• New Year, same old resolutions? Therapist Harriet Frew suggests a different approach to your resolutions this new year

  • If this is the year that you decide to embark on your therapy journey, start your search here 

It’s that time of year again, a brand new year waits, bursting with vibrant possibility and hope. It’s a gleaming, clean slate for new beginnings.

This is the year to become the shinier, improved version of yourself, and with this in mind; you create your list of promising resolutions. Typically, these might include: losing weight; getting fit and healthy; cutting down on drinking; getting organised or stopping smoking to name a few. You are optimistic and expectant. Never mind that you have set the same resolutions for the past few years.

January is a cruel time to inspire change though. The weather is cold and bleak; we are struggling financially after the Christmas splurge and summer feels a long time away. It is not surprising that New Year’s resolutions are often broken six weeks in, when motivation has dwindled, mood is low and we are looking for creature comforts more than ever.

But maybe pure willpower and a whole bucket-load of good intentions isn’t a recipe for sustainable change, without delving a bit deeper into these issues? If you’re overeating or drinking too much as a coping strategy for unhappiness or stress, then how can you expect yourself to follow through on the resolutions when the winter bleakness becomes all engulfing? Alcohol, sugar, cigarettes, and the comfy, warm sofa are instant, effective short-term fixes to raise mood and offer escape. Is it not surprising that the hopeful plans fall by the wayside?

Instead, this year could be the time to work on these issues from the inside-out, so working on your mind and emotional wellbeing through counselling, and giving your body a fighting chance of achieving your goals.

1. Learn to understand yourself 

For change to happen, you need to understand why you turn to food or drink or feel constantly anxious. Often, we are completely unaware of why we do things. It can feel confusing. On the one hand, we sincerely want to change. On the other hand, we seem to sabotage our efforts. This is usually because the thing we are doing is a coping strategy (at least in the short-term). It might calm us down; offer soothing and distraction; it might also be a lasting habit.

Having counselling can provide a safe and non-judgmental place to unpick and make sense of these themes more fully. Once awareness and understanding is achieved, this provides a valuable springboard for change to happen.


2. Work with January motivation 

The Christmas holiday offers a break for reflection and self-evaluation, where you can think about your values and areas for self-improvement in life. The start of a new year then can provide the impetus to consider change and step out of your comfort zone. You might feel a little braver and more open to considering alternative ways of managing change. Grasp this impetus by being brave and bold, and reaching out to a counsellor now before this burst of energy fades.


3. Therapy is a long-term investment

Counselling can sometimes feel like a complicated hassle compared to the shorter-term ‘transformations’ you might gain from a new diet or exercise regime. Unfortunately, counselling is not a quick fix, and you can feel worse before you feel better. Nevertheless, counselling can offer a valuable and lasting solution. It helps you develop awareness and psychological insight, along with improved strategies for change. This can mean new and effective ways of coping which can impact your relationships, work, resilience and self-esteem. With any luck, you then won’t need to be making the same old resolutions again next year!

Further reading

Mental flexibility and resilience to change

Can we drive for success and be kind to ourselves?

The secret of long-lasting change

Why self-compassion is key to success

How to boost your willpower and stick to your goals