Depression and New Year's Resolutions

Depression and New Year's Resolutions
How many times have you made New Year’s resolutions, only to abandon them after a couple of weeks, or worse yet-—a couple of days? I’ve done it countless times, always leading to disappointment. For those of us who are prone to depression, that disappointment can be a contributing factor.

So should we not make New Year’s resolutions? There’s nothing wrong with making resolutions, as we don’t get carried away. Don’t have expectations for yourself that are unreasonable. Don’t expect more of yourself than you are capable of doing.

There are two things to remember when making New Year’s resolutions:

• Resolve to do better in some area of your life than you are currently doing.
• If you miss a day doing something you’ve resolved to do, don’t see it as failure.

For example, if you’re a couch potato, don’t go out and buy a membership to a gym, resolving to work out an hour a day every day. That’s completely unreasonable, and you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. If you aren’t used to exercising, start out with something simple. Promise yourself you’ll do ten push-ups, ten sit-ups, and ten jumping jacks a day. You can do that in just a few minutes. Once you get used to doing that, you can add a few more.

If you feel particularly ambitious, you can always add a 15- or 20-minute walk or some other types of exercises, but don’t overdo it. If you get sore, that’s a convenient excuse to avoid exercising.

If you resolved to exercise everyday, but one or more days go by without exercising, you haven’t failed! See it as a temporary set-back rather than a failure. It isn’t over—-it was just on “pause.”

The same goes for anything else you resolve to do. Keep in mind that we are human, which means that we all make mistakes and have weaknesses. Resolutions usually involve changing negative behaviors that we have cultivated over a period of many years. It’s unrealistic to expect ourselves to change those behaviors overnight. Give yourself a break! If you fall back into those old behaviors, just remember that tomorrow is another day. Start over again.

If you are resolving to kick an addiction, I suggest that you begin a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Millions of people have been able to give up drugs and alcohol through these programs. And remember that tobacco is just as addictive as any other drug. Some areas have Nicotine Anonymous, but if there isn’t one in your area, you can use the steps from any 12-step program.

New Year’s resolutions aren’t the problem. Unrealistic expectations are the problem. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and depression. Resolve to make improvements in your behavior—-not to become a completely different person. We can all make changes, as long as we don't make our expectations unattainable. So go for it, and good luck!

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