Mental Health and New Year’s Resolutions Can Impact Mental Health

By January 4, 2024May 14th, 2024Mental Health
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Happy New Year, Dear Villa Kali Ma Readers!

Goodbye, 2023, thank you for all you brought. Hello 2024, nice to meet you!

Dear readers, on behalf of Villa Kali Ma, I wish you all the best in this new cycle. May you find yourself face to face with a year of brightness, saturation, and depth, of feeling real in your own body and present in your story.

Like many people, I have mixed feelings about the time of year when we release the last year and welcome in the new.

I like that the year ends with a bang of celebration, a culmination of what came before. I like lights, mystery, and presents. I like laughing around the fireplace with the people who’ve known me longer than I’ve known myself, even if there’s a little pain mixed in.

But sometimes, releasing into the openness of time, I can feel a little lost. An old familiar stab of dread or uncertainty, facing the unassigned, undefined wilds of a new episode of life.

Today I’m wondering if you, like me, face the yearly bugaboo of resolutions – whether or not this year will be the year we finally make that change? Will we finally get it together, will we master ourselves, and overcome our gift for self-defeat?

The Statistics of Change

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New Year’s Resolutions are a dazzling failure for the majority of people who make them. Statistics indicate a rather bleak outlook, with only 8% of people who make resolutions for the year following up on them, and a staggering 80% of people relinquishing their vows through an unceremonious giving up by February.

This makes me sad, as it implies something half-hearted or incomplete in us, a failure of will.

For those with addiction, failed willpower is no surprise – we know this one inside and out. How can we will ourselves to make positive changes, when we fear in our hearts that we belong to our self-destruction?

Can we be serious about serving the life force within us, even in as small a way as to meet a personal fitness goal – when we have known ourselves in the past to serve another, uncannier element? Something that pulled us down into the dark?

This changes with recovery, of course. Through the ordinary but still awe-inspiring miracles of recovery, we can develop and embody the vulnerable, brave commitment to thrive, after all.

We learn that it is possible to live in an upward spiral that grows towards the sun. This takes place verifiably, despite the feeling about ourselves that persists in the beginning, sometimes quiet, sometimes shouting, that somehow we and the world would be better if we weren’t even here.

Tut, it is a lie of course! (And even we know it somewhere deep down). But still, with such an omnipresence of the voices of the forces of the inner enemy, how do we know for sure we will prevail? (We don’t. We surrender to the life inside us again, who prevails for us. Through us, on our behalf, out of love for us, keeping us together, after all. We ask for a miracle, and we say thank you when it comes).

In recovery, we break the statistics of our past behavior, showing to ourselves and others that there is, in fact, an eye of calm at the center of the hurricane of every person who once belonged to addiction. We can live a life that keeps to the eye, stays in the center, and wreaks no havoc. We can be the center of a bell, bringing harmonies and beauties through our vibration.

What Are Some Reasons That Lead People to Quit Their New Year Resolutions?

Statistics say almost half of the people making resolutions already know while resolving that they will fail. What an idea! My heart goes out to the person, writing down, saying to themselves, declaring to others, “I will!”, already knowing that they will not.

Why is it that we fail in our resolutions? How is our resolve so weak? Here are some possibilities that could be affecting us.

1. Forced Timing

The timing of the New Year may or may not coincide with a personal cycle or readiness for change. Personal change has its season. We need to listen to ourselves and not always join in the collective for a once-a-year change, but ask ourselves – what do I want to change, when is a good time to make this change, how can I support this change?


2. Shoulds Versus Desires

Sometimes resolutions fail because they’re not desired changes, but rather a sense of “should”. Perhaps we feel that we should quit drinking because other people want us to, or because we judge ourselves. That is not the same thing as having decided to enter the transformational liberating fires of a new life.


3. Realistic Cost and Benefit Analysis

Some resolutions fail because they do not take into account the existing system and its homeostatic advantages. Whatever we do, we do because it works for us, one way or another.

We cannot decide to go all in on a change before we have answered these questions:

What are all the advantages of staying the same, of not making this particular change?

What, on the other hand, does it cost me to stay the same, not making this particular change?

What benefit will come to me from making this change?

What might be difficult for me about making this change?

Am I willing to undergo this difficulty for the sake of positive change? Does the potential benefit of making this change outweigh the potential cost?

How Can a Person Create Healthy Resolutions?

If we have lined up our will and we are committed to a change, the rest is relatively easy in comparison.

The key to how we can support ourselves to succeed lies in recasting resolutions as goals.

Goals are smaller, more targeted, and more time-based. As the SMART acronym reminds us, helpful goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant (to your values and what you want to achieve), and time-based.

Try this format for setting a new kind of resolution:

WHAT – Desired Outcome – written in the present tense, as if already fulfilled: eg, I speak Spanish fluently.

WHY – Reason for Outcome – written in terms of your values, again as if already fulfilled: eg, I speak Spanish fluently because I value foreign languages, learning, other cultures, reading Pablo Neruda in the original, etc.

SMART GOAL:

For January, I will spend 15 minutes a day on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, on my Spanish language learning app. I will reevaluate and set a new frame for continuing at the end of January. If I miss a day, that’s okay, but then I need to make it up to myself on one of the other days.

Then ask yourself – is this a SMART goal? Is it:

Specific enough?

Measurable enough?

Attainable enough?

Relevant enough to my WHAT and my WHY?

Time-based enough?

Villa Kali Ma Can Help You With Your Goals

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A mile is walked one step at a time. What if you want to walk very many miles?

Goals can be laid out like a map of a walk across the country. Perhaps there is a very long way to go. But if we are realistic with ourselves, about how much can reasonably, sustainably be walked in each walking session, how many breaks we need, and when and where to rest, we could quite believably achieve it. As they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Goals build on themselves. Those who set reasonable, realistic goals for themselves are more likely to achieve success. To achieve success at smaller goals, we build confidence in ourselves. Our confidence then comes from our own experience.  Of course I can do this challenging thing. I have done challenging things before.

If you have trauma, addiction, or mental illness of any kind, the chance that you are dealing with inner ambivalence about making a positive change is pretty high. This is because everything inside of our psyches is balanced carefully to cope with the symptoms of our pain.

The traumatized among us are scared to change because we haven’t yet learned how to cope with our overwhelming inner worlds. We know, consciously or unconsciously, that any behavior change, even deciding to meditate for 15 minutes a day, could bring up difficult material which we will then need to figure out a way to deal with. Dread and agitation have us captive.

If this is you – have compassion for yourself. Traumatization is very, very challenging in ways the average person does not recognize. You deserve all the gentleness in the world for recovering your simple right, ability, and confidence to change and grow.

Take it slow, get help if you can. Make just feeling okay inside your skin without substances and other self-destructive behaviors your primary goal, perhaps your only resolution. Everything else will come with time.

As always, we at Villa Kali Ma are here to help, sister.

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