Every year, as the New Year rings in, thousands of people around the world make “new year, new me” pledges – only to find themselves discouraged and disappointed a few weeks later.
But what would happen if we stopped focussing on “fixing” our weaknesses? What if, instead, we pledged to lean into the strengths we have? What if we spent more of our time doing what makes us happy? What if we let go of the “not enough” culture altogether?
The possibilities are endless.
Why New Years’ Resolutions Don’t Work
New Year’s resolutions fail for numerous reasons. Some of the most common reasons include not having enough time, not having support from family and friends, setting unrealistic goals, and progressing too slowly toward a goal.
Psychology Today discusses one phenomenon called the “empathy gap”. This occurs when we plan for a future experience and fail to account for how it will feel as time wears on. For example, you plan to go for a run. The first mile feels great, so you think to yourself, “Oh, I can do ten miles today!” However, by mile four, fatigue is setting in, so you quit. Then, you find yourself discouraged because you didn’t do ten miles, rather than celebrating the fact that you ran four.
5 Alternatives to New Years’ Resolutions
When we create plans for big lifestyle changes, it’s important to always set milestones that honor small successes. If we don’t, we run the risk of becoming easily discouraged weeks or months down the road when resolution fatigue sets in.
So, in light of the new year, how can we make sure that the goals we set are attainable and realistic? I recommend taking a look at the big picture. Here are five strategies that can help!
1. Create a bucket list
Think about what you really hope to accomplish personally, professionally, spiritually, etc this year. Rather than “lose twenty pounds,” think in terms of “find a form of exercise I enjoy” and “try at least ten new recipes.”
2. Create a monthly challenge
These should be challenges that can be realistically accomplished in a month. Examples could be to read three books or ride a bike for at least ten days. Just make sure that the challenge you set is realistic, and make sure to celebrate when you achieve your goal!
3. Use a vision board
A vision board is a collection of words, photos, and drawings that describe the direction you want your life to go in. For example, this year, our family is planning on enjoying a week outdoors at Yellowstone National Park. I’m writing a book, and I aim to finish it this year. We are also looking for a little farmhouse to buy to grow our farm. These are all of the things that could go on my vision board!
4. Try a family goal jar
Have everyone in the family jot down something they would like to accomplish as a family in the coming year. Maybe, like our family, you have a special trip planned. Maybe you want to have a screen-free weekend or tackle a new book series together. Periodically, draw a goal from the jar and have fun tackling it together!
5. Practice gratitude
Regularly journaling about what you are grateful for is a practice that reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s also an exercise that empowers you to reframe the negatives in your life into positives. For example, instead of being discouraged about what you haven’t accomplished yet, celebrate what you have accomplished. “I am so grateful I parked further away from the store and got a bit of extra walking in today. The fresh air did me good.”
Finally, as you enter 2023, do not forget to care for your mental health needs. The Lily-Jo Project offers a variety of mental health content on our website (www.thelilyjoproject.com) that can be of assistance.
We also offer a public community on Facebook that provides a forum to seek support with the day-to-day questions and concerns that go with raising a family and mental health issues in general. I moderate the group, and we would love to have you. You can request to join here – looking forward to seeing you there!
Further Resources on Mental Health and New Years
If you found this article helpful, check out these additional resources on mental health and New Year.
- The Lily-Jo Project’s article, 5 Toxic New Year Narratives and How to Ignore Them
- Ohana Behavioral Health’s article, The Impact of failed New Year’s resolutions on mental health and how to set realistic goals
- Centerstone’s article, How New Year’s resolutions impact mental health
- Psycom’s article, You might be doing your New Year’s resolutions all wrong
Finally, if you are a parent, teacher, or guardian in need of support with navigating children’s mental health this year, Lily-Jo’s debut book Talking to Children About Mental Health will be available to purchase in January! To purchase your copy, visit www.thelilyjoproject.com/book.
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is the shelter manager for a family crisis center in the United States, as well as a counseling student and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com) – her area of passion is helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is currently in the process of obtaining her counseling license as a marriage and family therapist. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of seventeen years, and together they share three children, aged twelve, nine, and seven. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, walking, and biking.