When you’re a highly sensitive person, New Year’s resolutions like “Make more money” aren’t going to cut it. But here are ones that will.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never understood the frenetic energy around New Year’s resolutions.
Don’t we all know the stats? That most people don’t stick with their resolutions past January? That attempting big change all at once almost always fails?
I chalk up my cynicism to my highly sensitive person (HSP) tendency to dwell on the probable negative outcomes in any given situation.
So when I see the hype about “NEW YEAR, NEW YOU!” forgive me for not jumping up and down — or getting on board.
Making Small Shifts Instead of Big Resolutions
But before you accuse me of being too much of a Debbie Downer, let me say that I do wholeheartedly embrace the idea of turning over a new leaf and starting a new chapter. I’m just not here for the hype and hustle of New Year’s resolutions.
So instead of resolutions that stress me out so much I fail before I even begin, I’ve been thinking about small shifts that can significantly improve my life. (Since we HSPs already get overstimulated easily, just imagine all the extra pressure when we add New Year’s resolutions to the mix!)
I want to offer highly sensitive people some simple ideas to find more balance in 2023 — what we HSPs actually wish for instead of “exercising more” or “making more money” (although those would be nice, too!).
Here are 10 gentle, deep, meaningful resolutions to nurture yourself, and your amazing sensitivity, this new year.
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10 New Year’s Resolutions for Highly Sensitive People
1. When overwhelmed, cultivate a sense of wonder and awe instead of panic and anxiety.
With all HSPs notice and process on the daily (even as we rest!), we can easily (and understandably) get overwhelmed. It’s actually a marker of our sensitivity trait.
But with a little intention, practice, and patience, we can cultivate a sense of wonder and awe over all the stimuli we constantly take in — versus panic and anxiety.
How can you slow down and indulge your sense of wonder this year, you ask? As you prioritize your physical needs to nourish your sensitive nervous system, consider how you might also nurture your sensitive mind, heart, and spirit. This is a prescription for more art, more music, more learning, more nature, more poetry, and more imagination — all at a slower pace.
2. Downsize your obligations to the bare minimum.
Let’s take a quick inventory of your daily tasks: How much of your life consists of things you want to do? How much of it is stuff you have to do?
Most HSPs can easily find themselves completing all obligations since we can be such people-pleasers. It can feel like everyone always “needs” something — and something always needs doing. Yes, it makes sensitive people great caretakers and good citizens. But we are also more prone to burnout as a result.
So consider how you might loosen your obligations in 2023. What small shifts can you make so you are doing more of what you want to do and less of what you don’t? This can seem utterly impossible, but consider the consequences of doing only what drains the life out of you. It creates a deficit that is difficult to counter until there is little life (or motivation) left. It’s all about setting boundaries — and sticking to them.
We can also approach our obligations by turning the things we can’t get out of into more enjoyable experiences. For you personal development connoisseurs, Martha Beck’s book, The Way of Integrity, offers a compelling framework, as well as practical steps, to bringing what we want to do — and what we have to do — into alignment.
3. Breathe out more often and schedule “outbreaths” into your daily routines.
Start right now with a deep inhale… and then exhale. Ahhh. I learned this concept recently from Alane Freund, a therapist, speaker, and international consultant on high sensitivity. She talks about the need to schedule “outbreaths” in our routines, in order to give our finely-tuned nervous systems a chance to recover, replenish, and refresh.
The idea comes from the Wardolf education philosophy, which posits that children need periods of inbreath (structure, learning, and focus), as well as outbreath (free play, unstructured activity, and even roughhousing). Ask yourself: What might your outbreath look like as an adult?
In this YouTube video, Alane reminds HSPs that “while our sensitivity might be our superpower, we aren’t superhuman.” In other words, we have to account for how much more we take in as HSPs. If you find yourself overwhelmed more often than not, try scheduling unstructured and unencumbered downtime in the coming year. And you can start with breathing…
4. “Less is more” — leave more things undone.
This is the ultimate anti-resolution — so less, not more. HSPs already put so much pressure on ourselves that add to our stress. Why add more just because it’s a new year?
Many of us know that we put too much pressure on ourselves, but never consider doing anything about it. We can convince ourselves that this is just how life is, or even that pressure is the only means by which things get done.
But what if it’s not?
This year, try easing up on yourself. It can be a really hard habit to break, but make it your mission to prove to yourself that you can tackle your to-dos without your inner drill sergeant yelling at you. (Extra credit points if you can practice leaving more than a few things undone!)
Your sensitivity will probably sound the alarms over all the problems this will cause, but that’s only because we tend to see all the possible negative outcomes clearly and severely. Comfort your sensitive nerves with the promise that it will be okay to leave the dishes undone or the email unanswered… at least for the time being.
5. Remind yourself of all the reasons you’re thankful for being a highly sensitive person.
Few of us have had the privilege of living in an environment that is supportive of our sensitivity. Instead, we have endured a lifetime of messages, and things non-HSPs say to us, about how we fall short, how we are too much, and how we simultaneously need to “toughen up” and “calm down.”
As my prim and proper aunt used to say, “All of that is a bunch of butternut squash.” Whenever I hear someone lamenting sensitive people, I demand they look around — where has insensitivity gotten us?
HSPs, your sensitivity is needed now more than ever. It takes intention to affirm in you what has always been berated. So practice affirming who you are and the sensitivity you bear. It’s a gift for you and the world. You can start by writing down all the reasons you’re thankful for being a highly sensitive person — your empathy, your listening skills, your creativity, and so on. And then reread this list all the time. (You can even put some of the reasons on Post-it notes around your house, like on your bathroom mirror.) Really let the reasons sink in!
6. Let go of perfectionism (believe me, I know it’s hard!).
If perfectionism is keeping you from setting New Year’s resolutions, consider letting it be your focus for 2023 instead of whatever it’s keeping you from. I am so passionate about all that we HSPs can offer the world, but our contribution requires us to overcome our fierce sense of perfectionism.
Unfortunately, the only way I’ve learned to work on my perfectionism is by failing. It’s a “face your fear” sort of situation, like exposure therapy for anxiety (when you’re exposed to your fear again and again until you’re desensitized to it).
If perfectionism has held you captive, consider dabbling in little failures this year. Try something low-stakes that you know you won’t do well. Then try something else. And something else after that. Maybe it’s playing the piano. Or learning a new language. Or actually learning how to cook.
One phrase that’s helped me with my perfectionism is “messy action.” When I want to do something, but get overwhelmed because my deep processing goes into overdrive, I try to allow myself to take messy action. It won’t be perfect, but I’ll be a step further than I’d be otherwise.
Letting go of perfectionism will make you more at peace in yourself, as well as more effective in the world. HSPs, we need your messy action!
7. Practice pausing more often before speaking (to give your HSP a quick rest).
I’ve been thinking about this since Jenn Granneman, co-founder of Highly Sensitive Refuge, tweeted about it. HSPs approach social interactions differently from other folks. We are taking in so much, and processing so deeply in real time, that it can hinder our ability to effectively communicate in the moment.
We can get flustered and frozen in conversations, in meetings, and in moments when our input really matters. So let’s forge our own path in these situations. Let’s take a breath. Let’s let the awkward silence simmer as we slow our racing thoughts, gather them up, and sort them out. Let’s honor all that deep processing and subtle sensing we do so well. We’ve spent far too long hiding our sensitivities. This year, let’s honor them in our interactions instead.
Practice the pause. The world can wait and will be better for it.
8. Spend more time indulging in things you enjoy, like alone time.
Living in a non-sensitive society, HSPs deprive themselves of more than they realize. Most of us have lived a life of denying our needs while trying to live like everyone else. We put up with too much work and too little sleep, constant stimulation with little downtime, and chronic stress with no reprieve.
But no more.
When I think of an antidote to my own deprivation, indulgence comes to mind. How might you cultivate a bit more indulgence in 2023? Some of us might recoil at the thought, but consider what is truly indulgent for you — for your mind, body, and spirit. Sure, maybe it’s a Netflix-and-ice-cream binge. But, more often, it’s probably things like rest, nature, alone time, and artistic expression. It’s also probably taking time to do nothing at all (which is still something!) in order to recharge.
So take note of how you deprive your sensitive self and take steps to indulgently nourish yourself back into balance this year.
9. Commit to being more open to new experiences and ideas.
“Open” was my “word for the year” in 2022. I’ve never really been one for practices like that, but, I don’t know, I was open to it. And as I’ve reflected on 2022, striving to be more open has increased my joy and wonder exponentially.
HSPs can get stuck in rather restrictive lives, and for good reason — we need insulation from the non-sensitive world. But if we don’t balance that out, we may miss opportunities for personal growth, exploration, and contributing to the world in a more meaningful way.
This year, experiment with being open to new experiences and ideas. Open to new ways of caring for yourself. Open to being more authentic with your sensitive self out in the world.
Say it out loud or journal about it: How might you cultivate more openness over the next year?
10. Get more rest — really prioritize it.
My personal resolution is to get more rest in 2023. Now, I have a whole soapbox about how HSPs are meant to usher in a radical revolution of rest in a world that is aching for it. Our modern age needs to reevaluate our value system of productivity over people and planet — and sensitive folks not only see this in all its pervasive subtleties, but we feel it in our bodies.
But, first and foremost, highly sensitive people should rest more. After all, we are worth the rest we require. Regardless of a pivotal part to play in the earth’s survival, we are worthy of surviving just because we exist, along with the rest of humanity. So that’s why I’m going to work on rest this year. (Plus, due to all the overstimulation we experience, we HSPs need more sleep than others anyway!)
If HSPs have a part to play in saving the world (and I believe we do), we must prioritize the care of our sensitive natures for the greater good, too.
Tricia Hersey, author of Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto, says, “Many people now want to see a world of justice. We cannot get there if we are exhausted. Exhaustion will not save us. Rest will.”
HSPs, honor your sacred need to rest this year. It’s my New Year’s wish for you.
You might like:
- 7 Things HSPs Wish For in the New Year
- HSP Brains Process Everything Deeply, Even at Rest, Study Finds
- How ‘Doing Nothing’ Does Something Big for HSPs
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