challenge · fitness

Catherine’s 2023 reflections (and one complaint) about New Year challenges

New Year Challenges can be fun. Or at least that is what every single media outlet is trumpeting, from Self Magazine to the Tricycle Buddhist Review.

Honestly, I shouldn’t be complaining at all. Gone (at least from my media view) are the Do-100-Burpees-A-Day and Become-a-Contortionist-in-30-Days challenges. Or rather, they’re taking a backseat to what seem like more well-being and happiness-directed challenges. Not that there’s anything wrong with, say, doing a Plank Challenge. Sam wrote about hers here in 2020.

Things I like about it: It’s a short time commitment. I can do it while supper is cooking. I’ve got a yoga mat in the living room and I can do planks in my work clothes. The gradual increase in difficulty is good so far. I’m just at the beginner level. My view might change when I go up to moderate or advanced.

Cheddar, the ever-present and ever-loving golden retriever, helped, which I think made it even more fun. Click on this link for photos.

I’m doing some challenges this year, swept along by a) the general feeling of new-year-new-you-ness; b) an atmosphere in which friends and colleagues are doing challenges; and c) the more reasonable and relevant challenges that are out there now. Recall a recent post by Sam about some interesting new year challenges: Some New Year Challenges We Recommend.

Here are the ones I’ve signed up for so far:

  • 223 workouts in 2023
  • Yoga with Adriene, Center, a 30-day challenge
  • The New York Times 7-Day Happiness Challenge
  • The Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness (on the Ten Percent Happier App)
  • Buy-Nothing-Until July 1 Challenge (with a few exclusions and some fine print)

I don’t list Meditation-Every-Day as a challenge this year because it’s now just something I do. It’s probably the most important contributor to my well-being and mental health, and it’s taken a while to get it locked into my day. But it’s there now. Having an app helps me keep on track (yes, everyone knows I use Ten Percent Happier. But But it’s really good and I love it…:-)

On to the reflections (and one complaint).

Last year I did the 222 workouts in 2022, and it was my hardest year for getting across the finish line. I had to to two workouts a day for the last ten days to make it. What happened?

Uh, I dunno. Wonderful image of a young man shrugging his shoulders by Oyemike Princewill on Unsplash.
Uh, I dunno. Wonderful image by Oyemike Princewill on Unsplash.

Rather than do a lot of post-game analysis, and in the spirit of new-year-newish-me, I’m starting again, with the new 2023 challenge. I’m resolving to pay more attention to my activity during the winter this year and see where things stand in April.

Yoga-with-Adriene’s 30-Day January Challenge has never actually worked out for me. I always get started– yes, I did day 1– and then speedily poop out. I’ve done days 1 and 2, but failed to do day 3. Today is day 4. I’m starting to think this challenge isn’t for me, which is to say that I’m not actually committed to doing it. That’s fine. But I’d like to make a decision one way or the other in the next day or so. Letting challenges fall by the wayside doesn’t feel great. Deciding to eschew them or replace them with something else (challenge-y or not) seems like a better idea.

Time for my challenge complaint. Just for fun, I signed up for the New York Times 7-day happiness challenge. It consists of taking a relationship quiz to see where your deficits are, and then following a week’s worth of tips for improving connection and the good feelings that come with it.

I took the quiz– a 10-question survey– and got my results. Not to brag, but I aced this one.

My results: I’m in tip-top social shape. Go me!

I kind of knew this already; my greatest resource is my strong connections to friends, family and community. I’m a phone person (that is, talking real-time with other people on their phones) and I do social and activity and cultural and creative things with others regularly. Not that I don’t have my problems, but this isn’t one of them.

And yet. After totally nailing this quiz, the Happiness Authorities are telling me to do EVEN MORE. They say this:

Even if it’s a bit outside your comfort zone, consider ways that you can be even more proactive in broadening your social universe and staying connected to people you value.

What?! But But I aced the relationships test! You are telling me I need to do better than tip-top? What’s beyond tip-top?

Climbing to a cloud above the tip-top is implausible and in this case ill-advised. Watch out, dude. The graphic dude is standing on a cloud above a sharp mountain peak.
Climbing to a cloud above the tip-top is implausible and in this case ill-advised.

Maybe sometimes it’s okay not to do more, in particular when what you’ve done or are doing is good enough. Honestly, from taking the quiz, it seems to me as if I should cut back a bit from my socializing and being-in-touch schedule. The quiz people generated this graphic representation of me and my relationships. Frankly, it looks dizzying and scary.

Tiny me in the middle of a psychedelic swirl of social patterns, closing in on me in tenacious concentric circles. Help.
Tiny Catherine in the middle of a psychedelic swirl of social patterns, closing in on me in tenacious concentric circles. Help.

For the record, I’ve followed the first three days: 1) take quiz– did I mention I killed it? 2) make an 8-minute phone call: done! I talk to at least 4 people a day on the phone just to chat; and 3) make small talk with people I don’t know as I go about my daily life: done! My good friends make fun of me for my habit and obvious enjoyment of talking to people I don’t know. What can I say? I’m a textbook extrovert.

The Dalai Lama 10-Day Happiness Challenge hasn’t started yet, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m guessing that it is more focused on cultivating moments of happiness and recognition of joy or beauty. That’s very different from chit-chatting on the phone. And, it’s something I’d like to work on, as it’ll help with mitigating anxiety, rumination and distraction– all issues for me. I’ll report back later.

Finally, I’m doing the Buy-Nothing Challenge, along with several FIFI bloggers. I followed in Sam’s footsteps starting last July, and it was great. I’m signing on for another half-year challenge, with the following special conditions: I can buy used clothing at my favorite consignment shop Wearovers when I bring some of my own clothing to consign. I can replace worn-out or wrong-size workout gear (e.g. I bought a new helmet to replace my very old one– a safety thing). I can buy clothing gifts for my family. Other than that, I’m good with what’s in my closet and dresser drawers.

It surprised me how much I liked this challenge. It’s a relief not to have to think about whether I really want some bright-patterned top that flits across my computer screen. I can look, which it turns out is still fun. In a way, it’s more fun, as I don’t have to worry about whether to buy anything. I’m not.

You, dear readers, will be hearing back from us as the year unfolds about our challenges: how they’re going, why we’ve kept them up or abandoned them, and what new challenges present themselves in 2023.

What are you doing, challenge-wise, this year? Are you taking a break from challenges? Are you aiming for heights above the tip-top? Let us know– we’d love to hear from you.