Around this time of year, many of us make goals, plans, or “resolutions” to make changes. Lose weight, learn a language, quit smoking, volunteer more, spend less money – these goals we set for ourselves are done with the best intentions. We want to be the best versions of ourselves. But more often than not, after a few months, weeks or even days after making these resolutions, we break the habit or give up on the goal, feeling defeated and a bit like a failure.
This year, try an alternative to the guilt of unmet resolutions with these habits that will improve your mental health.
Make a habit of daily or weekly, writing down the things in your life that you are thankful for and the things that are going well, instead of what you’d like to change. Your gratitude list could be filled with things as simple as “I’m grateful for my delicious morning coffee,” or “I’m thankful I had a great conversation with my friend last night.” Regularly acknowledging what you are grateful for will give you a more positive outlook.
Choose to love and accept yourself
News Year’s resolutions are so often about changing an aspect of ourselves. Yes, they’re usually aspects that we want to make healthier like quitting smoking or losing weight, but sometimes a change in our behaviour isn’t what we should be focusing. Instead of setting goals to change yourself, focus on what you love about yourself – the parts of your body that you don’t want to alter (i.e.healthy body), the skills that you’re proud of, the accomplishments you’ve made. Challenge the thoughts that you have that are negative and that make you want to change. If you step on the scale and start to become self-critical, stop yourself and find something that you like about yourself. Say it out loud. Write it down. “I have a great smile,” or “I love how strong my arms are,” or “I know I’m skilled at …” It’s so important to reinforce and accept who you are and the worth that you intrinsically carry.
Be of service to others
We often focus on ourselves when making New Year’s resolutions, but setting intentions to help others and the community could benefit other people as well as our mental health. Let’s shift the focus of these yearly goals from us to making an effort to improve the lives of those around us. It doesn’t have to require a lot of time or money – service doesn’t always mean volunteering or donating to charity. Service can take so many forms, but none of it insignificant.
- Make your busy coworker a tea or coffee
- Shovel snow from your neighbour’s sidewalk
- Have a conversation with someone you don’t usually talk to at work, and REALLY listen
- Give a meaningful compliment
- Tell your spouse how much you love and appreciate them
Helping others increases our happiness and self-esteem.
There’s nothing wrong with making New Year’s resolutions and setting goals for the future. The problem comes when these goals make you feel bad about yourself if you don’t meet them or slip up in making the change that you set out to. This year, set intentions that will make you happy, improve your mental health, and help others.