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New Year’s Resolutions May Be Just What the Doctor Ordered

By LifeStance Health on January 28, 2022

January was named after the Roman god Janus, who had two faces to see backwards for reflection and forwards towards the future in the new year. People have been using this month to make new plans or resolutions for thousands of years. In ancient times it was a quiet period between winter festivals and spring planting, the optimal time to square up debts or resolve to go to church more often.

Rethink The Purpose for Resolutions

Since then, new year’s resolutions have evolved from external markers like saving money and getting a promotion at work to personal successes like learning a new skill or eating a more plant-based diet. This evolution of resolutions to more personal and incremental changes has sped up during the global pandemic. For many, small different choices in our every day routines can lead to better mental health and quality of life. However, for others especially those suffering from anxiety, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), any additional structure can exacerbate existing impulses or compulsions.

Create Inner Peace through Action

Regardless of the hype around January 1st and new year’s resolutions, it can be a useful reminder to find ways to improve your mental health by removing small mental blocks to find more peace. To reframe a nagging thought, you might consider acknowledging the situation, even to yourself. This simple act will help relieve the pressure of its burden. In our highly visual and competitive society, where fear of missing out (FOMO) is a meme and hashtag by itself, mental self-care includes reminders that imperfect solutions now are usually more satisfying than agonizing over a perfect solution that may not materialize.

Use Resolutions to Reach for Something Even Bigger

It may be helpful to consider components of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) when making resolutions that are more flexible and achievable. Visualize your big picture goal for your resolution. For example, running the marathon at Disney World could be a big picture goal. To translate this into a new year’s resolution some options could include: putting on your running shoes every day and just move or using smaller plates at meal times as an easy way to reduce calories. Creating a new year’s resolution could be the scaffolding you need to reach your big picture goal.

Commit to Self-Care in the New Year

For those experiencing anxiety, depression or OCD, the beginning of the new year can be a useful catalyst to seek out a mental health professional and start therapy. Specific treatment varies by individual but CBT and medication has helped many regain control of their life by redirecting negative, repetitive or harmful thoughts and behaviors so they can live a more fulfilling, satisfying lives.

Oprah Winfrey starts every podcast with, “The most valuable gift you can give yourself is time. Time to be more fully present.” So why not start this year, with some mental self-care through resolutions or therapy, and give yourself and those around you the gift of meaningful connections and your authentic self.