UAB Medicine News


9 Ways to Mentally Reset for the New Year

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Many people see New Year’s resolutions as their one chance to make plans and set goals for the coming year, but any time of year is a good time to make positive changes. Think of it as a mental wellness “reset”. Identify the positive changes you seek and make a plan for following through.

The following suggestions can help you reset for a happier, healthier, and more productive year.

Tackle Life Goals

Today determines tomorrow. Find the thing that you can be doing right now to enjoy what really matters to you down the road. Achieving long-term goals is a matter of accomplishing a series of small steps. Whether it’s putting together a retirement plan or researching new educational opportunities, start with where you want to be and work backward to the present. You will get a powerful boost in work/life balance while building momentum and confidence toward what you care about the most.

Set SMART Goals

New Year’s resolutions help you kick-start your goals, but it’s easy to get discouraged after a few weeks of setbacks. Research shows that following the “SMART” guide below gives you a better chance at success:

  • Specific: Call mom “once a week” vs. “improve relationship with mom”
  • Measurable: Walk three times per week vs. get more exercise
  • Attainable: Lose two pounds per week vs. lose 10 pounds by this weekend
  • Relevant: Save 5% each paycheck vs. become a millionaire next year
  • Time-Specific: Stop drinking sodas by March 1 vs. cut down on sugar

Get Work/Life Perspective

Your job is not your life; it finances your life. The busier you get, the more you can get lost in deadlines, conflicts with the boss and coworkers, not getting that promotion, and customer complaints. With the rush and stress comes a natural loss of perspective. Try to engage each week in some purposeful activity that is wholly unrelated to your job. Planned, purposeful activities that change your focus and create temporary healthy detachments can help you avoid getting lost in work.

Beware the ‘Perfect Holiday’ Illusion

Don’t spiral into worrying about what a perfect holiday is “supposed” to be like. Unlike magazine pictorials or the movies, life is messy, disorganized, and unpredictable. Instead of focusing on real or imaginary holiday shortcomings, make a list each day during the season of one thing you’re proud of and one thing you are grateful for. Keep the list under a refrigerator magnet and use it as a pick-me-up year-round.

Overcome Procrastination

Can’t get started? Organize and prioritize with a list of what you need to accomplish this week and this month. Break down your workload into daily, bite-size chunks. Make copies and post them in areas where you’re most likely to goof off. Give yourself permission to play as soon as your tasks are done.

Accentuate the Positive

Be cautious about acting or thinking in ways that limit your potential. Negative self-talk when things go wrong may put you at risk for undermining other goals. Defeat destructive thought patterns by banishing them as they arise. Use a mental keyword such as “enough!”, then refocus into positive territory.

Pay Attention to Depression

Depression is not “in your head”. It’s in your whole body. Depression is a real, treatable disease — but only if you know you have it. Depression may be the result of genetics, environment, lifestyle, or a combination of factors. If you are having trouble shaking the blues, schedule an appointment with your doctor sooner rather than later.

Stay Active

Regular exercise can make you feel better physically and emotionally, and it can help manage stress. If you have trouble sticking to an exercise pattern, set small goals and start incorporating more movement into your life every day. Take the stairs, walk around the block, and stretch during TV commercials. Finding an exercise buddy is a good way to stay motivated.

The Body’s Response to Alcohol

Alcoholism is not an equal opportunity illness. Reactions to alcohol vary based on biochemistry and genetics. Those with a family history of alcoholism are at greater risk of developing problems. If you’re a regular drinker, be aware of the many warning signs of possible addictive disease like high tolerance, periodic memory loss when you over-drink, and more. If your drinking is a problem for you or the people in your life, take action. Don’t shy away from getting screened for alcoholism.