Mental Health

New Year’s Resolutions: a New Approach

new year's resolution a new approach
When it comes to New Year's resolutions, remember: don’t just focus on the end goal; celebrate your small and big wins, too!

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It’s the time of year when every second person is thinking about making their new year’s resolution.

Even though wanting to improve ourselves a great goal, the unfortunate truth is many of us don’t succeed at making long-term changes, especially when it comes to our New Year’s resolutions.

This isn’t because we don’t want to change, though. Instead, it’s often due to things like:

  • Setting unrealistic expectations (such as losing a lot of weight in an unrealistic time frame)
  • Wanting to make changes for the wrong reasons (i.e. because everyone “has to” have a new year’s resolution)
  • Taking a cognitive dissonance approach to constructive criticism and only listen to people who tell us what we want to hear (such as celebrities)
  • Not focusing on the things that are within our control

It’s the things I’ve listed above and similar things that prevent us from making real changes in our lives.

If you want to make new year’s resolutions that stick, keep the following five tips in mind:

1. Stop the “new year, new you” nonsense!

Around this time of year, you hear the phrase “new you” a lot. We need to remember experiences make up who we are, whether those experiences or good, bad, or ugly.

A healthier approach is practicing self-acceptance about the things you want to improve and acknowledging and owning the areas of your life that need improvement. 

The “new year, new you” mindset feels like avoidance.

When you practice self-acceptance and acknowledge your role in your life, it gives you a more realistic sense of self, which gives you a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.

Here’s are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Stop ignoring the things that make you uncomfortable
  • Practice self-care and self-compassion
  • Practice healthy self-talk
  • Don’t just talk about making change, make an actual plan to make change

2. Remember long term change is about making realistic habits that stick.

When making changes remember it’s about training for a marathon, not a 100m dash. What I mean by that is stop trying to take a shortcut to improve your life.

New Year’s Resolutions that revolve around quick-fix approaches to things are counterproductive and don’t work. 

Try to keep the SMART approach in mind when making changes or breaking bad habits. It’s these five traits that are the pillars for creating healthy long-term change:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

3. Don’t take the “Polly Positive” approach to change.

The “glass is half empty or full” philosophy is very outdated and unrealistic. People throw around the phrase positivity a lot in our world like they’re playing a metaphorical game of hot potato.

The truth is, the way many people view positivity is incredibly toxic.

The “Polly Positive” approach has you spending more time developing avoidance skills instead of learning coping skills. This leaves a person feeling overwhelmed and frustrated about the things they want to overcome in their life.

Here are a few things to remember when your Polly Positive inner voice talks:

  • Instead of focusing on the positive or negative focus on what works and what’s doesn’t work.
  • There is a big difference between destructive criticism and constructive criticism. My advice is to ignore the destructive criticism and stop taking a cognitive dissonance approach to constructive criticism. Unless you know what your weaknesses are, how are you going to improve those areas of your life?
  • Depending on how complicated the issue is, seeking professional help from a qualified therapist can be very beneficial.
  • Gain an understanding of how your self-talk can play a role in accomplishing your goals.

4. Please stop listening to celebrities and health gurus, seriously!

One of the most toxic aspects of health and wellness is how celebrities, YouTube stars, and health gurus cash in on our struggles. No matter how overpriced and dangerous their advice and products are, people flock to stores to get their products, ignoring recommendations from professionals such as dieticians, psychiatrists, physicians, and therapists.

Celebrities and gurus promote unhealthy products and diets that many times are dangerous.

They like to push overpriced products that a lot of times are unregulated and very costly. Unfollow any social media account or groups that push things such as fad diets or pseudoscience.

5. Base your improvements on your own progress, not on everyone else’s.

I know how frustrating it can be when you are trying your best to improve your life. It feels like the whole process is an uphill battle.

I want you to remember the following things when you compare your own progress to other people’s:

  • Progress is progress whether you are taking small steps or giant leaps.
  • Falling back on old habits or behaviour is normal. It’s a matter of if not when. It’s important to not view setbacks as a failure; view them as a lesson instead.
  • Practice resilience and perseverance and don’t base your progress on the progress of others.

Closing Thoughts

Making changes can be a great learning experience. Change can teach us so much about ourselves, such as our strengths and weaknesses.

Most times when you break down the things you want to improve on, you end up feeling less overwhelmed, which leads to more positive results.

Remember, don’t just focus on the end goal; celebrate your little wins and big wins, too!

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new year's resolutions quote

Author/Writer at Thought Catalog, Libero Magazine, Invisible illness/Beautiful Voyager, and TotallyADD. I'm also a trained peer supporter.

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