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new year resolutions and mental health

new year resolutions and mental health

New Year is often seen as an opportunity for positive change and personal growth. There’s a feeling of a fresh start lingering in the air but we all get caught up in the age-old tradition of setting resolutions. 

After a week of festive celebration, the start of a new year often brings a sense of renewal and reflection. But amidst all of this, it’s crucial to keep our feet on the ground when it comes to our mental health.

You may have heard of the popular saying ‘New Year, New Me’ from your friends and family or social media. While setting resolutions is common, it’s good to approach this period with an understanding of yourself and your mental health. Let’s explore and dispel common myths, provide practical insights and encourage a mindful approach to the new year for our wellbeing journey.

common myths

I need to transform myself this new year 

The idea of a complete transformation can be overwhelming. Instead, focus on your personal growth and small, sustainable changes such as adding one healthy element to your day. Celebrate your progress rather than aiming for an unrealistic overhaul. 

success means perfection

Perfection is unattainable and can lead to unnecessary stress. Embrace imperfections as part of being human. Plan your resolution well, considering possible barriers and changes in circumstances. Remember that you can learn how to grow from setbacks.

it is easy to make one small change

Small changes like reading 30 minutes a day or exercising three times a week seem easy, but sticking to it poses the biggest challenge. Any change, no matter how small, requires effort and adding something new to our daily routine means less time for other things.

Why can’t I find joy in the New Year and the resolution? 

Not everyone feels compelled to take on New Year’s resolutions and that’s perfectly okay. Treating the New Year as just another year, without the pressure of resolutions, is a valid perspective, too. On the other hand, for some, entering the New Year isn’t accompanied by joy and anticipation. Understanding the reasons behind this can pave the way for a more mindful approach to starting the year.

Unrealistic expectations

The cultural pressure on setting resolutions and transformations can lead to unrealistic expectations. Feeling pressured to make huge changes overnight may contribute to stress, anxiety and, in some cases, even burnout.

Social comparison

Relying on the image of people’s lives presented on social media weeks after the new year can intensify feelings of inadequacy. Seeing others’ ‘perfect’ resolutions and past achievements may create a sense of unnecessary competition or overexaggerated self-criticism.

Reflection on past challenges

The turn of the year may provoke reflection on challenges faced in the past. While reflection is valuable, dwelling overly on setbacks can contribute to feelings of disappointment or failure. It’s important not to get stuck on past problems and instead focus on turning them into lessons for a better year ahead.

Loneliness and social pressures

For some, the new year can be lonely, especially if your circumstances have changed or you lack support. The pressure to create grand plans can worsen feelings of loneliness. Social expectations to be outgoing and achieve great things may add to the sense of isolation.

Financial stress

The holiday season often involves increased spending and the new year can bring financial stress. Concerns about debt, expenses or meeting financial goals may contribute to anxiety. Setting realistic financial expectations and seeking support can ease this burden. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

In regions such as the United Kingdom, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) represents a considerable mental health concern, particularly due to its relationship with reduced exposure to sunlight. SAD is a type of depression that occurs commonly during fall and winter when daylight hours are shorter. The lowered availability of natural light can affect individuals’ moods, energy levels and overall wellbeing. 

How can I choose a New Year’s resolution that is good for my mental health?

Last year’s top resolutions in the UK centred around diet and physical activity. While exercising and a healthy lifestyle are crucial to our wellbeing, it’s time to shift our perspective. Let’s broaden our horizon to include self-awareness, resilience, mental health and social connection for a holistic approach to a brighter year ahead.

Reflect on the past year

Take some time to reflect on the past year. Think about your successes, challenges and achievements. Recognise the lessons you learned from those experiences and use them to set your goals for the upcoming year. Consider what really matters to you and align your resolutions with your values and long-term objectives. Reflecting on the past year and your values is not just another task, it’s a great opportunity to acknowledge your journey and pave the way for meaningful goals in the year ahead.

Set realistic goals 

Rather than setting big resolutions, focus on small, achievable goals. Break them down into manageable steps and celebrate your successes along the way. For instance, rather than aiming to read a book every week, set a more achievable goal of dedicating 15 minutes to reading or reading 10 to 15 pages a day. Break it down further by scheduling specific times for these reading sessions and celebrate completing each one as a small victory toward a healthier mind. Be open to adjusting your resolution as circumstances change. Life is dynamic and flexibility ensures that you can stay on track despite unforeseen challenges.

Practice mindfulness and gratitude

Dedicate a few minutes daily to mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises, coupled with keeping a gratitude journal. This practice reduces stress, promotes mental clarity and nurtures a positive mindset by appreciating life’s positive aspects.

Connect with others 

Prioritise social connections. Share your goals with friends or family and consider joining a community or group that aligns with your interests. Building strong social connections can provide valuable support and encouragement. Find a partner who shares similar or complementary goals. If your resolutions align, you can work together, share resources and celebrate joint successes. When one of you faces challenges or lacks motivation, the other can provide encouragement and perspective. Having someone to share the load makes the journey more manageable.


Engage in regular activities alongside New Year’s resolution

Balancing your new resolution with ongoing activities that bring you joy and relaxation helps to prevent burnout and adds a layer of pleasure to your routine. Whether it’s reading, art, exercise, or spending time in nature, doing these activities you already enjoy helps you establish a safety net that adds stability and a sense of continuity. This makes it easier not to overcommit and promotes the long-term sustainability of your New Year’s resolution. 

 

Here’s to a new year filled with positive changes, self-discovery and a healthier mindset. Wishing you a year ahead filled with good wellbeing and success! 

support

If you or anyone you know requires support, our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at advice@changemh.org or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.

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