With New Year’s around the corner many people are talking about their New Year’s resolutions. The New Year is traditionally a time to stop and reflect on the previous year. New Year’s resolutions are a popular way to approach self-improvement goals. However, six-months into the New Year more than half of resolvers have fallen off track. With all the practice we get at making resolutions year after year, why aren't we doing better at keeping them?
Psychologists and other experts who've studied resolution-making say people tend to make resolutions that are too general rather than specific. Two of the top resolutions are losing weight and quitting smoking. While these are worthy endeavors, they involve a lot of self-denial and are easy to break. Instead, think of resolutions as if they were therapy goals—intended to empower and self-improve. Make goals specific and measurable to keep yourself on track in the New Year. Here are some suggestions:
1. Learn to Engage
People who manage stress well do not run from problems. Instead, they make active decisions about a problem and make steps to alleviate it.
Resolution: Identify three problems or issues in your life that you would like to solve or at least improve. Make a plan and begin tackling one problem at a time. Keep the steps manageable. Small changes can lead to large improvements. Let yourself feel good about what you have done instead of beating yourself up for what you haven’t. Decide if some things can be purposefully and intentionally dropped, with apologies if necessary.
2. Connect with Others
A key to happiness is having social supports. Spend time with caring friends, colleagues, and family. If connecting with others is difficult for you must first learn how to engage.
Resolution: Reaffirm old friends by staying connected through Facebook, email or a quick phone call. Make it a point to meet up with someone face-to-face at least once a week. Arrange to have coffee, take a walk, or just to drop by. If you don’t have enough friends, join something where there are likely to be people who share your values or interests. Be effective in your interpersonal skills.
3. Practice Calming Skills
People who are resilient have found ways to slow down, to breathe, and to take care of themselves, even in moments of stress. Self -care is easily neglected when you are busy or overwhelmed—it can even feel like a luxury. This is not true. Self-care is crucial and necessary for practicing calming skills.
Resolution: Commit to a practice that is calming for you. Self-care does not necessarily require a lot of time or money. Take care of yourself through yoga, mindfulness meditation, engaging with friends or simply visiting a “happy place” in your mind. If you’re the type who needs to actively discharge anxiety or anger, go for a walk or run. Do things that you enjoy, such as taking lessons in dance, music or art, joining a gym or sports league. Most importantly, don't forget about your basic self-care needs. Eat balanced meals and snacks (don’t skip lunch). Drink plenty of water. Get enough sleep each night. Take care of yourself.
4. Practice Acceptance
When it comes to problems that you cannot fix there are two options: You can remain miserable or you can accept it. To accept means that you are not fighting it; you are not trying to change the past; and you are realistic with yourself about the situation. It's really easy to accept things you like. Acceptance is hardest when you hate what's happening to you or the problem is causing you pain. Generally, we tend to not accept painful events because somewhere inside us, we actually believe that if we refuse to accept something that we don't like, it will go away. However, by not accepting something, you tend to make the problems worse. Acceptance doesn't mean that you have to be "okay" with the situation, but you have committed to moving forward and accepting the reality.
Resolution: Learn to accept with these suggestions: 1) Accept that reality is what it is. Be present in reality as it exists. Learn to observe and describe your experiences instead of living through them. 2) Accept that the event or situation causing you pain has a cause. Accepting that everything has a cause is the opposite of saying, “Why me.” You may not always know or understand the cause, but acceptance from this point of view is to stop trying to change reality. 3) Accept that life can be worth living, even with painful events in it. It is easy to accept and build a worthy life without pain, but it becomes trickery when we begin to think of building a life worth living in the context of pain. If you want to change something, you have to accept it first.
As the New Year approaches, consider making a resolution to increase your ability to handle life’s problems more effectively. By engaging with a problem, connecting with others, keeping calm and accepting, you will feel more competent when life gets hard. Don’t forget; seek professional help when you need it. Sometimes you can become stuck and new input is needed. Seeking help is an affirmation of self-worth. Make this the year that you do something different.
Happy New Year!