Mind Matters: 4 tips to keep your New Year’s resolutions from becoming mental traps

Composite for illustration includes images from Pixabay, St. George News

FEATURE — Welcome to January 2018. This time of year often brings articles providing inspiration on how to create the perfect New Year’s resolution. However, when mental health is concerned, it’s important that resolutions ultimately represent a victory, not just another defeat.

Unfortunately, despite the wealth of never-ending advice and tips out there on how to obtain that perfect body, build that giant stash of savings or travel the world for super cheap, roughly 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned, according to MentalHealth.org, many before the end of January.

The New Year’s resolution can be a great opportunity for people to change habits or work on improving themselves. However, for many struggling with mental illness, creating a resolution can become a mental trap.

According to 24/7 Wall St., the top 10 most popular resolutions for 2018 are as follows:

  1. Eat healthier and lose weight.
  2. Life and self-improvements.
  3. Make better financial decisions.
  4. Quit smoking.
  5. Do more exciting things.
  6. Spend more time with family and close friends.
  7. Work out more often.
  8. Learn something new on my own.
  9. Do more good deeds for others.
  10. Find the love of my life.

As part of the “Mind Matters” series, we would like to offer some practical advice to not only promote mental health but also encourage your to keep working on those New Year’s resolutions you’ve created.

Using the No. 1 reported New Year’s resolution – losing weight – for illustrative purposes, we offer the following four tips to success. However, these suggestions apply to many different resolutions in a broader sense.

1. Be wary of perfectionism.

While we all strive to begin the new year with a clean slate, creating a New Year’s resolution with the idea of perfection behind it can become counterintuitive. If you’re trying to lose weight, instead of having your resolution be “Exercise every day,” which can instill feelings of failure when you miss a day, create a New Year’s resolution that is a little more forgiving, like “Be more active.”

But also be careful of being too vague. Make sure you give yourself an idea of what that more-forgiving resolution looks like, so you have a barometer for measuring your success. 

2. Avoid comparison.

Everyday we are surrounded by images and success stories of those who kept their New Year’s resolutions, from weight loss to financial independence. It can be hard not to compare ourselves to them and expect to accomplish the same thing at the same time using the exact same methods. Remember we are all individuals, and the only person we should compare ourselves to is…ourselves.

3. Think small.

Instead of creating an overarching goal or end result, try creating “baby steps” to help you achieve the end result. Using the example “Lose weight,” an example of baby steps could be any of the following:

  • Walk for 15 minutes three times a week.
  • Add a serving of fruit or veggies to dinner.
  • Drink water instead of soda at lunch.

Baby steps that are measurable and easily obtainable will help motivate you to continue on the path to the desired end result.

4. Make it enjoyable.

If your New Year’s resolution feels like a chore, you will be less motivated to actually keep it. If you’re trying to lose weight, find a way to make it fun, whether it’s learning a new sport, joining a local dance group or finding a buddy who would add lively conversation – or at least a little company – while you walk. If the experience becomes enjoyable, the goal will be easier to obtain.

For more tips on creating and maintaining successful resolutions, including establishing a support network and rewarding yourself, go to MentalHealth.org.

Written by HEIDI BAXLEY, Iron County Prevention Coalition coordinator, and LAUREN MCAFEE, Cedar City Library in the Park grant and development officer.

About the “Mind Matters” Series

As the Mind Matters series continues, we will highlight several Southern Utah mental health providers and organizations, as well as success stories, but if you or someone you know is seeking help or resources now, go to the following websites:

If you or someone you know needs helps immediately, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911. There is help and hope available.

St. George News “Mind Matters” series aims to illuminate how mental illnesses affect society and how to maintain mental health. Articles are contributed by Cedar City Library in the Park in partnership with the Iron County Prevention Coalition and will highlight available resources people may access in Southern Utah and online.

Read more: All the articles in the Mind Matters series

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.


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