We cannot believe that 2023 is nearly over, and that got us thinking about our New Year’s resolutions as we prepare to ring in 2024! The tradition of setting grand intentions for a new year brings lofty expectations and can lead to unnecessary stress. People often fall into the trap of aiming for radical, unsustainable, or unachievable changes, and we have decided to buck this trend and enter the New Year through a mental health-focused lens. Embracing realistic New Year’s resolutions can positively impact our well-being, without overwhelming our mental state.
Having high standards for yourself is not a bad thing, and can help you aim higher, push harder, and grow as a person. Aiming for too much out of your resolutions can lead to lost confidence, disappointment, and failure, but equally disturbing, aiming for too little can limit your potential and prevent you from the growth you desire (Dress, 2022). In our last blog, Danielle Lancaster, MCouns, RP, Qualifying refers to the importance of holding realistic expectations relating to experiences with family members, and practicing the same realism will also help in resolution setting.
Mental wellness is always top of mind here at RMTC, and we would advise you to choose some resolutions centred around mental health and well-being. Megan Day, MSc, RP (Qualifying) addresses the importance of mental health centred goals saying “Mental health resolutions are important because they are like making a commitment to your well-being. Our mental health dictates how we show up for others, our work and ourselves. Committing to maintaining or improving your mental health through a resolution will have far reaching benefits to other parts of your life.” Some examples of resolutions that aim at benefiting your mental health are exercise, meditation, journalling, backing off social media, or seeing a therapist.
Some of the biggest differences we can make in our lives come in the form of small changes. This could mean going to bed 30 minutes earlier, cutting back on alcohol consumption, drinking more water, taking the time to make your bed every morning, walking more, etc. Do not be afraid to include some small changes like these in your resolutions, as they are easy to implement in your life, and can contribute to great improvements in your well-being. Lina Dajani (2022) points out that big drastic changes can be overwhelming and difficult to maintain, and further emphasizes the power of small changes.
Resolution setting is a form of goal setting, and when setting goals, it is important to do so with the SMART goals criteria in mind: specificity, measurability, achievability, relevance, and timeliness. Katarina Guillen, MA, RP says "When setting resolutions or goals for the new year, remember to choose something that matters, to be specific, to be realistic, and to break it down into manageable steps. Choose something that matters to you [based on your values and priorities]. Be specific by defining what you're aiming for or 'narrowing your focus'. Ensure it is something you have the resources and/or support to work towards. And lastly, ensure that you create gradual steps towards your final goal.” It is also important to remember timeliness, meaning that you apply a deadline applied to your goal. In the case of a resolution, it is typically the end of the year.
It is important to consider that progress on goals and resolutions, like so many things in life, is not always linear. You might have to overcome challenges, setbacks, or mini-failures, things that will only make you stronger and improve your sense of achievement when you do finally get there. Elizabeth Grace Saunders (2022) writes about the importance of self-compassion even in the way you write your goals, stating that self-compassion could be the difference between powering through setbacks or giving up completely. Some tips to practice self-compassion in the wording of your goals are to eliminate words with baggage, decide what you will do instead of what you will stop doing, celebrate progress throughout, and embrace the ups and downs of the process.
Keeping friends, family, or a mental health professional in the loop on your resolutions can add a factor of accountability to the process. You could have loved ones ask you periodically about your progress on your resolutions or offer support to help keep you on track. Cheng (2023) says one great way to stay accountable to your goals is to trade the responsibility with a friend or family member. You can set time aside where you update one another on your goal progress and any challenges you have faced, offering ideas and support in return.
The New Year is an exciting and joyful time but change and uncertainty can trigger anxiety and stress reactions. Many people choose to set New Year’s resolutions for themselves, which can be a great tool for growth if done right. We hope these tips have helped you think about resolution setting as a method for improving your mental wellness, with positive and realistic framing.