New Year's resolutions have the general goal of improving quality of life, yet strangely, they never include the one factor that determines our quality of life more than any other—our basic emotional health.
The majority of the resolutions we make are related to diet and physical health. Resolutions to lose weight, to join a gym, or to quit smoking and drinking are the most common goals we set when the New Year rolls around. They are also the ones least likely to be completed (not that our success rate is high in any category of New Year resolutions—it’s pretty abysmal all around).
The second most common category of resolutions are those related to our leisure time or lack thereof, such as reading more, going on more vacations, or working fewer hours. Then you have the home improvement category which includes cleaning up the attic or garage, organizing various closets, or remodeling the kitchen or bathroom.
But if we’re lonely, if we’re prone to brooding and worrying, if our self-esteem is low, if we’re burdened by unresolved guilt, if our relationships are poor, if we feel demoralized, or if we’re experiencing ongoing emotional pain—losing weight, getting fit, quitting smoking, reading, taking vacations, working fewer hours, and fixing up our homes till our fingers are numb will do little to improve our quality of life. In other words, most New Year resolutions have little impact on long-term quality of life because they do little to alleviate emotional or psychological suffering.
Conversely, escaping the trap of loneliness, breaking free of brooding and worrying, boosting our self-esteem, easing our feelings of guilt, improving our relationships, and better managing setbacks and emotional pain will improve our quality of life tremendously.
Why We Neglect Resolutions about Emotional Health
The primary reason we neglect emotional and psychological health when making our New Year resolutions is we don’t quite know how to go about pursuing such goals. Finding a new diet, locating a gym, planning a vacation, or buying shelves for the garage seem easy tasks to accomplish, at least at first glance (albeit, it turns out they are complicated goals to actually achieve—as evidenced by the vast majority of people who fail to do so).
Making resolutions to address and improve our emotional health might seem like a daunting task by comparison—but it shouldn’t be, as these days, there is an abundance of information about how to achieve goals related to improving emotional health. Indeed, most of what we would need to do so could be found on this very website.
Following are seven resolutions that will improve your emotional health followed by numerous links to articles and resources to help us achieve them:
Seven Resolutions that Improve Emotional Health
While I would urge you to pursue these goals, I do not suggest doing so all at once. Rather choose one or two of them, tackle them, and once you’ve made substantial progress, move on to the next.
1. Resolve to Improve Your Self-Esteem: Use the following links to find articles about: How self-esteem functions like an emotional immune system, Habits that improve your overall emotional health, Fellow blogger Dr. Art Markman's article on practicing self-compassion, and fellow blogger Dr. Melanie A. Greenberg's article about becoming the CEO of your own brain.
2. Resolve to Rid Yourself of Preoccupations and Worrying. Use the following links to find articles about: Recognizing patterns of brooding and ruminating and breaking them, and fellow blogger Toni Bernhard's article about how to get perspective by learning from those with chronic illness.
3. Resolve to Heal Emotional Pain: Use the following links to find articles about: Overcoming emotional pain, 10 shocking facts about rejection, how to immunize yourself from rejection before a date, and how to deal with rejection on Facebook and social media.
4. Resolve to Emerge from Loneliness. Use the following links to find articles about: How to break free of loneliness, what to do when you’re married and lonely, managing the holidays when you’re lonely, and fellow blogger Dr. Alice Boyes' article about how to choose the right friends.
5. Resolve to Improve Your Relationships. Use the following links to find articles about: How deepen marital bonds by practicing emotional validation, how to improve your empathy, fellow blogger Dr. Susan Newman's article about how to connect in an age of electronic distractions, and fellow blogger Dr. Susan Heitler's article about how to avoid divorce and save your marriage.
6. Resolve to Shed the Burden of Guilt: Use the following links to find articles about: The curse of being guilt prone and what to do about it, how to manage guilt trips, and fellow blogger Dr. Timothy A. Pychyl article about guilt and procrastination.
7: Resolve to Learn from Failure: Use the following links to find articles about: How to become ‘failure proof,’ recognizing and conquering fear-of-failure, and fellow blogger Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne's article about the one crucial technique to use when things go wrong.
Want to see my short and quite personal TEDx talk about Psychological Habits? Here:
My best wishes for a happy and emotionally healthy New Year!
For many more techniques for improving your emotional and psychological health check out, Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries (Hudson Street Press, 2013).
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Copyright 2013 Guy Winch
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