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Taking Steps Toward Wellness in 2021

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

Needless to say, 2020 spared no one of their fair share of challenges. With the New Year finally upon us, we’re all given the opportunity to look back on last year and reflect on the positives and negatives. News Year’s resolutions are a classic way to make an effort toward personal growth; however, they aren’t the only approach to achieving a more positive outlook for the year to come.

In fact, one could argue that putting yourself in the mindset for change is just as —if not more—effective than allowing positive change to affect your mindset for the better. A central theme of the New Year is evolution and fresh starts, so what better place to start than from within?

Step back and reflect

At times, resolutions can have an uncanny way of inspiring unproductive self-criticism and aren’t always the best solution. It’s essential to take a step back and look at the past year before making any serious changes. What did you struggle with? How can you use that knowledge to understand yourself better and translate it into a more successful year?

Be mindful of mental health

Many problems were exacerbated last year. Surveys have found that roughly 40% of adults struggled with mental health in the pandemic, if not as a result of it. Be mindful of the bad and the good because, more often than not, learning to adapt the way you look at it can be one of the best things you can do for your mental health and, thus, the changes you wish to make in the new year.

Check in on the reasons

Motivation is extremely sensitive to our perception of our problems inside and out. As muddled as it can get when we’re in a bad place, a healthy attitude can be extraordinarily helpful. You’re never obligated to view things positively all the time, but at the bare minimum, ensure you’re continually checking if your desire for change comes from the right place.

Be kind to yourself

At the risk of sounding trite, the past year hasn’t treated anyone kindly. It’s a great thing to want to engage in positivity and do better in 2021, but it’s also important to reflect on if you’re doing it for the right reasons. It goes without saying that self-care takes precedence over all else, even if many other things seem to pile up over it. While accepting yourself and the circumstances around you, there’s nothing like doing what you love to take the edge off. First and foremost, be kind to yourself.


References

“How to Prioritize Your Mental Health in 2021: Lifeworks Counseling Center.” Lifeworks, Lifeworkscc, 14 Dec. 2020, www.lifeworkscc.com/how-to-prioritize-your-mental-health-in-2021/.

“New Year Theme for Yourself 2021.” Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Foundation, 14 Dec. 2020, www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/
new-year-theme-for-yourself-2021
.

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How to Have a Strong Resolve for the New Year

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(Happy New Year!)

By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

New Year’s resolutions, depending on who you ask, are something we look forward to or completely dread. One would reason change is a good thing – especially it is a self-guided betterment of oneself. Among the most popular choices are weight loss, exercise, money management, and quitting smoking (Proactive Change). All of these resolutions are good choices; that’s the first part. If only 46% make it past six months alone, where did we go wrong (Proactive Change)?

First, a good start would be to look at what a habit is. According to Professor Clayton R. Cook, Ph.D., habits are “behaviors that are provoked somewhat automatically in response to cues embedded in the environment” (Cho). Examples of such behaviors are brushing your teeth after getting up in the morning. Brushing your teeth is the behavior and getting up is the environmental queue. So, to form a habit, one must replace a behavior with another. Instead of grabbing a bag of chips when you are hungry, instead, you can grab an apple or a more healthy option. What this does is create another behavior to compete with your pre-existing one; realizing you are hungry signals that cue to grab chips, but it will also cue you to grab an apple (Cho). Then, once you grab enough apples (or another healthy option before you get sick of apples completely), it will become a routine. At this point, it does not require any further thought, for it is embedded in your brain. Establishing healthy habits is all about repetition.

Additionally, relapse is a part of making resolutions. The pitfall for many is not being discouraged by this. Only when you overcome relapse and stick with your habit can you can safely say you have made progress. Always keep in mind that slow progress is still progress. You do not have to reach a set goal within a week, but knowing you are inching closer and closer by the day is enough of a motivator to keep on track. Even so, goals can be the undoing of countless resolutions. Visualizing great success far down the line can especially hurt once you reach said point down the line. Maybe you wanted to lose 30 pounds by June, but only lost 20? You should be proud! Look how far you’ve come. If you can make an ounce of progress and stick with it, props to you. That is more than 54% of adults can say by June. For many, things as simple as riding a bike at least four times a week or maintaining a weekly spending limit can do wonders. Concrete guidelines ensure you are maintaining some semblance of progress, even at your lowest motivation.

Imagine how much better you will feel after following through with resolutions, regardless of immense or slight progress. Sticking with a habit and keeping a mindset of bettering oneself can make you feel so much better than you could without it. Better yet, imagine how delicious that slice of chocolate cake will feel when you know you have earned it. Habits can make or break us all – which side do you want to be on?


References

“Statistics: Top New Year’s Resolutions & How to Keep Them.” Stages of Grief & Loss: Grief Cycle & Grieving Process, Proactive Change, proactivechange.com/resolutions/statistics.htm.

Cho, Jeena. “The Science Behind Making New Year’s Resolutions That You’ll Keep.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 28 Dec. 2016, www.forbes.com/sites/jeenacho/2016/12/26/the-science-behind-making-new-years-resolutions-that-youll-keep/#3914f2287491.

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