The Downside Of New Year’s Resolutions: Keeping A Balanced Perspective

January 2, 2024
written by:Claire Brandon, M.D.

As the new year begins, many of us start thinking about our New Year’s resolutions. This is generally seen as a positive way to kick-start the year, encouraging us to make improvements and set goals. But sometimes New Year’s resolutions aren’t all good and we can consider an alternative approach to personal growth and goal setting.

The drawbacks of New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Unrealistic Expectations: Often, New Year’s resolutions are based on high expectations and unattainable goals. When these goals are not achieved, it leads to disappointment and demotivation.
  2. Pressure and Stress: The pressure to keep up with resolutions can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety. This stress can be detrimental to both physical and mental health.
  3. Short-Term Focus: Many resolutions focus on short-term changes rather than sustainable, long-term lifestyle adjustments. Once the initial motivation wears off, old habits often return.
  4. All-or-Nothing Thinking: New Year’s resolutions often involve an all-or-nothing mentality. If a resolution is broken, individuals may feel like they’ve failed and abandon their goals altogether.

Alternative Approaches to Personal Growth:

  1. Set Achievable Goals: Instead of making grand resolutions, focus on setting smaller, achievable goals that contribute to long-term change.
  2. Emphasize Process Over Outcome: Focus on the process of change rather than the end result. This approach helps to create sustainable habits.
  3. Practice Self-Compassion: It’s okay to slip up sometimes. Instead of feeling guilty or disappointed, practice self-compassion and use these instances as learning opportunities.
  4. Seek Support: Share your goals with friends, family, or a support group. They can provide encouragement, celebrate your successes, and help you stay motivated.

While New Year’s resolutions can be a great way to start the year, they also have potential downsides. It’s important to remember that personal growth and change are ongoing processes that don’t need to be confined to the start of a new year. By setting realistic goals, focusing on the process, practicing self-compassion, and seeking support, we can make meaningful, lasting changes in our lives.

Claire Brandon, M.D.

Dr. Brandon is a dual board-certified psychiatrist in both adult psychiatry and consultation-liaison psychiatry (treatment of psychiatric illness in medically ill adults). She completed her residency and fellowship training at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and did a second fellowship in public psychiatry at New York University in New York City

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