Enhancing New Year’s Resolutions

December 2022. You’ve made it. 

There may have been times when you imagined you might not make it. It is important to take time to recognize our successes, even if they feel like we barely scraped by, especially in light of the fact we are so quick to overlook them. So allow yourself a brief moment to pause and reflect on the challenges of 2022 that you made it through. 

What are some things you learned along the way? Is there anything you would do differently? Let these questions come from a place of curiosity rather than judgment. Each moment holds an opportunity for growth. But, how can we foster growth if we are not kind and gentle with ourselves during times of hardship…

If you sincerely took that moment for reflection, what was it like approaching those hardships with kindness and gentleness? Hopefully you found it to be more compassionate and encouraging as you think about the future and what you would like to be different. Perhaps you are already in these planning stages for the new year. Generally, around this time of year folks start to think about those changes and how to turn them into their resolutions for the coming year. A poll conducted in 2022 found that the top three New Year’s resolutions were: 1) To exercise more, 2) To eat healthier, 3) To lose weight. This list also included spending time in meaningful ways, reducing work stress, and adjusting other forms of consumption behavior. If you made similar resolutions in the past, or even this year, what was that like focusing on those particular resolutions? It can be very hard to keep these resolutions past a certain point in the year. Another poll found that only 22% of respondents kept their resolutions two months into the new year.

Whether or not you’re an avid New Year’s resolution maker, maybe you would like to make some changes for this new year. Let’s break down resolutions to see how it might be easier to make them and keep them. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a resolution is “an act of determining.” In theory this sounds great, but something happens along the way that starts to trip folks up with their resolutions. One of the few studies on New Year’s resolutions, conducted by Oscarsson, Carlbring, Andersson, and Rozental, found that the phrasing of a resolution had a significant impact on its longevity (2020). They described this as “avoidance-oriented” and “approach-oriented”phrasing of resolutions. When we create goals that are against something (e.g. I will stop drinking soda-pop), this isn’t as encouraging as when we create goals towards something (e.g. I will drink more water). Oscarsson et al. noted that 58.9% of participants who created approach-oriented goals considered themselves more successful in comparison to 47.1% of participants who created avoidance-oriented goals (2020, p 7). Furthermore, they found that participants who received support were also more likely to identify successful resolutions. Therefore, as you review your planned resolutions for 2023, try modifying any goals that are avoidant-oriented to be more approach-oriented and identify those who can be of support. 

Some folks might find it difficult to use the term resolution. While it means an act of determination, sometimes it can almost become a criticism when we don’t maintain the resolution. This can come with a sense of shame that starts to negatively overshadow an act of change that had such hope and optimism at the start. Something fun and enjoyable can quickly turn into a burden of heavy expectations. If this aligns with your experiences of resolutions, perhaps reframing it to New Year’s intention might be a better fit. An intention allows room for give and take when it comes to goals. You can give yourself flexibility, grace, forgiveness as you try to accomplish your goals for the new year. And, if you’re a true-blue New Year’s resolution-er who doesn’t want to give up the term resolution, hold to the intention to be flexible, gracious, and forgiving as you work to attain your goals. As we discussed above (and hopefully you experienced), kindness and gentleness towards ourselves can go a long way, especially as we endeavor to create positive change in our lives.

Reach out today if one of your resolutions/intentions is to start your mental health journey! We’d love to help you take that step towards kindness and gentleness. 

Armstrong, M. (January 11, 2022). Top U.S. New Year's Resolutions for 2022 [Digital image]. Retrieved December 08, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/chart/26577/us-new-years-resolutions-gcs/

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Resolution. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/resolution

Oscarsson, M., Carlbring, P., Andersson, G., & Rozental, A. (2020). A large-scale experiment on New Year's resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PloS one, 15(12), e0234097. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234097