We Asked 8 Therapists for the New Year’s Resolutions They Totally AbandonedWelcome to Club Fail. It’s chiller here.
Around week two or three of January, the New Year, New You magic wears off, and we revert to being the same people as ever. We eat like humans eat. We exercise as it fits our schedule. And the chair in the corner? Yeah, there are clothes on it.
That’s because setting big, arbitrary goals usually doesn’t address the heart of whatever problem you’re trying to solve. For example, wanting to be less messy doesn’t magically put more hours in the day for you to straighten up your living room and put the dishes away and finally do that giant load of laundry. Other times those high hopes are just too broad.
Sure, sticking with goals that are more specific and achievable can better set you up for success. But it’s also worth noting that the lack of a resolution (or the inability—or, frankly, disinterest—in sticking with one) doesn’t make you a bad, lazy, unmotivated person. Despite what wellness influencers may have told you, taking care of yourself doesn’t require a lifetime of constant self-improvements.
So, to make you feel less alone and less pressured to achieve big things in the year ahead, we asked therapists to tell us about their failed or forgotten New Year’s resolutions. Look at that, they’re just like us.
1. Meditate every day.
"About 20 years ago I planned a New Year's resolution to meditate for 30 minutes every day and to stick to it with discipline. I did pretty well for the first week, but I immediately noticed that I had attached a great deal of perfectionism to it. I chose to meditate for way too long, proving to be too ambitious. Time constraints, work, travel, illness, forgetting to do it, and all kinds of other things distracted me from that.
Every time I only partially completed 30 minutes each day—or when I completely forgot to do it—I felt like a failure. Moderate feelings of shame also popped up. Eventually, I abandoned it. I later realized that my perfectionism was way too unforgiving. It was all or nothing. So, I went back to the drawing board.
I learned that the only way to achieve a New Year's resolution is to play the short game. The short game is easier to accomplish. I broke it down into smaller increments and made it measurable and achievable. This gave me the best chance for success. The all-or-nothing mentality is too rigid. Plus, meditation is a process orientation exercise, not a results orientation exercise. It doesn’t seek excellence or exactness. It's a choice, not an obligation.” —John Tsilimparis, MFT, psychotherapist
2. Literally any resolution.
“I've let go of making resolutions. I used to make them, but they always felt like an assignment rather than an inspiration. I'm naturally goal-oriented. But that means a lot of my bandwidth is taken up with working towards goals, so I certainly don't need to layer on more by making resolutions. Instead, I'm leaning into the opposite of my temperament, which means making more room for doing things simply because I like them or because I love the people I do them with.” —Ellen Hendriksen, PhD, clinical psychologist
3. Make new friends.
“When I think about the year ahead, I often think about my social life, and how it takes a backseat to my career and family. I think this resolution usually comes with good intentions of being more than just a therapist, wife, and mom. But this year, I’m going to try to nurture and deepen existing friendships that may have gotten lost in the shuffle with busy schedules and work commitments.” —Krystal Shipps, LCPC, therapist
4. Be healthier.
“For many years, I vaguely challenged myself to 'become healthier', but until I set up an optimal morning with a specific routine in addition to rituals around sleep, meditation, movement, and nutrition, I did not see the results I was looking for to optimize my vitality. In my personal experience, grouping together key actions and activities in the morning and evening helped to program the daily habits into my implicit procedural memory.
For example, when I wake up at the same time each day, my water and vitamins are near my gym clothes, my headphones are charged, and I have already Identified a podcast or playlist I am excited to listen to while I workout. The practice of setting up a ritual and environment conducive to your larger goals will get you to where you want to be.” —Gillian O'Shea Brown, LCSW, psychotherapist
5. Setting goals for the year.
“I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions and can't remember the last time I set one. My tradition is to write down and find ways to celebrate the past year. This feels more helpful than looking ahead. So now my approach to the future is to focus on wonder. For example, ‘I wonder where life will take me this year,’ which brings a feeling of curiosity and enthusiasm.”—Nina Polyne, PsyD, clinical psychologist
6. Reading one book a month.
“I failed my goal pretty early on and was down on myself. I have found that goals are harder to attain than healthy habits. I try to now adjust my resolutions to reflect a habit I would like to integrate into my life more regularly, rather than a finite goal. So, for example, I like to read 10 minutes a day. It's manageable and small but adds up over time, and it’s about adding more reading into my life versus book completion. Also, I'm happy if I do it four or five days a week versus every day. The consistency helps the habit to be more a part of my routine. Being less rigid with the outcome is key!” —Thea Gallagher, PsyD, clinical psychologist
7. Journaling every day.
“I’ve always loved journaling as a way to clarify my thoughts and process experiences and memories. So a few years ago, I made a resolution to do it every day. This plan seemed like a good idea, but, for me, it wasn’t. Before the first week was over, I found myself dreading my time writing in the journal, as it became an obligation instead of a helpful resource. I changed my resolution to ‘journal whenever I need to process a problem or emotion,’ and that worked much better. I probably journaled once every three days and felt like the time was much better spent. Making this minor adjustment helped me feel like the journal was serving me rather than me serving the journal.” —Ryan Howes, PhD, clinical psychologist
8. Working out way more often.
“I have so many failed New Year’s resolutions in the past—regular exercise being the most frequent—but the biggest mistake has been to expect ‘perfect’ and jump into a 1-hour 5-days-per-week routine during a season when we get barely any sunlight, energy tends to be low, there’s post-holiday stress, and gyms are extremely crowded. Over time, I realized that making small changes that are more likely to become permanent and finding the right time to make them is the key to being successful!” —Juan Romero-Gaddi, MD, psychiatrist
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.