February 6, 2024

Resolution setting: Set smart, stay on course

It’s that time of year again. There may have been a discussion over Christmas dinner or perhaps we’ve felt some pressure from social media, but wherever we’ve seen it crop up, the concept of ‘resolutions’ is hard to avoid.

Given the bizarre year that has just passed, we may feel even more of an impetus to take control of our lives and really think about what we want for the coming year. This is a good thing. The trouble is that for most of us resolutions either never really get off the ground or tend to tail off rather quickly.

Luckily, if there’s one group of people that know a thing or two about setting goals and sticking to them, it’s therapists, and we have a bunch who are happy to share their top tips.

Dr Nicky Hartigan - Frame your resolutions positively

This year more than ever, it’s really easy for us to think of things we want to do less of. After being stuck inside for so much of the year we may tell ourselves things like ‘I want to watch less TV’ and ‘I want to eat less junk food’.

The problem with this is that it focuses our attention on what we’re doing wrong and is quite self-critical and punishing, which doesn’t lead us to feel inspired or motivated. A more helpful way to set resolutions is to think about what we want to do more of. So instead of ‘watch less TV’, it’s ‘spend more time reading’ - or whatever you would prefer to spend your time doing.

This allows us to feel more positive about our resolutions instead of thinking of them as something to be dreaded or feared and as such, we’re more likely to stick to them.

Dr Denise Bevan - Reflect on what you’ve liked, and what you’ve missed, this year

One of the most common resolutions we set is around losing weight. If this is what’s really important to us then it’s a perfectly valid resolution, but try to avoid picking resolutions just because they seem like the right thing to do.

Have a think over the past year about what you’ve really enjoyed and what you’d like to do more of, perhaps catching up with old friends? Now think about what you’ve missed, perhaps travel, and make sure you set some time to do so in the coming year.

Once you’ve done that try to plan out how you’re going to make it happen. You might want to start a savings pot for your holiday so you have something to work towards, or ask for babysitting vouchers for your birthday so you can have some more time to spend on you.

Most importantly, remember that goals are for life, not just for new years. Taking some time to think about what really matters to you and what you need to do to achieve it is much more valuable than setting yourself a resolution which just seems like a good idea.

Dr Rumina Taylor - As strange as it sounds, taking your time on things can make you feel less busy

Personally I often feel too busy which can be quite anxiety-triggering. My goal for this year is to take more time on each thing I need to do. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, being more focussed on an individual task and not getting ahead of ourselves about what we need to do next, allows us to be more mindful and far less stressed.

This doesn’t have to apply to work. Even when it comes to spending time with my kids or my friends, I want to be more present in that moment, not thinking about an email I might need to send or something I have to do later.

If you also find yourself feeling too busy, I’d recommend giving this a go. You don’t need to set resolutions around ‘being more on top of things’ or ‘finding ways to be more efficient’. Simply taking more time on each thing as it comes will most likely help you achieve those goals whilst feeling less anxious.

CBT Therapist Kirstie Wright - Always think ‘how’

Resolutions can be hard to stick to if we haven’t fully thought through the changes that are needed to make them happen. For example, your resolution might be to save more money in the coming year. If you just have that as an idea in your mind, the next time you’re out shopping and see something you like, then remember that you want to spend less, you’re instantly hit with a negative feeling and the resolution becomes very easy to break.

Instead, think about what would need to change. Perhaps you make a budget, outlining what you’re willing to spend on certain things each month. Maybe you identify certain areas in which you can cut costs. If you’ve done this, you don’t need to fight temptation so much as you have ‘guidelines’ to follow.

We hope you find those helpful, and if one of your resolutions this year is to speak to a professional about your mental health, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We can match you to a therapist suited towards your needs and set up sessions at a time that works for you.

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