Our primary mission is to empower our clients to take control of challenging/ difficult areas in their lives through the use of skill-based, present-focused, goal-oriented, and scientifically-proven treatments.
So you want to set a New Year’s Resolution. How can you create goals that are good for your mental health and achievable? First, we have to confess: we are not avid fans of resolutions. Resolutions have a reputation for being unhealthy for a reason. They are often sweeping statements, often centered around weight loss, and don’t actually help you reach any goals or benefit your mental health. Unrealistic or unhealthy resolutions can set people up for failure and spearhead a spiral into self doubt. It can be prime for comparison and stress and cause increased anxiety and self-criticism, the opposite of the intention!
That said, we are a fan of personal reflection and goals. And there’s a difference between unhealthy resolutions and healthy goals! We can learn a lot from a year, a month, a season. Thinking about what we want in the future, assessing how you have been feeling and behaving, and working toward positive change is always a positive. This is all great data to bring forward and inform what to work on and work toward. So how can you make health “resolutions” or goals that benefit your mental health?
- Consider your personal values. There’s no one-size-fits-all resolution. In fact, the resolutions that fail quickly are often the ones you think you “should” do. Our number one tip is to align your goals with your personal values. This way, when you work toward them, they will automatically feel fulfilling and worthwhile. If you know your personal values, great! If you have no idea what we are talking about, you’re not alone. Before you make any commitments, take some time to explore what matters to and motivates you. We love these value cards as a place to begin this work! Then, create resolutions that align with those. For some, this might be enhancing connection to family, giving back in the community, drinking more water, reading more, etc. A healthy resolution aligns with your core values and helps you be your most authentic self. Keep that in mind as you make goals and then check them again after you’re done. If they don’t hit your values, rework them until they do.
- Make sure your goals are objective, realistic, and measurable. The SMART method for goal setting is a popular and straight forward way to break down your goals. Let’s say you want to drink more water. Rather than committing to generically drink more water, make a goal to drink a certain amount of glasses per day. It’s also super important to be honest with your baseline. If you have not been drinking ANY water, going from zero to eight glasses a day can be daunting. Start smaller and once you reach one goal, expand from there. You probably won’t go from reading 0 minutes a day to reading 20 minutes a day, 7 days a week (at least with ease). But you CAN read for 20 minutes over the course of a week. Small, attainable goals are the key to build your confidence and help you achieve long-term goals
- Be flexible and forgiving. No goal should be dependent on 100% success and follow through each and every day. A successful New Year’s resolution requires self compassion, flexibility, and to make mistakes. Frame it as an opportunity to reflect, commit, and look forward in a self compassionate way, not as a new year, new me kind of thing. You don’t want to burn out in January. Make sure you are kind to yourself, understanding of the reality of life (that some days are easier than others!), and practice self compassion. Even if you don’t reach your goals but you build that self compassion muscle, that’s worth it alone!
- Assess how the resolutions are working for you. Change it if it’s not beneficial. It’s important to check in and see how things are going for you and adapt when needed. Make a plan ahead of time to reflect on your progress and experience. You might do this quarterly, monthly, or whatever feels manageable for you. See if the goals are still working for you, praise your progress, and change things if you need to! And if your goals are creating stress and self criticism, we give you full permission to scrap them. That means it’s not a goal that’s working for you and it’s time to say goodbye to them.
- Avoid the comparison trap! There’s no right resolution. Everyone values different things and is in a different stage of their journey. If you find yourself thinking you should do something someone else is, pause and ask why. Comparison is often a sign that you’re tapping into an insecurity or hitting on something that doesn’t feel right in your own life – take this information and grow from it! You don’t have to share your resolutions, post about them, or even tell anyone. Resolutions are personal. Only share them if it helps you – and remember, you can always mute people on social media if it’s not helping.
- Remember: you aren’t failing if you don’t make a resolution. Goals are wonderful things IF they work for you. If you get overwhelmed or anxious about the start of a new year, but you do want to make goals and reflections, do it in February! Low key make some goals in March! If you are feeling any kind of way about resolutions, step back from them and do them later. It’s not a coincidence that people are often encouraged to make dieting tips and join a gym – the diet industry and wellness industry profits on our insecurities! So if January doesn’t feel good to you or you find yourself getting super triggered, that’s cool. Don’t make them. Make them later. It’s a tool you can choose to use or not. There’s no resolution requirement.
Some of our favorite resolutions are simple or funny. If you have been struggling with self care, maybe you make a resolution to learn how to master upper eyeliner! If you want to enhance connection to family, maybe you commit to calling an extended family member once a month or sending letters each quarter. Maybe you want to read a couple of books or call the therapist or commit to tuning into your mental health through weekly journaling or habit tracking. Perhaps you resolve to clean out your closet and finally throw away the clothes that don’t fit or bring you joy! Maybe you want to learn one new recipe or expand your comfort foods to include a few more things. Most importantly, align with your values, don’t force yourself to make a resolution, and lead with self compassion. Those three things will definitely get you closer to where you want to go. Happy 2021!