Making Meaningful Resolutions

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We all enter the New Year with such high aspirations and good intentions. We are going to lose twenty pounds, not bring work home with us, jump back into the dating pool, have more patience with our children, and even take the Christmas decorations down before St. Patrick’s Day. All of these are reasonable goals. We make plans. We know this is our year…

Then we find ourselves on Valentine’s Day, wondering what happened to all our resolutions.

New Year’s Resolutions, like most goals, do not fail because you’re not capable of achieving them. They fail because you either overreached in your ambition or you’re comfortable in your habits, even if you know they’re not good for you.

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If you want to make a 2018 resolution and stick with it, here are some tips from us:

1) Don’t set yourself up for failure by changing too much at once. Let’s say your resolution this year is to lose weight. So you tell yourself, “On January first, I’m going to start running every day at 5 am, pre-planning all my food, and giving up sugar.” Then by day two, you realize how cold it is at 5 am in January, you’re already sick of salads, and that half-finished box of chocolates is tormenting you. With any goal, starting small and building is more manageable, less daunting, and more likely to succeed. Start by packing a healthy lunch and snacks for work and walking at least a mile three times per week. Then once you’ve mastered that, add managing your intake of added sugars. You are far more likely to succeed if you don’t set expectations you know going in are impossible.

2) Live by themes instead of making resolutions. Your resolution is to stop nagging your spouse, stop yelling at your children, or (yes, again, the most common resolution), lose some weight. If these are your goals, the first time you slip up and shout because, really, forty-five minutes is an excessive amount of time to take to eat a piece of toast even for a three-year-old, you’ve failed. Resolution blown. The GOAL of never shouting or nagging or eating another cookie might be unrealistic. However, if you set a THEME, one slip-up doesn’t mean failure. Try it: I’m going to be more present and mindful with my children; I’m going to focus on gratitude and straightforward communication with my partner; I’m going to pursue a healthy lifestyle. Having life themes rather than goals allows you to grow, make mistakes, and live in the moment.

3) When a resolution requires all or nothing, don’t do it alone. You’ve vowed this is the year you’re going to stop smoking/drinking/binge eating/compulsively spending/obsessively scrapbooking. You know, and studies reinforce, that you gotta go cold turkey. When that’s the case, the most important factor in determining success is having a support system. Tell everyone you know who has genuine concern for you and who wants you to succeed what your plan is. Ask them to hold you accountable. If you have an addiction, there are 12 Step groups in your area for all of them. Don’t keep this resolution as a little secret so you can fail without embarrassment. The more people who know and support you, the greater your chances for success.

4) Don’t let fear stop you. Fear is the most common reason any resolution fails. You hate your current job, but you’re afraid to step out of your comfort zone and get training in a new field. You want to lose weight, but you’re afraid of looking like a fool at the gym. You want to quit drinking, but you’re afraid you won’t have any friends left if you do. There’s nothing wrong with experiencing fear, but if it’s holding you back from living the life you want, then it’s time to examine the root causes of those fears (maybe with your counselor) and work through them.

From the Charleston Counseling Center, have a successful, mindful, and joyous New Year!

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