The 4 New Year's Resolutions Therapists Make Every Year

Don't overcomplicate your 2024 goals. These simple and effective resolutions are all you need.
With New Year's resolutions like self-care and less phone use, therapists really are just like us.
SolStock via Getty Images
With New Year's resolutions like self-care and less phone use, therapists really are just like us.

New Year’s resolutions are a hotly-debated topic. Some people say they’re ineffective, while others say they’re a good way to create an intention for the year ahead.

Therapists have their opinions on them, too: “I think the best way that I would look at a resolution is what do I want to carve out for myself that I would love to see happen or even commence within the new year,” said Natasha Williams, a clinical psychologist based in Toronto.

But some people create New Year’s resolutions almost as a marker of punishment, Williams said. In this case, when someone doesn’t meet their intended resolution or notices they’re falling off, negative feelings can occur. Think about it: If you resolve to “get more fit” but stop exercising come spring, you aren’t going to be too happy with yourself.

“When you add all of those pieces together, a lot of times the resolution ends up being such a contentious point in that individual’s life. It ends up not being a resolution, it just ends up causing more harm,” she said.

That’s why therapists think about resolutions differently so this doesn’t happen. Additionally, they consider the process needed to reach their goals differently, too.

“I think it’s important to choose goals that you find enjoyable or be able to find creative ways to make it enjoyable is important,” said Justin Vafa William, a licensed clinical social worker based in Philadelphia. For example, if you want to start meditating in 2024, choose a meditation app that you like or select a time of day for meditation that aligns with your lifestyle.

Bottom line: There are ways to make New Year’s resolutions that are rewarding, effective and work for you. To begin, we asked therapists to share their resolutions for 2024 with HuffPost and some ways to reframe your goals for the year ahead so they’re more likely to happen:

Resolution 1: Prioritize radical self-care.

Williams said one of her resolutions is to prioritize self-care ― and not just regular self-care like manicures and massages (although those can be important, too). She wants to focus on radical self-care, specifically.

Radical self-care is looking beyond the individual behaviors that make up self-care and moving to an understanding that self-care is non-negotiable ― a mindset that should be implemented at all times, Williams said. Additionally, it should be proactive instead of reactive to issues like burnout or exhaustion.

“Selfishness is not a bad word,” Williams said. “I may have responsibilities, priorities, children, family, a partner, but it also doesn’t mean I have to put myself on the back burner to satisfy everyone else.”

“It’s really looking at filling your cup first and making sure you’re full so that you can then be able to help and be of service to others,” she added.

What that means for you will be different than what it means for your best friend. Maybe you need time to journal or exercise or read a good book. Maybe you need to set aside time to have a clean space. Whatever it is, it’s your radical self-care, and it’s important.

Resolution 2: Maintain boundaries.

Boundaries is more than a buzzword, it’s a way to protect yourself emotionally, physically, financially and mentally from the stressors around you. Williams said maintaining her boundaries is a goal for 2024, and is also a part of the radical self-care she mentioned above.

“I think boundary setting and maintenance is actually the first point of contact when it comes to self-care,” Williams said.

For instance, if 10 minutes of meditation is part of your self-care routine, nothing should get in the way of it, including your kids, partner, friends or colleagues. You can let those in your life know that this is the carved-out time for you, and if someone tries to call you during that time, you can maintain that boundary by saying, “This is my 10 minutes, it’s important for me to refresh and rejuvenate, I’ll be able to get back to you in the next 10 to 15 minutes,” Williams said.

“When you’re able to do that, it’s almost like you set a protective barrier around yourself,” she said.

Resolution 3: Focus on getting more sleep.

William said he is focusing on improving his sleep hygiene in 2024.

“I’m someone who’s very much a night owl, and nighttime tends to be the only time of day where I have time to myself because my kids go to bed early, and my husband goes to bed before I do,” William said.

He added that he often spends the nights doing end-of-day chores or listening to a podcast, but his late nights result in not enough sleep because of his kids’ early morning wake-up.

“The cumulative impact of not getting enough sleep, I’ve noticed, has been affecting me,” William said. “So, one of the goals that I have for myself in the year ahead is committing to an earlier bedtime, and trying to get as close to eight hours of sleep as possible.”

What’s more, evidence shows sleep is crucial for both our physical and mental health. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, not getting enough sleep is linked to heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Not getting enough sleep can also make it harder to deal with day-to-day stressors and can result in next-day brain fog.

Resolution 4: Be intentional about phone use.

It’s easy to slip into doomscrolling and equally as easy to get caught up in your phone without realizing how much time has passed. In 2024, William wants to decrease his phone usage and use it in a more intentional way.

He said this involves “trying to find a balance between staying informed about what’s going on in the world, because that’s very important to me, and also attending to what’s healthy in terms of what I’m taking in versus what becomes too overwhelming and paralyzing in a way.”

William is certainly not alone in this resolution — digital detoxes are becoming more popular, as are books about the topic.

It's OK to recommit to your resolution at multiple points throughout the year — you don't have to simply give up.
Milan Markovic via Getty Images
It's OK to recommit to your resolution at multiple points throughout the year — you don't have to simply give up.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to start your resolution on Jan. 1.

“One thing I would note, though, with New Year’s resolutions is this idea that it has to be on New Year’s,” William said. “I think ... just setting these personal goals for yourself can be done any time of year.”

You could commit to your goals on Jan. 1 or you could choose to do so on your birthday, your child’s birthday, your anniversary, the full moon, the start of the academic year or whenever feels right for you, he noted.

“There really could be any time that a person can make a commitment or recommit to their mental health, physical health [or] wellness goals,” he said.

William added that there is a day known as New Year’s Resolution Day (June 1) where you look at your resolutions at the mid-year mark to see how you’re holding up. Recommitting to your goal is important work and can help it be more likely to happen, he noted.

Here are a few therapist-backed ways to stick to your 2024 goals.

“I think one of the best ways to stick to 2024 goals is to ensure that you are looking at them from a realistic perspective,” said Williams, adding that the timeline for your goal is a good place to start.

If your goal is to learn how to knit, it may not be feasible to learn in one month. Instead, it may take a few months to understand this new skill. “Maybe set the goal in increments ... three months, six months, 12 months — so what you do is you have markers throughout the year, versus just doing a very vague goal,” Williams said.

Additionally, she noted that it’s important to be specific about your goal. For instance, learning to knit is the more specific version of “be more crafty,” which is pretty vague and lacks specific direction.

Lastly, be proud of your progress even if the full goal isn’t met.

“A lot of times we look at the end goal for 2024 and if we haven’t reached it, we completely abandon it,” Williams explained. “Can we also celebrate the process [and] see maybe what needs to be tweaked?”

“And if you bring that goal into 2025, that’s OK too,” she said.

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