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Mindful Beginnings: Nurturing Mental Wellness in the New Year

Jennifer Geisler, LPC

      As the new year approaches, it is a time for us to consider how we can foster a more positive outlook in the upcoming year. We may consider personal improvements such as adopting healthier eating habits, getting more sleep, engaging in regular exercise, or focusing on our mental well-being. While this period offers an opportunity for positive transformations, it is important to remember that change takes time and practice. New Year’s resolutions can have both positive and negative impacts on mental health, depending on how they are approached and pursued. Here are some considerations to keep in mind.

The Positive Aspects of New Year’s Resolutions

I used to joke about my resolution to stop making New Year’s resolutions, viewing them as unhelpful and detrimental to mental wellness. However, I now hold a more balanced perspective. New Year’s resolutions offer various benefits, allowing goal-setting, boosting motivation, fostering a sense of achievement, developing healthy habits, and pursuing personal growth. They instill purpose and motivation, crucial for improving mental well-being. Achieving resolutions enhances self-esteem and confidence, positively impacting mental health and self-efficacy. The collective cultural effort of millions seeking change can provide motivation and a sense of support.

Resolutions often revolve around adopting healthier habits, like exercise, mindful eating, or meditation, with positive effects on mental health. These practices can be initiated whenever motivation strikes, fostering personal development and growth. Engaging in this process may lead to achievements once deemed unattainable. Channeling this change with a positive mindset can ultimately improve mental health if done with balance, and consideration of avoiding the pitfalls of New Year’s resolutions. 

The Pitfalls of New Year’s Resolutions

As a counselor, I observe several potential challenges associated with the practice of setting New Year’s resolutions. These challenges include unrealistic expectations, all-or-nothing thinking, a lack of flexibility, and unhealthy social comparisons. One prevalent issue is the tendency for individuals to establish overly ambitious or unrealistic resolutions, often resulting in subsequent disappointment and frustration. This, in turn, can have a negative impact on mental health.

The perception of resolutions as strict rules to be followed contributes to the development of an “all-or-nothing” thinking among some individuals. They may feel that if they do not meet their goals precisely, they have failed in their endeavors. Another common struggle is the rigidity with which people pursue their resolutions, leading to increased stress and burnout. Being adaptable and willing to reassess goals as needed becomes challenging for some individuals.

In the era of social media, our feeds are inundated with people sharing their New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, comparing one’s progress with others on these platforms can sometimes foster feelings of inadequacy. It is crucial to remember that individuals may not always convey the complete truth on social media, and appearances can be deceiving. Therefore, exercising caution and cultivating a realistic perspective are essential when navigating the terrain of New Year’s resolutions.

Tips for Making Resolutions

To overcome the challenges of New Year’s resolutions and enhance goal achievement, it’s crucial to focus on your individual journey, recognizing that what works for one person may not work for another. Implementing realistic and achievable goals is key. Therapists often break larger goals into smaller, manageable steps to foster a sense of accomplishment and increase motivation for change. Shift your perspective to celebrate progress, not perfection, and acknowledge small victories.

Setbacks are a natural part of any journey, and self-compassion is essential for maintaining good mental health. Lead yourself toward goals with self-kindness, understanding that setbacks are normal. Seek support from friends, family, or like-minded communities when facing challenges. Practicing balance and moderation between pursuing resolutions and prioritizing mental well-being is vital. Avoid extremes and practice self-care, regularly reflecting on resolutions and adjusting as needed based on changing circumstances.

The metaphor of climbing a mountain illustrates the journey towards goals. Progress often involves secure, small steps, navigating obstacles, and adjusting the path. Sometimes, it may seem like setbacks precede forward movement. Ultimately, reaching the summit allows for reflection on how far you’ve come.

Remember that mental health is a continuous journey, and resolutions can contribute positively when approached mindfully and with self-compassion. If resolutions negatively impact mental health, seek professional advice or adjust goals to align better with overall well-being.