Why do we wait until the New Year to make resolutions,
when it comes to our mental health and wellbeing?

It is that time of year again: when we will start to think about New Year resolutions and the promises we make ourselves about how to improve and enrich our lives.

It may seem like it is a rite of passage for many of us as another year comes to a close, yet why do we wait until the New Year to make resolutions when it comes to bettering ourselves, our mental health and wellbeing?

There are many reasons. It may be a habit, it may be peer pressure or it may be an attempt to give new meaning, hope and optimism to our lives.

Indeed, few would argue that it usually has something to do with reflecting about the last 12 months and seeing in a brand new year. It’s that sense of newness that appeals: being able to wipe the slate clean and start afresh.

We may decide that we will be nicer to friends, parents, partners or work colleagues or we may decide that we will take out a new gym membership, lose weight, change jobs, move house, start dating or go travelling.

Resolutions can be linked to a sense of dissatisfaction, low self-esteem or unhappiness with ourselves and feeling that we need to “improve” while pinning our hopes on a set of resolutions.

Yet common sense tells us most of us don’t stick to our New Year resolutions. A 2018 report found that 80 per cent of people had dropped them by mid-February.

Other findings shows that if we decide to make resolutions earlier in the year – some say as early as March, others argue November is fine – we are more likely to stick to them because we have a clear action plan in place.

It makes sense. You are putting far less pressure on yourself if you set a daily, weekly or monthly goal when it comes to bettering ourselves, our mental health and wellbeing.

These do not need to be major goals or objectives. In fact, small and positive goals are better: ones that are all about being kind to yourself and remember that it is also okay to ask for support from friends, family, partners and loved ones.

If you’re not sure about what you would want to include in your action plan, think about what have been the achievements or experiences that have brought you joy or satisfaction in previous years?

You may be feeling tired and stressed if you are working full-time while also running a household and you would love nothing more than some me-time. Your action plan could be to find anything from 20 minutes to one hour a day that you can devote entirely to yourself – no matter what – like listening to free meditation app on your smartphone or setting aside half an hour to write a gratitude journal or go for a walk. In making any resolutions work long-term, time management will be something to keep a handle on.

When it comes to our mental health and wellbeing, it is a good idea to bear in mind that the festive season and New Year is a time that can trigger mental health issues such as loneliness, anxiety and depression for a variety of reasons ranging from financial stress to family conflict or the breakup of a close personal relationship. This is another reason why New Year resolutions can be counterproductive.

If you are feeling depressed, anxious or feel you lack the confidence to see through any resolutions around your wellbeing or mental health, perhaps what you need most at this time is the help of a trained professional counsellor who can guide you through any issues you are facing. Booking to see a counsellor could be a positive step towards wellness and good mental health in 2020.

Remember that resolutions can be a force for good when you set yourself realistic and achievable goals. If along the way towards achieving those goals, you slip up, don’t worry. There is always a new day to start again.

If you would like to speak to a counsellor about your mental health or making a change to your wellbeing please email enquiries@ransw.org.au or call 1300 364 277.

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