A YORKSHIRE counsellor is urging people not to put too much unnecessary stress on themselves over failed New Year resolutions and to focus instead on positive steps for the future.

Susie Pearson, who runs Ripon based Silver Linings Counselling is concerned people often set themselves up for failure by coming up with a list of demanding resolutions and are left feeling guilty or low, if they fail to achieve all of them.

Mother of three, and keen animal lover, Susie, who is a  Registered Member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (MBCAP) thinks whilst it is good to make positive plans for the future and to look at ways we want to improve our lives, for most people, New Year resolutions are not the best way to achieve that and many are broken just a few days into January.

She explained: “As the New Year comes around people often feel a pressure to undertake changes such as losing weight, getting fit or finding a new relationship but statistics prove most new gym members will have already lost interest by February.

“A lot of resolutions may be things a person needs support with – and just simply pledging to make it happen can be an added pressure and potentially isolating.”

Susie believes the other potential issue with resolutions is some people see them as a list of everything they think is wrong with themselves or their life and that in itself is a very negative place to start from and potentially sets people up for failure.

Now we are well into January, Susie is asking people to consider making a positive three-point plan instead and she says the best thing about it is that it doesn’t all have to be crammed into New Year, and it is not based on self-criticism or something that you can either achieve or fail. You can also practice some or all of these steps throughout the year, on a daily basis.

Instead of resolutions Susie likes to follow three steps –

  • An annual dusting of your “mental trophies”. Write all the positive, large and small events, things you have achieved (or events that happened and you’ve coped with) in the previous 12 months on a piece of paper, and give yourself credit for everything you have achieved! Positive-self talk is so important for maintaining our mental help, and helps minimise ‘self-doubt and self-criticism’. Effectively ‘ring in” the new year by blowing your own trumpet.
  • Reflect on both your best and worst experiences of the year, and try to identify both the positive and negative emotions they triggered? Close your eyes and try to recapture that favourite feeling? Imagine it? With the ‘negatives’ you identify, tell yourself, “its ok to feel sad, anxious….lonely …but it is only a feeling and it will pass, and I can cope”. Write a list of positive ‘mantras’ you can use to encourage yourself in tough times (or others) E.g. “I am happy, and strong, and this “anxiety” will pass”, “ I can and will cope, and overcome this (negative) feeling”. Remind yourself to “Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” –  Harriet Beecher Stowe 
  • Find a trusted friend to ‘talk to’ and share your highs and lows of the year ? Learning to be honest with how you feel, and sharing that with a trusted “other” can help you to identify just 3 things you’d like to feel better about in the year ahead, or three skills you’d like to enhance or learn. Ask them to support you in your plans, and you can do likewise for them. As people we are not “islands’, and many of us tend to ‘turn in on ourselves” when we are feeling low, and avoid sharing our feelings, this actually can have a magnifying effect, and they ‘mushroom’ within us. Learn to reach out, and seek help and support when you need it. Don’t just text, pick up the phone or arrange to meet someone face-to-face.”

Susie added: “The key thing is that people make changes that they really want to make, and they are framed in a positive way, we ideally need to give ourselves credit for our achievements, and just pledge to ‘learn’ from the negatives, and find the ‘silver linings’ in the experiences and situations we have faced’.

My mantra is, “Life isn’t about waiting learning from the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain”. (ANON) Find yourself an inspirational and guiding mantra for 2020, that will help you stay upbeat!

“New year’s resolutions are often things which people see as black and white, pass or fail and life is not that simple – there are a million grey areas and so they don’t work for many people”.

“It is also vital people know there is professional help out there and they should not be afraid to seek support if they need it. Choosing a practitioner who is a BACP registered member gives you an assurance that they meet the standards of proficiency and ethical practice you would expect. You can use the register to find someone who you feel you might be able to connect with, and arrange an initial telephone call”.