Do New Year’s Resolutions Make You Anxious? Here’s What You Can do About it!

Mental Health

Dr. Happy

New Year’s Resolutions are often as ineffective as they are ubiquitous.

New Year’s Resolutions frequently lead to as much distress as they do success.

If you’re feeling anxious and stressed about your New Year’s Resolutions then something’s not quite right; and if something’s not quite right, you’re not as likely to be motivated to do what you need to do to achieve your goals.

Which, not surprisingly, is not what any of us want.

Resolutions, which is really just another way of describing goals, should be exciting and stimulating; they should stretch you and motivate you to achieve and to be more. But they shouldn’t cause excessive amounts of stress or anxiety.

So how to you bring about the positive outcomes as described above, and avoid the unwanted negatives or problems?

To begin with, try phrasing or describing your goals or resolutions in positive terms; that is, define something you’d like more of or something you’d like to have, rather than something you’d like less of or not have. These are what psychologists call “approach goals” (something you want to get closer to) and the research suggests people are significantly more likely to achieve them when compared to those who set “avoidance goals” (something you want get away from).

Selecting goals you want, as opposed to ones you don’t want (e.g. “I want to be able to run 5kms” rather than “I want to lose weight”) is likely to be markedly more motivating. These types of goals are also more likely to include not just a “what?” and a “how?” but also, a “why?”. But this I mean they’re more likely to tap into your purpose, which not surprisingly tends to be associated with more motivation and greater perseverance (especially in the face of adversity).

Along similar lines, make sure your goals are really yours! This might sound obvious, but a common reason many people don’t achieve the goals they set is because the goals they set are, in reality, goals that they’ve chosen because they think someone else wants them to achieve them. It may be what they think their parents, or partners, or society more generally wants but which ever one of these it doesn’t really matter; because if they’re not your goals you’re not likely to be as motivated to work hard and to overcome the inevitable challenges that will appear along the way.

Appropriate, well-set and potentially life changing resolutions can be exciting but, given their nature, they can also be overwhelming. So minimise associated stress and worry by breaking down your life changing goals in to smaller, more achievable chunks that you can manage on a daily and/or weekly basis. A simple tip that should help with this is to be as specific as possible. Think really carefully about what, exactly, will be required of you today, tomorrow and each and every day or week in order for you to move closer to and eventually achieve your resolutions.

So remember this, positively defined stretch goals excite in a motivating and inspiring way. In contrast, anxiety producing goals are more likely to demotivate.

Get it right and you could well change your life…for the better!

Dr Happy

Please note: Dr Happy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic, please consult your healthcare professional.

Category:Mental Health

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