It’s that magical time of year where our feeds are full of friends’ highlight reels of their best moments from the past 12 months and advertisements trying to sell us on a better year ahead. It’s draining, overwhelming, annoying, and maybe (just maybe) a tad motivating. I honestly have such a love-hate relationship with New Year's Resolutions. I do feel a little bit of exhilaration from the idea of a “fresh start” and a chance to make the next 365 days even better than the last. However, I also understand the pressure and angst around setting resolutions that ultimately leave us feeling bad about ourselves. So, the question becomes, how can we capitalize on the joy and excitement of a fresh start while also avoiding the shame, guilt, and anxiety that this time of year can also bring? Here’s my guide to making mentally healthy New Year’s resolutions.
You don’t need fixing.
One of the biggest challenges to the whole concept of New Year’s resolutions is that we feel as if we need to “fix ourselves” to have a better year ahead. The process may cause us to reminisce over everything we did wrong or every area in our life that needs “improvement.” With this mindset, we are setting ourselves up to feel so much shame before we even get through January. Here’s the reality- we are entirely worthy, whole, and right just as we are, and we are already enough. We don’t need to lose weight, work out more, spend less time on our phones, stop ordering out so much, or save money to start feeling worthy. We don’t need fixing, plain and simple, but our New Year’s resolutions can leave us thinking that is the case. So, if you are feeling pressured to make a whole host of resolutions because it’s all everyone is talking about or find yourself slipping into a negative mindset that impacts your self-worth, skip the process! You can have a perfectly wonderful year ahead without resolutions, I promise.
Take time to reflect.
Now, if the whole concept of setting goals or resolutions for the new year excites you, consider taking some time to reflect on the past year. It’s easy to quickly jump into a fresh start and say goodbye to the past, but real growth can’t start if we never take time to ponder what worked and what didn’t. I’m not saying you need to write a 10-page essay or meditate on these for hours. Instead, have some fun with your reflection. Call up a friend and share your responses to the questions I’ve outlined below or pour a glass of wine and talk about the past year with your partner. Better yet, play the 10-minute version of All Too Well while thinking about 2021 in your shower. If you aren’t sure where to begin, you can use these reflected questions. Once you’ve reflected on the past year, you may find that you are better equipped to set goals for the upcoming 12 months.
What did you accomplish in the past year? (think small and large)What habits or practices worked for you, and which didn’t?
Who or what supported you during challenging times this year, and where could you use more support in the upcoming year?
What would you like to let go of in the coming year that was heavy for you this year? (think physically and emotionally)
Think about how you want to feel.
It can be easier to engage in self-criticism if we immediately focus on what we want to change to come up with our New Year’s resolutions. A better starting point may be to ask yourself, what emotions do I want to feel more of in the new year? I highly encourage you to use an emotions wheel or another tool to help identify a broad range of emotions rather than settling on something too vague like “happy .”Once you pick out a few ways you want to feel, you can then focus on how you might go about feeling that more. For example, if I decided that I wanted to experience more courage in the new year, I might plan to try new things or take a leap by starting something I’ve been putting off. This approach can make it easier to avoid
Avoid strict rules
Resolutions like “exercise for at least 30 minutes every day” or “give up sweets for all of January” can sound great and doable when we first make them. But then there are breakroom donuts after a tough meeting with your boss, or you come home from a long day and lack any energy to work out, and now you’ve broken your resolution and are faced with the shame hangover that follows. It’s why I’m all for avoiding strict rules tied to our goals for the new year. Rather than saying you will work out every day, make a goal of adding more movement into your weekly routine. While some argue that the lack of specifics makes it less likely that you will follow through, I actually think that it leaves room for you to adjust and personalize as you go through each week. Most of all, you won’t need to beat yourself up or feel like you failed at your resolutions.
Ultimately, the best way to make New Year’s resolutions that do not hinder our mental health is to remember that we are enough right now. Instead, we can approach the whole idea of resolutions as a chance to explore new ways of thinking or new approaches rather than an opportunity to fix everything that is wrong with us. With this mindset, we can avoid the shame and guilt that come with New Year’s resolutions and practice self-love in the process. So, here’s to a great year!