Want to keep your New Year’s resolutions? Local psychiatrist offers tips

Published: Jan. 2, 2023 at 3:58 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - New Year’s resolutions are infamous for how frequently they are given up on.

But, for those looking to make and keep their goals for the new year, there are a couple of tips to keep in mind.

Dr. Barbara Toohill is a psychologist with the Antioch Group in Peoria. New Year’s resolutions require willpower. In her practice, Toohill is often helping patients make and reach goals. Here’s what she suggests to patients year-round.

Make small goals

Toohill said many resolutions fall through because people expect radical, revolutionary change to happen quickly. Not are people more likely to accomplish smaller goals. but you can feel satisfied from completing a goal instead of agonizing over not meeting the New Year’s resolution in the first month.

“People, not only feel bad about themselves for not having achieved it, but they go back to the behavior they were doing before or sometimes even more,” Toohill said. “Whereas if they can make it small and achievable over time they are way more likely to stick with it.”

Instead of broad goals like “save more money” or “lose weight,” she suggests getting more specific. For example, “save $100 a month,” or “take a walk every day.”

Take baby steps

Along with smaller goals, taking small steps to achieve them can also make change more manageable. Toohill said making changes, no matter what time of year, is always more manageable when the goals are broken down and achievable. It can also make a daunting task seem easier.

She also suggests recruiting a friend or the community to keep you accountable for achieving your goals. Some individuals use therapists to make sure they’re on track, but Toohill said a trusted person can also keep you on task.

Make sure resolutions come from a positive place

Many resolutions come from a place of dissatisfaction. Wanting to lose weight because of a negative body image, for instance, or wanting to save money because you’re stressed by mounting debt.

Making resolutions from a negative place may not have the intended consequences, according to Toohill.

“Because it started from a place of dissatisfaction about something, it’s never quite enough,” Toohill said, “they don’t feel better when they do it.”

She suggests reframing goals to put them in a more positive light. Turn a goal focused on weight loss into one that focuses on building stamina or strength. Oftentimes, the original goal will follow along with the more positive one, but the mindset matters.

A Forbes Health poll shows 45% are looking to improve their mental health in 2023, especially young adults. Just under half of the Gen-Z participants rate mental health as a concern for the new year.

Toohill said therapy can be a helpful tool for improving mental health, but it can work best and infrequently when used as a preventative measure instead of reacting to a mental health crisis.

“Sometimes people come once a month just to check in on the thing they’re working on and have someone help them troubleshoot any difficult points. It is scaleable depending upon a person’s need,” Toohill said.