A New Year. Reflections From A Shrink.
by, Dr. Lisa Herman
Why New Years is meaningful.
Every year on December 31st at midnight, confetti flies, horns honk, and and we happily count down to a brand new year of possibilities – 1955, 1983, 1999 (Prince tribute here), 2002, 2011, 2018 – and so on…
But have you ever stopped to wonder why we care so much about this arbitrary date? Why does a change in the year make everyone around the globe so giddy and excited? Why does one ball dropping seem to make us want to press restart on a years worth of accomplishments or woes? To a clinician in the mental health field, the question becomes more “why is NOW the time that people choose to believe they can change something about themselves?”
You hear it all around you, “On January 1st I’m going to do (—- insert anything you hear!) and I’m going to make this last!” From dieting to exercise, quitting smoking to cleaning out the junk drawer, or even just to be kinder to those we love… resolutions are happening all around us. According to some research, about half of adults make a resolution and less than 10% of those end up keeping it for longer than a few months.
It doesn’t take a doctorate degree to know that changing behavior is H.A.R.D as hell. Something as simple as brushing your teeth with your non-dominate hand. Seriously, try it for a week. Did you even remember to do it? If you did, did you want to do it? It feels strange, your teeth don’t feel as clean, and your muscles for brushing in that hand are weaker than your dominant hand. Without sounding negative, I bet within a day or 2 most would cheat and then at some point, you would just say “…this is too much work” and give up.
Change is, #1 – hard to remember to actually do, and #2 – hard to stick with because it feels uncomfortable. Our old habits are oh so nice and comfy!
So now you’re determined, and asking yourself “How can I be within that 10% that stick to their resolutions this year?” Well, that is, at the end of the day up to you.
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Let’s be honest. The passing of a year within literally one second of one day doesn’t automatically change who we are; nor is the passing of a year at midnight going to somehow magically improve your behavior and choices.
Change takes time – So take YOUR time. Think & feel that you are ready for the change, sit and reflect, plan and organize, prepare for set backs and find your supports. Notice that I wrote “Think & Feel” – if we just feel ready we aren’t putting the cognitive effort into planning; if we just think we are ready, we may lack the heart and desire to push through tough times. You need both.
Be kind to yourself– Because making a true change takes time, so expect it. You will go through ups and downs. Slow starts and fall backs. Peaks and valleys and curves and bumps. Accept this and you will remain with “it” as it happens.
Gain Insight – From a shrink’s perspective, insight into who you are, what you want at the core – your morals, values, desires, etc will be a huge chunk of your driving force for real, long-lasting improvements. Pick someone who can and will hold you accountable for the change – keeping insight into YOU will ensure higher success.
Details – If you have a broad wish list, it’ll be hard to attain. Break it down into very small and manageable pieces. For example: “I want to lose weight.” is too broad. Rather: “I want to lose 2 lbs and 2 inches by June and I plan to go to the gym 2 nights a week and only have 2 desserts a week.” The more specific and detailed you can be with yourself, the better the odds of achieving that goal.
…and lastly STOP COMPARING – Ask yourself “What’s the one or two deep down basic things that YOU are striving for?” Nobody else can tell you what those are, and nobody can tell you how to attain them. STOP comparing yourself to your friends, classmates, or family; stop comparing yourself to the celebrities on T.V. or your colleagues at work. STOP wanting to change behaviors that you THINK will increase your happiness when deep down you KNOW that it probably won’t. There are many guides who may help (whether spiritual, clinical or otherwise) but you are your truest guide and know your own answers.
You are more than this.
Resolution or not…YOU are more than whether or not you can change a behavior in a given amount of time just like everyone else. YOU are more complex than this.
The moment you feel a failure because (SO WHAT!) you end up as part of the 90% of us “non-keeping-New Year resolution types” – or the moment you compare who you are to someone else who has no idea what it is to be you – just notice how you feel and stay in the moment of negativity for a minute…Be MINDFUL of your thoughts, accept them, and lovingly picture yourself blowing these thoughts away. Gone. Ironically, just like in that single second we said goodbye to the previous year. Forming this mindset, in fact, should be your resolution.
At the end of the day, resolutions and goals for a New Year can be a great way to jump-start change and begin to form positive habits, but putting that much pressure on January 1st (and on yourself) as a start date, isn’t necessarily for everyone. New Year’s resolution or not. Behavioral changes vs. insight. There is not ONE right way to do you.
Allow “New Year’s” to be just that. A celebration of the upcoming year, a reflection back on the past year, and a focus on the present.
**If you seem to be struggling beyond what seems typical for you and figuring out what you truly need seems like a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle, please know that we can help you gain insight into you. Sometimes a trained, licensed, professional clinician can offer you the guidance you deserve to help you live your life aligned with your real basic needs.
Dr. Lisa Herman is the owner of Synergy eTherapy and Clinical Psychologist licensed to practice with those who reside in the states of MN, WI and NY.
To schedule your FREE consultation with her, please click HERE.