Why do we set ourselves up for failure? Part of the problem might be that we’re basing our resolutions on other people’s ideas, and other people’s ideas don’t always work. Your best friend might be able to quit drinking coffee cold turkey, but you might not be. Your cousin might be able to lose 20 pounds in 10 weeks, but losing weight according to a schedule might be a lot more difficult for you.
Making an overly ambitious resolution and then failing to achieve it might ultimately be worse than making no resolution at all. Training for and running a 10-kilometer road race might be a great way to improve your fitness. But stressing out about your inability to achieve that goal can harm your mental well-being. Running a road race isn’t the only way to get healthy!
The Depression Workbook provides some good insight into how New Year’s resolutions need to be based on who you are, rather than what others might expect of you. For example, let’s think about weight loss, which is one of the most common resolutions. The Depression Workbook gives two strikingly different examples of how people found wellness. One person who was interviewed for the book lost 130 pounds (59 kg), felt much better, and gained relief from a chronic back problem. On the other hand, another person interviewed decided to stop worrying about other people’s opinions, buy fashionable clothing, and begin swimming to stay active (as opposed to losing weight).
Of course, you might be thinking about something completely different as a resolution. Perhaps it’s quitting smoking, reducing drinking, controlling your temper, or de-cluttering. Or maybe as you read this article, you are thinking that this might be the year to quit procrastinating. (Or maybe you’re saving that one for 2019.)
No resolution yet? Don’t worry, there’s nothing magical about January 1. In fact, you might even consider the month of January as a trial period for testing out ideas for resolutions—kind of like trying out courses at the beginning of a school term. You might find it’s easier to eat four servings of green vegetables each day than to cut out potato chips entirely. Or you might find it’s easier to pay compliments to two strangers per day than it is to stop cursing when you’re stuck in traffic. Once you settle on something that works, you can try to ride it out for the remaining 11 months of 2018.
So, from all of us at WRAP, Happy New Year! Have an interesting resolution you’d like to share with the rest of the WRAP community? Tell us about it on our Facebook page!
Alan Marzilli, J.D., M.A., is a senior writer/program associate at Advocates for Human Potential (AHP). His work focuses primarily on homelessness, mental health and substance use disorder services, cannabis regulation, and employment services.