We Asked a Psychotherapist How You Can Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

It’s the first week into the New Year and we’re going to bet that some of you have yet to really kick-start those resolutions you outlined way back in 2014.

Or you’ve already thought of giving up (aka: you have already given up.)

We get it. It’s one thing to make them, and another altogether to maintain them.

So we went straight to an expert, Toronto young professional psychotherapist Nicole McCance, for some tips on how you can actually make your resolutions stick for good in 2015…

What are the most common causes of stress in young professionals? Do these influence common New Year’s resolutions? 
Bad habits can cause stress, such as eating too much junk food, smoking, spending more money than you have, and not getting enough sleep. These are directly linked to New Year’s resolutions. The New Year, for most people, is about letting go of bad habits and creating healthier ones.

What is the biggest risk when it comes to the overall mental health of young professionals?
The biggest risk for people looking to make long-term change is that comfort zones are hard to step out of, even if they make us miserable. To make a change, we need to be mentally ready. For most people, a January 1st start date for making change (a day where people are likely sleep deprived and hungover) is not the most effective, which is why most New Year’s resolutions fail.

Do you believe in New Year’s resolutions per se, or do you think that the pressure they come with can be a negative thing?
One in three people will make a New Year’s resolution, and most (75 per cent) will only stay on track for the first week of January. This is because most people feel pressure to come up with a New Year’s resolution and often set unrealistic goals. Setting unrealistic goals leaves people feeling disappointed, defeated, and guilty when their resolution fails soon after creating it.

What are the worst mistakes you can make when it comes to New Year’s resolutions?
The worse mistake is the pressure we put on ourselves to achieve our New Year’s resolutions perfectly. It’s important to remember that part of making changes is stumbling during the development period. If you fall off the wagon, give yourself a break and start again tomorrow. Have self-compassion. If you are kind to yourself you will have the confidence and motivation to try again.

What advice do you have when it comes to making realistic New Year’s resolutions?
Start small. If you want to start to lose weight, don’t cut out all of your vices all at once. Change is more doable when it’s in small and simple steps. Start with ordering a medium coffee instead of a large. Then reduce it again in a week or two. If you feel you are depriving yourself, you will likely be miserable and not stick to your resolution.

What’s the best way to hold yourself accountable to resolutions?
Share your New Year’s resolutions with someone. Or, better yet, make a pact with someone and do it together. Hit the gym together, do a cleanse, or even quit smoking together. Your chances of success dramatically improve if you tell someone else what your goal is. Particularly, someone who will hold you accountable. The truth is, we care what people think and we are more likely to stick to our New Year’s resolutions if we don’t keep them to ourselves.

What’s the most important thing to remember in terms of positive change? When would therapy be suggested? 
Change takes time. If you have been trying and feel like you keep hitting a wall, it may be worth using your work insurance and seeing a therapist who can help you change your thoughts. Our perception and thoughts impact our behavior; by starting with the mind it’s easier to make lasting change. 


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