Every December 31 it’s the same: As the libations flow and the conversations echo during your New Year’s Eve party, you spill out your lofty resolutions for the coming 12 months. Next year, I’m gonna be healthier! I’m gonna finally download those dating apps! I’m gonna get that promotion!
But by January 31, you’ve decided you really don’t have time to go to the gym every day. Your matches are trash, so you might as well delete Tinder. Your boss will never respect you so why even try?
Everyone knows New Year’s resolutions are hard to keep, and when you inevitably quit whatever goals you started on January 1, it’s difficult to not feel disappointed with yourself or let your mental health spiral.
So we chatted with Angela Powell, a licensed professional counselor with Connections Wellness Group, which has locations across the DFW area, about how to make healthy and realistic resolutions come January 1.
This interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity.
What are some unhealthy New Year’s resolutions?
For some people, having a goal of being able to run a marathon, that can be a pretty realistic and a really healthy goal. But for some people, it may not be. Some people may not have the physical ability to be able to do that. So, if you’re setting yourself up to a point of I want to be able to run a marathon in three months, but you’ve never run a day in your life, it may be setting yourself up for too much pressure and that feeling of failure if you’re not able to achieve it.
So what are ways to set healthy goals for the New Year?
One of the things that I usually tell people to do is to set smart goals, which means making sure that it’s a specific goal. So something that you can actually define of what it is that you’re trying to reach, and then make sure it’s measurable. Or is it just looking for a feeling? Because if you’re just looking for a general feeling, it’s hard to actually measure what a feeling is. Say you want to be happier in the new year: That’s a general goal people can have, but what kind of things do you need to break that down into what will help you to feel happier?
What about resolutions that are reliant on others? Like, this year, I’m going to find a significant other?
That one—you’re only 50 percent of that equation. Really, it’s a 50 percent chance at max that you’re going to be able to achieve that. And it may help to look at what it is that you’re wanting and what you can focus on for yourself. So that whenever you do get into a relationship, it can be that much healthier of a relationship. And I say that also because if your goal is to get into a relationship, that goal isn’t getting to a healthy relationship.
What else do I need to consider before making a resolution?
So, looking through and really just seeing why you really want to do it. Because if you don’t really want to do it, then you’re not going to stick to it. And it helps if you’re able to understand the “why.” …
And even setting in reminders for yourself of “why.” For myself, if I set a goal, I honestly will write on my mirror with a with a dry erase marker. I’ll write it on my mirror of what the “why” is. Not necessarily what the goal is, but what is my “why.” Because my “why” is going to drive me through whatever it is that I’m going to need to help accomplish whatever goals it is that I’m setting for myself.
Writing out goals reminds me of the manifesting trend.
So manifesting itself: If you just set it out there, it’s not necessarily a guarantee that it’s going to happen. You still have to take that onus of yourself of doing things to make sure it happens. And that’s a part of putting it out there, writing it down, letting yourself be reminded of it, and actively working towards it. If you set out that goal, but then you don’t actually do anything to work towards it, that can start becoming pretty unhealthy. And it can start feeling like well, nothing ever good ever happens to me or none of these things are ever going to be good or I’ve always failed at all of these things.
Going back to understanding the “why,” many people set resolutions in service of others. Is that a good thing?
I know a lot of times when we are looking at setting goals or these resolutions, a pretty common one is to do it for your family or for your kids. But is it really for your kids? Or is it really because you want to be able to be there to experience those life experiences, those joys, those moments with them as much as you can? So, looking at that next level below what it may be, because if it’s just for your kids, as much as you love your kids, you may need to reframe it so that you’re seeing it as what is it really there? What’s the meat of it, instead of what are some of the external things that I may be looking at?
Why can this service to others become unhealthy?
If we’re focusing on other people, and making sure everyone else’s needs are met and not our own, then we get left behind. A pretty common analogy for it in therapy itself is “the cup.” So, say I have a cup, and it is filled with water, and you come along and you need something. And so I give you water from my cup into your cup, and another person comes along and they need something. So I give them water, and another person and another person and another person until I don’t have any water left in my cup. So, unless we’re actually doing something to help refill our own cup, we can’t actually do anything for other people.
So how can we amend our resolutions if they become unhealthy?
First thing is to let yourself reevaluate multiple times throughout the entire process of whether or not it is worth it. And whether or not it is something that’s still healthy or beneficial for you. Because if you’re not reevaluating, you’re just kind of go, go, go, go, go and keeping on doing the same thing, it can start feeling like you’re in a rut.
Should people wait until New Year’s to set a goal for themselves?
We can always push it off and push it off and push it off. And then the more you push something off, the more it is that it can start to be something that starts weighing on you. You can almost start creating this sense of failure, like well I never started that, or I never did that. I never followed through with that.
Do you think New Year’s resolutions are even healthy?
I think for some people, it can be. I don’t know the exact percentage of how many people fail in their New Year’s resolutions, but I know it’s high. So, for some people, it’s almost like setting yourself up for failure. And so, if you don’t actually take the time to look at all the reasons and all the things that are going on for you to want to actually set that goal in place, you don’t actually have that motivation to want to do it, then you may be setting yourself up for failure.