The tradition of making new year's resolutions goes all the way back to the Babylonians in 1894 BC. At the start of the new year, the Babylonians would make promises to their gods, return borrowed items and pay off debts. New year's resolutions continue to be popular thousands of years later. According to a recent survey completed in December, one in three people in the U.S. said they would be making resolutions for 2020. The survey also found that of those making new year's resolutions, the most popular for 2020 were to exercise more, save money, eat healthy lose weight, reduce stress, get more sleep, stick to a budget, focus on spiritual growth, travel more, and learn a new skill.
"New year's resolutions are a great idea from the angle that they provide an individual with an opportunity to set goals for the upcoming year," Dr. Dean Aslinia, Department of Counseling Chair at the University of Phoenix told us. "It is well proven in psychological research that people who set goals for themselves tend to achieve and accomplish many more of their desired outcomes than those that proceed without any forethought."
Dr. Aslinia explained that while making new year’s resolutions allows us to plan for the future, unfortunately, what tends to happen is that many of us don't set realistic or achievable goals and we end up abandoning our plans.
"New year’s resolutions can be a good idea for many, however those that tend to be self-critical, perfectionists, and allow very little room for mistakes might be better off skipping this exercise," Dr. Aslinia told us. "Instead, they might find it more useful to work on allowing themselves to be more flexible or forgiving."
The more realistic, specific, achievable, and measurable a resolution, the more likely it is that an individual will be able to keep it.
"It’s best not to wait until the last minute to devise a new year’s resolution," Dr. Aslinia told us. "A well thought-out resolution should consider resources available for achieving the goals. This might require some financial or emotional planning. Therefore, leave plenty of time to consider all the potential roadblocks that might deter you from completing your goals or resolutions."
It's also important to be honest with ourselves and not rush in emotionally.
"Start small and set specific benchmarks," Dr. Aslinia told us. "Write them down and keep track of them. Recognize that change is a process and it takes daily small steps to achieve. Enjoy the small daily victories and don’t simply look at the end result as a final measurement. If you fall off track, forgive yourself and recalibrate."
Research has proven that stress and lack of mental health stability is the root cause of nearly 80 per cent of all physical ailments. Therefore, explained Dr. Aslinia, in order for our physical health to be maintained we need to be able to have a stable and healthy emotional disposition. For those that have struggled with their emotional or behavioral wellness, a new year resolution that focuses on addressing those needs might prove much more beneficial than any physical health resolutions.
"An example can be if you struggle with anxiety or depression, simply working on losing weight might not only prove to be unrealistic, it may actually backfire," Dr. Aslinia told us. "Often individuals with anxiety or depression have severe appetite swings, some of which are a result of emotional cravings. For these individuals new year’s resolutions to address their anxiety or depression may prove to be most helpful."
Here are Dr. Aslinia's five tips for keeping your new year's resolutions in 2020:
1. Forgive yourself for your perceived shortcomings.
2. Remain flexible mentally. Everything in life is not a crisis or an emergency.
3. Recognize that other people’s perceptions about you become real, only if you allow them to.
4. Develop and practice a wellness and self-care plan tailored for you. Do things you enjoy. If you don’t know what you enjoy, make that your new year's resolution!
5. Practice gratitude and focus on all the things that are going well in your life.
"After providing individual counseling for more than a decade, I’ve realized regardless of goals, new year's resolutions, or desires, we all seek improvements in our lives - some emotional, some physical, and some financial," Dr. Aslinia told us. "Regardless of desire, we all have to deal with many competing priorities on a daily basis. Sometimes life might throw a lot more at us than we had planned. The only way to succeed is to remain flexible and simply move forward. Sometimes progress may seem like a lousy inch, but recognize even an inch is still progress. Cherish the little wins and moments in life, as they are the ones that often lead to creating the big moments."
Patricia Tomasi is a mom, maternal mental health advocate, journalist, and speaker. She writes regularly for the Huffington Post Canada, focusing primarily on maternal mental health after suffering from severe postpartum anxiety twice. You can find her Huffington Post biography here. Patricia is also a Patient Expert Advisor for the North American-based, Maternal Mental Health Research Collective and is the founder of the online peer support group - Facebook Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group - with over 1500 members worldwide. Blog: www.patriciatomasiblog.wordpress.com