Now that 2013 has drawn to a close and gym membership commercials have increased in disturbing frequency, our thoughts automatically turn to New Year’s Resolutions and our (often short-lived) commitment to them.
According to History.com, the tradition of making a resolution dates back 4000 years to ancient Babylon. The Babylonians would make vows to the gods (such as returning borrowed farming equipment or paying off debts) in exchange for good fortune in the new year. The Romans also began the new year by offering similar promises and sacrifices to the god Janus (January’s namesake).
Fast forward several thousand years, and the human population continues to make promises at the beginning of each new year. We aren’t promising the gods to give back our plows in return for a productive harvest as much, but we do make promises to ourselves to lose weight, quit smoking, or put the smartphone down.
The year comes to an end, and it offers us a chance for reflection on what we would like to work on in the future. As a result, we make these promises easily. We often forget, however, to create strategies defining how we can meet these resolutions successfully.
Below are some tips and thoughts by various mental health professionals on creating and maintaining New Year’s Resolutions and wanting to better our lives.
What are your resolutions for 2014?
Like other things, when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, we have a “Should Part” and and “Want Part.” The first can be as big as our heart and mind can make it, but the second will win out every time: so the question is: what do I, what do you really, really want? – David Nawrocki, LISW
My advice on a New Years Resolution? Don’t make one. Make that change today! Healthier eating doesn’t have to start on a Monday. Why wait for a better life? – Lesley McKinney, LMHC
Don’t give up if you fall off the wagon. Becoming the new and improved you is a process. If you get a speeding ticket in the morning, would you decide to drive terribly the rest of the day? I doubt it. Your New Year’s Resolution should be no different. If you have a lapse, treat it as an isolated incident and then resolve to get back on the wagon and do better. – Andres Duran, LMHC
Happiness comes only when we push our brains and hearts to the farthest reaches of which we are capable. It is then we value ourselves. It is then we really start to matter to ourselves. Because the deepest desire of everyone is to matter; to count; to stand for something. When we matter to ourselves, we are purposeful. We become stewards of life and meaning. And the world is a better place with us. – David Durham, M.D., MPH
“Studies” show that New Year’s Resolutions rarely work. By february or March, most people have given up, so it’s a challenge. Changing behavior in general is a challenge. Just deciding on resolution(s) is usually not enough. Giving it some thought, making some kind of concrete plan, holding oneself accountable, keeping track of progress, or lack thereof: all of these things are often necessary components for resolution success. Being realistic is important. Focusing on 1 or 2 is better than 5 resolutions. – Josip Gazic, M.D.
Make a resolution that only lasts the day. Maybe even just a few hours. You will definitely be able to accomplish it. – Randy Ferrin, RN
Don’t make resolutions. Instead, what you can do is think of 3 things you really want to learn this year. – Lisa Harvey, LPCC
Be kind. – Lynn McWilliams, CNS
Make your resolutions simple. Have short-term and long-term goals. Don’t make absolutes like “always” or “never.” – Reuben Sutter, M.D.
I like to make time for reflection at the end of year to see what worked for me and what didn’t. What do I need to do enhance my life this new year? – Kristen Kaserman, LMFT
Make your New Year’s Resolution feasible, something at which you can succeed. Resolutions are about recreating. New beginnings require small steps to ultimately be accomplished. – Lynn Thompson, Ph.D., CNS
Don’t make your resolution a solitary venture. Accomplishing any goal, small or large, on your own can sometimes be a daunting and overwhelming task. Enlist the aide of family and friends to support you. Create new beginnings together! – Lana Reihani, LMHC
As you approach resolutions for this year, think about incorporating nature. Five minutes of sunlight and fresh air can make a world of difference in your day. It can leave you feeling more alive and able to deal with the stresses of life. – Lisa Sutter, LISW
Clinical Director Therapist
Lana Reihani, LPCC, is a Clinical Mental Health Therapist, Clinical Supervisor, and Clinical Director with Sage Neuroscience Center. She is passionate about strengthening evidence-based clinical practices with radical empathy and a touch of humor, delivered with safety, equality, and diversity in mind. In her free time, Lana loves to learn, cook, find the best light for selfies, share amazing memes, and watch trashy reality TV.