The mental health impact of New Year’s resolutions

Mental health is a critical component of individual, family, community and national wellbeing and prosperity.

Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.

Mental health is a critical component of individual, family, community and national wellbeing and prosperity.

New Year’s resolutions are a great way to refocus ourselves as we start a new year, however, 45% of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by February of the same year.

Our mental wellbeing is a critical factor in planning and setting goals as well as in staying motivated to achieve those goals.

Mental health benefits of setting New Year’s resolutions

A focused goal which we is intentional about achieving can be a powerful motivator as we start and progress through the year. Some of the benefits of setting New Year’s resolutions include:

  1. Focused attention: we are increasingly being faced with many distractions in our current environments. New Year’s resolutions can help focus our attention and energy on specific, measurable outcomes for a set time period
  2. Internal motivation: a personal vision for one’s year and one’s life is a powerful internal motivator.
  3. Improved mood: our body’s reward system releases small amounts of dopamine, our feel good hormone each time we achieve our set goals. This can boost our mood and help us maintain our mental wellbeing throughout the year.
  4. Improved sense of self efficacy and self-confidence: Each successfully achieved goal helps one feel capable and self-efficacious thus boosting self-confidence.

Can mental health challenges make it difficult to achieve our New Year’s resolutions?

  1. Stress and anxiety can cause us to struggle to focus and concentrate. This will eventually affect our ability to achieve our goals and be productive
  2. Depression can affect our motivation and drive affecting our ability to work towards our goals
  3. Perfectionism, obsessive or compulsive traits can make us lose sight of the bigger picture of our vision and goals and make us inflexible and rigid
  4. Alcohol and substance use can make us lose track of our dreams and cause us to live just for the moment which can derail us in our New Year plans

Setting mentally healthy New Year’s resolutions

  1. Be clear about what you want to achieve.
  2. Set challenging goals to stretch yourself and allow for growth.
  3. Be reasonable about timeframes for your proposed goals. Unrealistic timeframes can result in us failing to meet our goals causing us to become discouraged.
  4. Commit to your goals, take responsibility for your goals and be accountable to trusted people who can keep you in check.
  5. Seek feedback and accept constructive criticism. We need the help of others in setting and achieving meaningful goals.
  6. Remember that people are always more important than things or rigid plans. As you plan for the year, remember to build healthy relationships that will strengthen your support network and enrich your life.
  7. Maintain hope and a positive perspective to life, no goal can be achieved without hope to achieve it. If you failed in meeting your resolutions last year, do not lose heart, this year brings a fresh opportunity to try again.

If you think that you or someone that you know may be struggling with a mental health challenge, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.

*Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse is a consultant psychiatrist. Feedback  WhatsApp: +263714987729

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