Jaded from making (and breaking) New Year's resolutions year after year? Why not say no to what hasn't worked in the past and try a fresh approach to ringing in the New Year?
Laura Drury, MSW, LICSW, clinical director of Social Services at Butler Hospital, says making big New Year's resolutions may not be for everyone. "The intentions behind New Year's resolutions are always great, and if they work for you, go for it. But sometimes, the unintended consequences of New Year's resolutions, such as added pressure, feelings of failure if we don't meet our own expectations, and not accepting that we are good enough just as we are, aren't a great recipe for success."
If you opt to forgo the classic resolutions of going on a diet or spending every day in the gym, consider these alternatives. Laura advises, "Easy does it. Pick one or two things that you think will bring you a greater sense of meaning and purpose as we head into 2014."
- Decide to say "No." Instead of focusing on all the things you "should" be doing in the coming year, learning to say no can have a tremendous positive impact on our productivity and well-being.
- Make a quick list of your favorite moments from 2013 and the people you shared them with. More moments like that will make for a happier 2014. Schedule a standing breakfast date once a month. Promise to touch base on the phone for 10-minutes once a week during your lunch break. Whatever works for you and the person who makes you feel good. Honor those dates, like you would an important meeting.
- Write a one-page letter to your future self. Remind yourself of the most important things you learned. Seal it, address it to yourself, and ask a friend or family member to mail it to you in three months. We often need reminders of the important things we've learned that have helped us in order to keep them fresh in our minds and use that knowledge in our daily lives.
- Practice mindfulness. Tune-in to the person next to you. We get so wrapped up in what needs to be done and where we are going, we forget to take a breath and check-in with others to see how they are feeling and how we can help them. Sometimes, it is as simple as paying someone a compliment or asking how they are.
- Be compassionate with yourself first. "Compassion for yourself fosters compassion for others," says Drury, "Whenever you find yourself being self-critical, you can counteract those thoughts by detaching from them. Try observing the thoughts and picture them floating down a stream like leaves. Let them float away."
- Practice being in the present moment. Often when we're sad, we're living in the past. When we're anxious, we're thinking of the future, but if we focus on the present moment and the task at hand, we feel grounded. One way to do that is to remind yourself to 'keep your head where your hands are.'
- Make a commitment to someone other than yourself. Resolutions don't have to be about us, they can be about honoring a greater cause, like volunteering for a charity, or another person who you can make a little happier by visiting more or making an effort to communicate with.
To help you along in the new year and for more ideas, tools, and reminders on having a healthy mind, join Butler Hospital's A Healthy Mind facebook page. Laura says, "If at some point you decide to try to make a bigger resolution, there's no need to wait for a new year. You can start whenever you feel ready." View Laura's tips on making new year's resoltuions stick.
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