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How to Maintain your New Year’s Resolutions

The end of the year and the start of the new one bring a giddy mood for some of us. A new year! Full of possibilities! A whole new me! I’m going to start meal prepping and read 50 classic novels and exercise and journal and put in a garden and write hand-written letters to my old friends and never binge watch bad TV again! Fast-forward a few weeks, and we remember that changing habits is often much harder than it looks. Rather than abandon your goals altogether, consider some strategies that will help you turn your excited resolutions into long-term changes.

Be realistic and flexible. If you’re struggling to follow through with changing your behavior, you might need to revisit your original goal and adjust it a bit. Maybe there’s a smaller, more realistic change you can make that still supports the larger value–whether that’s better mental health, better physical health, contributing to your community, or improving your relationships. It can also be helpful to normalize imperfection. Consider setting a goal that allows some room for variation, such as implementing your new habit 75% of the time, or a few days a week rather than every day.

Find ways to work with your environment and habits. Habitual behaviors and routines become very automatic, so make it as easy as possible to do the new thing you want to do. If you want to floss your teeth more often, leave the floss on the counter so you can see it. If you want to use your phone less, pay attention to where you usually are when you pick it up and keep the phone somewhere else. If you want to work out after work, hang your gym clothes on the front door so you can’t forget them in the morning. Get creative to make a new behavior attainable with less thought and effort!

Track your progress and give yourself credit. A simple calendar or a variety of apps can help you see how often you’re implementing your new habit and give you a sense of accomplishment. Some apps even offer a gamified element to make things fun. Remember to give yourself credit for change, even if you aren’t perfect. It can also be helpful to plan a reward for yourself when you’ve reached some goal–maybe implementing your new habit for four weeks straight or reaching a set number of walks taken, books read, etc. Pick something you can afford and will enjoy, and that isn’t counterproductive to your original goal. If you have a friend or loved one who is also trying to make a change, you can also make a plan to check in and keep each other accountable (assuming this person feels safe and supportive to you). Then, celebrate your successes together!

Pay attention to the emotions involved. Does your new habit fill you with feelings of dread? Shame? Anxiety? It will be very hard to implement a change that feels like a punishment. Or, if you are trying to avoid a behavior, what emotions are you experiencing right before you do it? Consider your emotions important information, and investigate why you feel the way you do. Maybe you need to take a different approach to your goals that brings you more joy or sense of accomplishment. Maybe a different activity is more right for you. Or perhaps your goals are touching on painful personal history, or running into unhelpful beliefs about yourself that you need to address before you can make a change.

If you’re feeling stuck in your life, or if your goals for the new year include improving your mental health, managing stress or anxiety, working through past experiences, or improving your relationships, therapy can help. Reach out today for a free consultation!

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