New Year’s Resolutions: Healthy or Hurtful?

You know the standard January 1 question: “What’s your New Year’s resolution?” I’ve always found resolutions to feel forced, cheesy, and odd. I can’t recall the last time I even had a New Year’s resolution because of this mentality, but I’ve been thinking about it lately… they are the hope for something new, something different, and something good. But when do New Year’s resolutions become more hurtful than healthy?

The #1 resolution for people, I’d assume, is weight loss. We all want to feel good about ourselves, both inside and out, so a weight loss resolution is understandably common. However, some may take this resolution and shame themselves for “failing” or “slipping.” I know I’ve been there. We may take resolutions as an “all-or-nothing” achievement, but it’s time to break down that stereotype. That “all-or-nothing” mentality is actually considered a cognitive distortion, aka a thinking mistake. In therapy, I often challenge my clients to identify their thinking mistakes and process how those thinking mistakes have impacted their daily function, as well as their self perception. Here are some common thinking mistakes:

  1. Catastrophizing: Expecting the worst, regardless of realistic outcomes. (“I didn’t study enough for that final exam so I know I’m going to fail it which will drag down my entire grade!”)
  2. All-or-Nothing Thinking: You see things as absolutes/black and white. (“I gave in to my food cravings today which just ruined entire progress I’ve made. There’s no point in even trying to eat healthier anymore.”)
  3. Labeling: You label yourself negatively. (“I’m disgusting.”)
  4. Shoulds: Establishing a rigid code that you feel you have to follow and you punish yourself when you don’t meet these expectations. (“I should be staying at work late every night to make sure that everything is completed and ready for the next day, or I’ll just be seen as lazy and incompetent.”)
  5. Double Standard: You hold yourself to a higher standard than others. (“Jimmy is always 10-15 minutes late to work but I know that he drives far so it’s understandable” vs “I had to stop for gas so now I’m going to be a few minutes late! I can’t believe I didn’t just stop for gas last night knowing that I HAVE to be at work on time.”)
  6. Magical Thinking: You think things will be better in life when _________. (“If I made more money, I know for a fact that I’d feel way less stressed.”
  7. Overgeneralization: You see a constant, negative pattern based on one event. (“That one cashier at McDonald’s was so rude to me so I’m never going to eat at that McDonald’s again!”)

New Year’s resolutions, for some, are rooted in thinking mistakes. For example, someone who is wanting to lose 30 pounds may be telling themselves that they’ll feel worthwhile if they are able to lose that amount of weight, which is the thinking mistake called “magical thinking.” At times, we may assume something will have a desired effect so we tell ourselves that we must reach a specific goal. Having that mentality at the root of a New Year’s resolution may be setting ourselves up for failure. But how do we change that mentality?

Step 1: Identify some positive changes you’re hoping to see in your life for 2020.

Step 2: Identify how you will work toward your goals.

Step 3: Identify reasoning behind those desired changes.

Step 4: Process the root cause of desired change and challenge thinking mistakes associated, if any.

Step 5: Create a realistic goal/game plan to achieve desired change(s).

Step 6: Allow yourself grace and compassion for possible shortcomings.

I’ve identified some New Year’s resolutions for myself that I hope to continue working on all year and figured sharing my step process from a personal experience may be helpful!

Step 1: Identify some positive changes you’re hoping to see in your life for 2020.

I am hoping to take better care of myself, both mentally and physically.

Step 2: Identify how you will work toward your goals.

I will attend therapy to continue working on my self-growth and mental well-being. I will blog more as a safe and supportive outlet. I will increase methods of self-care and set work boundaries. I will incorporate healthier foods into my diet. I will be more active outside and keep my body moving.

Step 3: Identify reasoning behind those desired changes.

I feel like I don’t take good care of my body and take many things in my life for granted. I’d like to make changes to be fully appreciative of the body and mind that I have.

Step 4: Process the root cause of desired change and challenge thinking mistakes associated, if any.

My mental well-being has struggled in 2019 due to many work-related changes and I haven’t been able to make myself a priority. I am also unhappy with my physical body and wish I were more fit.

Identified thinking mistakes:

Labeling: I’ve used hurtful language in the recent past to describe my body, such as “fat”, “gross”, and “disgusting.”

Double standard: I advocate and encourage my clients to love themselves for who they are, but tell myself that I am not enough.

Shoulds: I am getting married in September 2020 and have told myself that my body should look a certain way in a wedding dress.

Step 5: Create a realistic goal/game plan to achieve desired change(s).

Set up a healthy meal plan that adds in plenty of veggies, lean protein, and healthy fats.

Exercise more via biking, walking, and weight training.

Reach out to my old therapist and book a session with her. Dedicate to weekly therapy sessions.

Identify blog material and dedicate to weekly posting. Decrease weekly posting if goal increases anxiety and stress.

Take more bubble baths. Get more sleep. Have 2-3 device-free hours a day. Make time for friends and family.

Step 6: Allow yourself grace and compassion for possible shortcomings.

Allow self to enjoy the not-so-healthy treats every now and again without shame.

Accept that my body may be unable to physically handle daily goals sometimes and allow my body time to rest.

Love self regardless.

Happy holidays. ✨

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