may not be as easy to quantify at first glance. Not only that, it actually forms the basis from which many other goals can be attained. Who has time to effectively learn how to balance a budget when one’s body is suffering from the effects of chronic stress? Who can spend hours at the gym while stress hormones are pumping along with all that iron? It seems, then, that the third resolution should truly be the first. Take care of the mind and the body will follow.

Simple, sure. But easy? Never. Because as daunting as conditioning one’s body or getting a handle on one’s cheque book is, exploration of the psyche is, in the words of writer Nina Riggs, suspicious country. A person’s emotional life can be a vast, expansive landform with dark and cavernous rabbit holes into which he or she can fall. Long shadows are cast there, as well as memories, traumas, and long-buried hurts.

But it is also the wellspring of hope, that special place among the tall, thorny rushes. The place of quiet, of peace. The place of joy.

It is the place we start with ourselves–our true selves, that which lies deeper than the abs and the credit cards. It would seem that there truly is no other way to find peace, to find joy, and to find hope. The path to get to those things, to get to unearth them and ultimately embrace them, is an arduous and daunting one; that’s true enough. But any real resolution, any truly lasting one, has to begin at the root. That’s where the best work is done.

I find it incredibly encouraging that attention to mental health is now a priority for New Year’s resolutions. Here’s hoping that 2024 sees it climb even higher! But all the same, please make sure to get your steps in…and, while you’re at it, it won’t hurt to keep an eye on those impulse buys.


Davis, S., & Hall, A. (2023, December 18). New Year’s resolutions statistics 2024. Forbes Media LLC. https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/new-years-resolutions-statistics/