Happy New Year! The team at YU hope you all had a lovely festive break and enjoyed celebrating the arrival of 2024.
Given that this time of year is often dominated with the idea of making a fresh start, we thought we’d take a look at the power of making new year’s resolutions.
Having a whole new twelve months stretching out in front of us sparks in our minds the opportunity to do things differently, to try something we’ve never done before, or to try and do better than we did last year. It’s like being given a clean slate – even if things didn’t go your way last year, this year might be different. It’s a new starting point that divides between the ‘old you’ and the ‘new you’, giving you permission to change from the way you used to do things. It might also be our brain’s way of telling us that the excess we indulged in over Christmas needs to be detoxified!
One way we often try to kickstart these changes is to make resolutions, hoping that giving ourselves goals will help us achieve the exciting new milestone, or give up the bad habit we’ve fallen into. Unfortunately, resolutions often don’t last very long – we start full of enthusiasm and optimism, bolstered by the positive feeling we’ve got from having a break over the Christmas period, but once real-life kicks back in and we return to the school run, the commute and the daily routine, we start to feel a bit deflated and autopilot can take over.
However, resolutions can actually be a powerful tool for empowerment and lasting change. Setting our sights on improving ourselves or our situation in some way can lead us towards progress, stopping us becoming stagnant and stuck in a rut, and helping us feel like we’re moving forwards or getting better.
But achieving these goals isn’t the only benefit of resolutions – the very act of thinking in this way changes our perspective. It turns our thoughts inwards, making us reflect on what we’ve done well and what could be improved, learning where we went wrong, and assessing whether we’re doing the things that fulfil us. This type of self-evaluation is never wasted – as we’ve learnt from previous blogs, self-reflection helps us learn from mistakes, recognise our abilities and appreciate the good things that we have.
This type of thinking doesn’t have to be restricted to the beginning of the new year. It’s a convenient time to reflect and think about the path you’d like to take, but there’s no reason that you can’t set yourself goals throughout the year, or only start thinking partway through the year about changes you can make – in fact, we would suggest that’s exactly what you should do! Making new year’s resolutions can result in the mistake of setting ourselves a task ‘for the year’ which can become a bit daunting and unmanageable. Given that life has a habit of getting in the way of good intentions, it can be unrealistic to expect something that you decide upon in January to be feasible or relevant for the entire year.
Instead, aiming for smaller, simpler things that can be achieved in the short-term – say, within a few weeks – can be a great way to make change in a reasonable, manageable way. Once one goal is met, you can set another one to maintain progress and the feeling of achievement. If you suffer a setback, it doesn’t have to be viewed as a failure that sees you completely give up. Instead, see it as an opportunity to learn how to do things better, or in a way more suited to you and your lifestyle. You can also reframe the goal with a new beginning point if it gives you the necessary boost to pick things back up.
The type of goal can make a difference too. If you choose a goal focused on giving something up, this may be harder to stick to when there are other distractions or stresses around, whereas a goal aimed at taking up a new habit (like starting a new sport or hobby) feels more positive, so we are more likely to stick with it. However, it is possible to counter the potential to give up with the way we think about the wording of our goals. If your ultimate aim is to lose weight, instead of saying “I want to stop eating unhealthy food this year’, try setting a goal to cook a new recipe every week. Both should have the same outcome, but you may be more likely to stick to a goal that makes you feel like you’re gaining something.
You could also set a goal that doesn’t necessarily have a deadline. For example, investing in yourself by practising mindfulness or journaling is an ongoing activity that doesn’t require an end date, but can be just as beneficial and rewarding as something that can be measured in distance or weight.
The sense of a new start can be a powerful feeling when trying to make a change, but it definitely doesn’t have to limited to the new year – make every day an opportunity to make positive change for yourself.