The party’s over, the guests have gone home, and the decorations are back in storage. The new year has arrived, and for many of us, it offers a new chance to make good on that perennial list of resolutions that fell by the wayside last year. If you’re resolving to lose weight, exercise more, save money or organize your day better, you’re not alone. Health, financial management and self-improvement consistently make the top of most Americans’ first-of-the-year to-do list. However, an annual study by the University of Scranton finds that less than 10 percent of Americans achieve their New Year’s goals.
Katherine Puckett, PhD, MS, MSW, LCSW, Director of the Department of Mind-Body Medicine at our Chicago-area hospital, suggests that we try a different approach to starting the new year. One idea is to take a page from the Japanese, who consider New Year the most important holiday of the year. They traditionally view each year as a distinct time period, with each new year offering a fresh start. Many Japanese families even hold bonenkai parties— or “year forgetting parties”—to celebrate leaving the old year’s worries and troubles behind.
To help you welcome the new year with a positive outlook and a fresh start, Dr. Puckett offers these tips:
Pick a word or theme for the year. “Think about your overall goals for your life, how you want to live your best life,” Dr. Puckett says. “Focus on what’s really important to you as a human being, and make that your theme for the year.” Your goal can be as simple as a single word—kindness, freedom, generosity—or it can be theme, like: a healthier you.
Be kind to yourself. “Don’t be rigid in setting goals,” Dr. Puckett says, “and don’t ‘should’ on yourself. Leave room for flexibility, and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get to everything on your list.” Dr. Puckett suggests treating yourself as kindly as you would treat your best friend.
Make yourself a priority. “Take some down time, indulging in things you love to do,” Dr. Puckett says. “Think of this as the gift you give yourself.”
Despite the challenge of meeting goals we set for ourselves, many Americans seem determined to try and try again. That can be a good thing, Dr. Puckett says, if you don’t let the past get you down. “If we approach New Year—every day, really—as a new day, a new chance to live up to our ideals, we are much more likely to be successful, and happier, too,” she says.