Making New Year’s resolutions is a time-honored practice. We’ve all done it. We promise ourselves to get fit, lose weight, stop procrastinating, or do whatever we think will make us more attractive, healthier, or successful. Too often, we lose steam within weeks and then the guilt sets in. There’s even a day to celebrate it – Quitters’ Day is the second Friday of January! The anxiety and depression that come with abandoning our resolutions can be real and even debilitating. Here are some tips from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) for developing resolutions that you can keep, and feel good about:
- Pick a Goal that Motivates You: You are more likely to stick to your goal if it motivates you or if it is influenced by others, such as a spouse, a workout partner, or a medical professional. If your goal is to exercise more, but you know going to a gym is not a motivation for you, then pick another exercise you can do outside of the gym.
- Break Down Your Big Goals into Smaller, More Manageable Goals: By doing this you’ll be much less likely to feel overwhelmed. If your ultimate goal is to run a 5K race, but you have not yet run a lap around the track, start with walking a shorter distance and gradually begin to jog once you feel you’re ready. It may just be a few yards or a lap around the track. Sometimes just signing up for that race is just the motivation you need to get started.
- Focus on Progress, Not Perfection and Stay Positive: Emphasize the journey and strive for progress rather than aiming for perfection. And reward yourself for the progress you made. For instance, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds, but you only lost five pounds, acknowledge the five pounds you lost were five more than before you started trying to lose weight. The way we talk to ourselves can foster a positive and realistic outlook and contribute to a healthier approach to both mental health and success in meeting our New Year’s resolutions.
- Lean on Others for Support and Motivation: Achieving goals can be easier when done with others. Consider joining groups or communities with similar goals to connect with people who can provide encouragement and accountability.
- Set a New Date: You do not need to commit to a resolution on January 1. Feel free to delay implementing your New Year’s resolutions until the time is right. You can make them at any time you want. Under stress now? Why not resolve to make that change beginning in March or by another preferred date.
- Don’t Compare Yourself to Others: Don’t get too caught up in the New Year’s resolutions of others. Set goals with only you in mind.
- Practice Self-Compassion: Be easy on yourself. Acknowledge that setbacks will happen and that’s okay. Just pick back up where you left off.
- Know When to Ask for Help: You are not alone. SAMHSA has behavioral health resources to help. Visit SAMHSA.gov, Find Help.
Make your New Year’s resolutions about self-care, not extra pressure. And have a happy, healthy 2024!