The Promise of a New Year

By: Peggy Burns, MA, LPC

New Year’s Eve comes with resolutions for a new beginning. Whether you call them resolutions, goals or even suggestions, the new year starts with hopes and dreams of a better future. There are many schools of thoughts of whether it does more harm than good to make resolutions for ourselves. I am one that lends towards more good than harm.

I think the key is to not burden yourself with expectations that will lead to disappointment. Be realistic in what you are seeking for yourself. I believe even if it is one goal that you write down and look at each day, that is enough. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of making new promises to yourself, hefty goals to accomplish, and a clean slate for the new year. It can become overwhelming, especially for those who have anxiety, depression and/or overcoming the loss of a loved one.

The last few blogs I wrote about talked about grief and the grieving process. Many of us who have gone through a painful year of losing a loved one may find it difficult to set goals for the new year. The loss is still with us and sometimes still feels like it was yesterday. I understand.

How do we move forward? I believe by making resolutions, goals, or whatever you want to name them, the act of doing something to move yourself forward will be a goal in itself.  Think of it as more of a lifestyle change.....positive reinforcement from past behaviors that were not so healthy.  Even though a goal is something to attain in the future, it can still be a daily event that you accomplish and feel good about.  

Goals

Here are a few helpful suggestions:

1. Start small: If you made a commitment to join a gym, start slowly with just one day per week; If you are trying to eat healthier, start by cutting out desserts instead of cutting out everything you like all at once. It is easier to stay committed to these changes one small step at a time.

2. Change one behavior at a time: Unhealthy habits or behaviors did not start all of a sudden, so it is going to take some time to make these changes. It is also helpful to start with just one behavior and work on that and then move on to another one.

3. Talk about it: Sharing your thoughts and goals with another person or group helps with your commitment, accountability, and struggles. Consider joining a group if you are losing weight or taking an exercise class with others who have similar goals.

4. Don’t beat yourself up: Remember, perfection is unattainable. Don’t beat yourself up if you ate a brownie or skipped a workout. It’s ok! It is normal; just get back on track the next day.

5. Ask for support: Accepting help from those who care about you and support you in your goals only strengthen your commitment and resilience to stay on track. If you feel overwhelmed by stress with meeting your goals, consider seeking professional help. Psychologists, counselors, and other professionals are trained in the mind/body connection and can help with goal setting and changing unhealthy behaviors.  

I would also like to add that being realistic in your goals eases up on expectations that cannot be met, which in turn makes you feel like you have failed. Remember to be true to yourself; share your thoughts, hopes and dreams with your friends and family so they can rejoice in your successes as well.