It’s that time of year. As the last days of 2010 are ticked off the calendar one by one, people are setting their sights and hopes on 2011. New year’s resolutions are popular among many, scoffed by a few, and notoriously hard to keep. Gym members complain of the “January rush”—the swarm of resolution-makers who exercise faithfully for the first few weeks of the year before tapering off and returning to their old ways. But while “exercise more and eat better” are the common clichés of New Year’s resolutions, the most popular goals are less physical and more personal. According to a survey of over 5,000 New Years resolution Tweets, the most popular resolution topics are “Personality improvements [and] philosophical outlook on life” (23%) and “Relationships (getting into a relationship, getting over an ex)” (9%).
Often, “outlook on life” resolutions center on incorporating more good thoughts into one’s daily mindset: being more positive, more proactive, more honest, more appreciative, more affectionate, etc. But for some, the goal is to minimize a negative mindset. Getting a handle on depression, anxiety, ADD, or other mental health situations is a common, and quite meaningful, resolution for the new year. Just as those whose goal is physical health will join a gym and establish an exercise routine, those whose goal is mental health will find a therapist, schedule appointments, and start incorporating mentally healthy patterns and behaviors into their daily routine.
Follow-through is the hard part. Experts recommend focusing on one or two resolutions (a manageable amount) and setting goals that are realistic and attainable, yet concrete enough to actually assess. The mindset you’re in is also incredibly influential. The slippery slope of abandoning resolutions begins with one or two short-term choices that usurp the long-term goal. Psychologically, this happens when we don’t feel connected to our future selves. If you are seeing a counselor or therapist, work with him or her to connect where you are now with where you’d like to be: even if you do accomplish change, you won’t turn into a stranger. Connecting the present and the future can not only help you achieve the long-term vision necessary to make those resolutions a reality, but it will help you make the small, short-term choices required to do so.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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