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8 Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions If You Live With Mental Illness


I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. It’s not because I don’t believe setting goals for yourself is constructive — setting realistic, achievable goals can be great motivation and lead to a sense of accomplishment — but setting unrealistic resolutions at a time of year when the majority of us struggle more with ill health, both mentally and physically, can add unneeded pressure to an already stressful time. And when we inevitably “fail” to stick to our resolutions, we feel a sense of disappointment in ourselves — we feel like a failure.

January is probably the toughest month for many of us. We feel exhausted and deflated after the excitement of Christmas, the cold weather increases our pain and other symptoms, depression sets in with the darker days and longer nights, and we may be less mobile and feel more isolated.

But it’s not just people living with chronic ill-health that find this time of year hard; it’s universally accepted that January is a brutal and stressful month for many, even “healthy” people. It can take all our strength and resolve just to survive. So, why do we choose this time to add to our stress and misery with New Year’s resolutions?

Now, I know New Year’s resolutions can be a great motivating factor for many to achieve their goals, but I feel there is a better way to do this, for the majority of us. Here are a few constructive ways to set New Year’s resolutions or goals (or not, as in my case);

1. Try setting New Year’s self-care promises, instead of resolutions.

I have written myself 10 self-care and self-love promises which I will try to respect, even on my bad days.

2. Set smaller goals.

Rather than setting strict resolutions to lose weight, get fit or quit smoking, why not try small, short-term goals or changes. For example, “today I’m going to try to eat healthier.” Or, “today I’m going to go for a walk.”

3. Put yourself first.

Rather than beating yourself up about all the ways you feel you fall-short of where you should be in life, try making your happiness a priority. Try practicing self-compassion. It’s surprising what falls into place when we take the time to look after ourselves.

4. Start small.

Rather than making multiple resolutions, try just one achievable goal.

5. Spread them out.

Try setting personal goals throughout the year, rather than putting pressure on yourself at a time when the majority of us struggle more.

6. Do nothing!

Don’t feel pressured to set New Year’s resolutions just because your friends are, or because the media says you should. It’s absolutely fine to do nothing — to just “be.”

7. Accept where you are.

Rather than putting pressure on yourself for where you think you “should be” in life, or for what you think you “should be” doing, or how you think you “should” look, try accepting yourself for exactly who you are, right now. You are awesome, you are worthy and you deserve happiness just as you are.

8. Celebrate who you are.

At this time of year, we often hear the phrase “new year, new you,” but rather than berating yourself for everything you are not, or everything you wish you could be, why not try celebrating and rewarding yourself for everything you are? Spend some time focusing on your strengths rather than trying to change who you are.

So, rather than putting pressure on yourself with New Year’s resolutions, how about, for this New Year, you just allow you to be you? Adopt the phrase, “new year, same (awesome) me.” The moment you stop piling pressure on yourself to undertake unrealistic resolutions, or resolutions to which you aren’t wholly committed, is the moment you give yourself a chance to breathe.

Happy New Year!

Photo by A L L E F . V I N I C I U S Δ on Unsplash


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