Column: Northampton therapist urges caution with New Year resolutions and tells people to be kind to themselves

Liz Ritchie, integrative psychotherapist at Northampton's St Andrew's Hospital, writes a monthly column for Chronicle & Echo. Below is an additional column as we approach the New Year.

By Liz Ritchie
Thursday, 23rd December 2021, 4:20 pm

The New Year is fast approaching and as we bid farewell to 2021, January is patiently waiting just around the corner, allowing us to look forward to a fresh start.

New Year resolutions have become a popular way of marking the next 365 days and embarking on a new beginning.

Although the promises we make ourselves may become more elaborate each year, the act of making them is nothing new. It is thought they have been around for 4,000 years and have become traditionally for many of those eager to better themselves, but mentally how helpful are they?

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Liz Ritchie.

Can promising to hit the gym more, quit smoking and eat better at the start of a new year be good for us, or are we just setting ourselves up to fail?

Research has shown that about 50 percent of the population make resolutions, and while we may have the best of intentions, many will fail to follow them through for any significant period of time.

Overly optimistic resolutions could be to blame for creating a route to failure, but mentally when we fail to complete these ambitious tasks, some might find themselves dealing with a sense of self-loathing and defeatism.

So, I would urge those who do want to make resolutions to pick wisely. I think the key to longevity is picking resolutions that you will enjoy as there is no point picking a promise that you begin to resent because you will just not stick to it.

When deciding on your resolutions, it might be helpful to choose something that gives you a sense of autonomy over your life. Feeling in control can make a significant difference to our mind-set and can fuel motivation, giving us that wonderful sense of achievement.

When done correctly, resolutions should bring feelings of positivity, excitement and invigoration. They mark the start of a whole new you and are essentially goals we set to boost our well-being.

Given the current state of things, it’s also important to be realistic and to be kind to ourselves. The pandemic has taken its toll on a lot of us and many feel unmotivated and uneasy about the future.

It is also important to consider whether we are making these resolutions out of obligation or pressure. This is when things can become particularly problematic, as you will then find yourself hopping onto everyone else’s bandwagon and not choosing resolutions that suit you personally.

I really believe that when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions, it is important to reflect on the kind of goals you want to reach and take one day at a time. If you do break one, it does not matter. You can start over again, without having to wait for January 1 the next year.

Our resolutions give us the opportunity to have a voice, and to consider what we most value in our lives and what gives our lives most meaning, which overall can not to be a bad thing now can it?