With the beginning of 2023 only days away, you may already have your New Year’s resolutions in place. Or, you may still be figuring out what goals you want to achieve in the next 12 months. This then begs another question: Will you be following through with these resolutions in the new year?
Throughout the pandemic, some Americans have opted not to set resolutions at the start of a new year. According to a CBS News Poll conducted in December 2021, only 29 per cent of Americans said that they would be making resolutions for 2022. This was major decline when compared to the year before, when 43 per cent of Americans in 2020 who repsonded to the poll said that they’d be making resolutions.
With 2023 approaching, Americans seem to be interested anew in the concept of New Year’s resolutions. According to a recent survey conducted by YouGov, 37 per cent of Americans say they have resolutions they want to accomplish next year, with 87 per cent of those respondents saying that they’re “very or somewhat likely” to follow through with the goals.
However, are New Year’s resolutions really the best thing to bring into the new year? We spoke to experts about the practise, and to see whether we should actually be setting the challenges for ourselves as we enter 2023.
Speaking to The Independent, Brooke Bralove, a licensed clinical social worker who has maintained a private practice in Bethesda, Maryland for more than 18 years, said that, post-pandemic, people have become much more realistic with their goals.
“Many of us thought we would be highly productive during the pandemic due to all this ‘free time,’ but instead, we may have opted for stillness and rest instead of productivity,” she explained. “I also think there has been more understanding of how to actually set and achieve New Year’s resolutions.”
In order to understand how resolutions can be productive, you have to get specific. Along with specificity, Bralove says that, while your goals should be measurable and time-limited, you shouldn’t intend on doing the new thing everyday. “Always give yourself grace for one day off while trying to establish a new pattern in your life,” she advised.
For a resolution to be successful, she also acknowledged how critical it is to discuss your resolutions with yourself and a trusted friend. “You can set a date with yourself every one to two months to sit down and revisit them to see what changes and adjustments you need to make to be more effective if needed,” she told us.
Shane Birkel, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Dover, New Hampshire, also spoke to The Independent about resolutions, and how they have largely focused around goals for physical health. According to Birkel, with a specific goal, such as improved physical fitness, it’s important to start in small and realistic steps.
“Maybe start by exercising five minutes a day. Instead of setting myself up for something huge like two hours a day,” he explained. “Then, every time I accomplish that five minutes I can feel the sense of success and it will build up the belief that I can continue to accomplish my goals.”
So, say you have your resolutions written out and your intentions set, ready to work towards a different objective in 2023. Despite everything you have planned and how well your routine may be going, it is still quite easy to veer off track. However, this isn’t to say that you can’t get back on the horse.
“The main reason people fall short is that they have a setback and then abandon the entire resolution: ‘‘Screw it - I’ll eat the whole cake now!’” Bralove explained. “Work on resilience through self-compassion.”
When headed in the right direction after a mishap, your resolutions still remain just as productive as before. But, if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t get past that setback and begin to feel guilty or ashamed, that’s when you have encountered a problem, according to the experts, who noted that this behaviour is unhealthy.
“It is not helpful to build up pressure on ourselves or shame ourselves for not accomplishing what we’re trying to do,” Birkel told us. “That is very harmful. I need to have compassion and understanding for myself as I am trying to work towards what I want.”
One of the best ways to avoid this is by avoiding vague resolutions, as making your resolutions as specific as possible is a key to success. According to Bralove, it can also be helpful to try picking a different resolution to focus on in 2023, as “consistent failure at a goal feels terrible and just sets yourself up for disappointment and potential shame”.
You probably already know why you set your resolutions. However, if you push too hard in order to make sure that they come true, it creates another problem. More specifically, Birkel explained that it can lead to an unhealthy mindset if you rely on your resolutions to make you feel happy with yourself.
“People shouldn’t set resolutions in order to feel like they are enough as a person. It shouldn’t be a feeling of lack and comparison to others,” he said. “The feeling that I need to accomplish these things in order to be worthy is a bad place to start and will make people more likely to put the pressure on themselves. A healthy mindset might be: ‘I’m enough, I matter, and I want to work towards these goals.’”
While choosing to make resolutions for the next 365 days is completely up to you, how and why you’re creating them is still something to keep in mind. “We have to look at all the steps necessary to get there and figure out: ‘What can I do today? What can I do this week?’ If it is broken down into smaller steps it will feel more achievable,” Birkel added.
Ultimately, by following a realistic approach to resolutions, where you enter the new year with an honest perspective about your intentions and allow yourself to learn from your setbacks, you could end up surprising yourself in a year’s time.