Why Making New Year’s Resolutions Are Dangerous To Your Mental Health

It’s that time of the year where we are refreshed by the time we have had away from the humdrum and busyness of daily routines. Sure there has been the additional pressure of preparing for Christmas and wondering what will unfold during family get-togethers, but secretly you have loved it despite the commercialism that is attached to the season. Seeing the smiles on children’s faces and hearing their squeals of delight as they unwrapped their presents made it all worthwhile didn’t it?

You have cleaned up all the ‘mess’, taken a deep sigh, packed away all that glittered momentarily, and spent time in recent days reflecting; maybe not too deeply, but reflecting nevertheless. In a few short days, you mentally switched gears in preparation for New Year’s celebrations which bring with them the making of resolutions; an attempt to right some of the disappointments of the year just gone.

Did you know that if you made any new year’s resolutions you are one of half the adult population who indulge in this practice? Of that half, fewer than 10% are likely to keep those resolutions (goals) for more than a few months, and a whopping 25% drop the ball so to speak after just 7 days.

The birth of a new year brings with it a sense of hope and invincibility, we think self-change is easy (well easier) at this point. So we:

  • have higher expectations of ourselves
  • set too many goals
  • set unrealistic goals

In short, we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves even if our goals are well-intentioned. Behavioural scientists call this ‘False Hope Syndrome’ and it sets us up to fail. If you were to reflect on the past 10 years of resolutions you have made, chances are you would see you have made the same resolutions year in and year out. That has to have a psychological impact on the way we think about ourselves, doesn’t it? We have enough to deal with in every day living with the unexpected we know will routinely come our way without setting ourselves up to fail don’t we?

What We Can Do

Just because we have been caught up in the moment of newness and set unrealistic goals (perhaps unknowingly) doesn’t mean we have to dump everything the moment the newness of it all wears off. What can we do about those well-intentioned, yet unrealistic goals, we have set?

We can:

  • remind ourselves that self-change takes effort
  • make adjustments to our goals
  • take the top 1 – 3 of those goals and break each one into tasks
  • make each task; specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and done within a time frame
  • celebrate our achievements

It has been proven that measurability produces results. We still have to do the work, but when we use measurability we can see improvement or lack of it. In the case of the latter, we can reset our course. There is always hope when we do little bits with consistency. With this approach, we lift the weight of unrealistic expectations and improve our self-talk, confidence, and ultimately, our mental health.

Cheers to your success!