“We are human beings, and we need to give ourselves some grace and encouragement, just as we would a good friend.”
It’s the last few days of 2023, and many of us are feeling the urge to create new beginnings for ourselves in the new year. We might resolve to exercise more, smoke less, eat healthier, spend less money, improve our mental health, and start living our best life in 2024.
But how often do we stick to our new year’s resolutions?
Research suggests that only 9% of Americans that set resolutions complete them. In fact, research indicates that 23% of people quit their resolutions by the end of the first week, and 43% quit by the end of January.
While these statistics may be discouraging, the personal growth mindset behind new year’s resolutions remains important.
Perhaps the key to succeeding is to re-frame the whole idea of what a resolution is in the first place.
In the following blog, two of our mental health professionals and clinical supervisors with HBH, Greg Handel, PhD and Sarah Presson, LICSW discuss how to approach setting healthy new year’s resolutions.
What does re-framing New Year's resolutions mean?
When deciding what intentions we want to set for ourselves in the new year, how we frame them is important.
Sarah Presson, LICSW says that re-framing is a method to change how we think about something. It helps us see things from a new viewpoint, like our goals, situations, people, or relationships.
Getting in shape, for example, is a healthy resolution that often stems from a negative internal dialog. We might tell ourselves that we’re going to exercise everyday, or that we have to exercise everyday, to lose weight.
If we exercise because we feel ashamed or don’t measure up to societal standards, it will be harder to reach our goals. If we are too strict and only focus on achieving our goals, we will become exhausted and disappointed.
Sarah suggests re-framing our resolution as a positive intention to feel accomplished and happy instead.
For example, “I’m going to make an ongoing effort at including some form of exercise into my routine a few times a week. If I don’t get to the gym this week, I’ll work on getting there one time next week.”
Adding fun to our frame
Incorporating an element of fun into our resolution is key for persistence, too.
We respond strongly to enjoyable tasks, and we’re more likely to stick with those tasks if we feel a sense of fulfillment.
If you’re vowing to walk daily, try listening to your favorite podcast along the way. If you’re trying to drink less alcohol, try scheduling a coffee date with a friend.
Ultimately, if you’re doing something that makes you feel good you’re more likely to persist than if you expect to feel good at some point in the future.
We tend to set ourselves up for failure by making lofty long term goals beyond our reach.
Greg Handel, PhD says that when it comes to goal setting, it’s better to start with intermediate steps and gradually increase.
To spend more time reading, it’s helpful to break it down into smaller habits that you can easily achieve. Instead of forcing yourself to read for 45 minutes every night, your first step might be to read one chapter. If that’s still too overwhelming, then break your goal into reading a paragraph before bed every night.
If you can do something every day, even if it’s small, you can stick with it and eventually reach your goal.
Give yourself grace if you slip up
If you fall off course with your resolution, don’t beat yourself up, as this can push you further from your goals.
“Nobody is perfect, and you will hit failing moments,” says Greg. “A winner is someone who gets back up one more time when they fall.”
It’s okay to feel disappointed, frustrated, or discouraged with yourself when you slip up. Try to eliminate those negative thoughts and channel those feelings back into what matters, and what encouraged you to set your resolution in the first place.
Remember that a setback is just a moment in time and doesn’t define your entire year ahead. Next time you slip up, vow to rearrange your schedule so that you can hit your goal in the coming week.
Find a positive friend you can trust
A friend who encourages you, motivates you, and holds you accountable can make you more successful in reaching your goals.
It can be helpful to find a friend with a similar ambition and desire as yourself. Together, you can form an accountability relationship where you’re both positively encouraging yourselves to commit to your goal. You might try regular check-ins, progress reports, and rewards at the end of the week.
Create relational resolutions
We often want to create healthier new years resolutions to give ourselves a fresh start. The new year is a chance to think about and make our relationships with loved ones better, too.
This could look like creating a gratitude list and reflecting on what we’re most grateful for in our friendships. We can send a weekly email to a friend we haven’t talked to in a while. Alternatively, we can plan a coffee date with a coworker every two weeks.
To improve your relationship with a loved one, consider what you want to change and discuss it with them. You might ask each other questions like:
- How can we keep the fun alive in our relationship?
- How can we spend more quality time together?
- How will we handle conflicts and bring them back to a healthy resolution?
- What is the most important thing to us about our relationship?
Ultimately, when we feel connected to others, we’re motivated to take positive action and show more compassion.
Before we put together our list of resolutions, or decide to stop making New Year’s resolutions altogether, we can learn healthier ways to reframe our intentions and approach the new year with compassion and confidence.
When done correctly, setting intentions and making resolutions can shape our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors for the better.
If you’re looking for support on reframing your circumstances and how you think about them, or forming intentions for yourself throughout the year, our trained therapists and counselors are here to help.
To start working with one of our therapists in our offices in Franklin, Amherst, West Springfield, Wilbraham, Natick, or online throughout the state of Massachusetts, contact us today at (413) 343-4357.