Show of hands if you’ve ever made new years resolutions, only for it to be out the window before the end of January?
Trust me, you are not the only one – I realised years ago that the real key to change does not only start at the beginning of a new year.
The truth is, ANYTIME is a good time to make change, it’s not about jumping on the bandwagon with the new fad and what everybody else is doing, but identifying what is right for you.
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m not a big fan of new years resolutions and here’s why: a lot of the time it is a reminder of failures and the inability to stick things through. It’s not particularly a self esteem builder or designed to make you feel particularly good about yourself sometimes causing more harm than good.
If you decide to try and do something different for the good of your health, like to reduce alcohol or even the type of food you eat, the people around you can be there as a reminder – oh look, your breaking your new years resolution! (Don’t be that person).
If you want to make changes for your wellbeing, that is completely up to you, what isn’t helpful is to have a judgemental reminder when you want a night off, or quite simply you have changed your mind.
Guilt never helps anybody to stick to anything, so it’s important that you are making a change for the right reasons.
Implementing change takes time, patience, consistency and moving forward through setbacks with resilience and self compassion. All too often, new years resolutions start with good intent but unrealistic expectations and at the first or second hurdle, people tend to give up as they think they’ve already failed.
Firstly, if you are going to start with something new, it’s not a good idea to introduce something that you will not be doing. For example, the typical resolution might be dry January where you decide not to drink any alcohol or giving up sugary treats, which is absolutely not a bad thing.
But – if it’s something you’ve always struggled with in the past and there is no real intent behind it, you are setting yourself up to fail. A simple reframe can be useful here. Instead of thinking of all the ways you are not good enough and all the things you do not want to do (already starting your thought process by thinking of yourself negatively) try thinking about some of the things you would like to do more of.
This could be focusing more on self care, reading more books, travelling more or living an overall healthier lifestyle.
Reframing in this way changes your thinking from what you should not be doing, to doing more what you would like to be doing instead.
This allows you to not only accept who you are and where you are right now, but also provokes you to think more about the way you would like to be living, without feeling shamed or embarrassed if things haven’t turned out exactly to plan.
So instead of beating yourself up about unrealistic resolutions, when you struggle around issues of guilt, shame, or not feeling good enough, try this perspective instead and see how it works for you.
I’m Lizandra Leigertwood a counsellor and psychotherapist who works with individuals and couples in St Albans, Hertfordshire face to face and online. I’m a mental health advocate and help with all things to do with relationships and feeling good about you. To find out more about me and how I work click here.