Our mental health and the New Year … resolution time

“Your New Year’s Resolution. Resolve to renew all your old resolves, and add a few that are new, resolve to keep them as long as you can, what more can a poor man do.”

— Early 20th century postcard, Anonymous

Today we are into our first week of 2018. I hope that those of you who made New Year’s Resolutions in 2017 experienced fulfillment of your aspirations and goals. We have celebrated the end of the year and made welcome the coming year of 2018.

Traditional foods were prepared and eaten; the ham and black-eyed peas, tamales, menudo and bunuellos; so very typical of our South and South Texas tradition. Millions of individuals were present at, or watching on TV, as the Ball was dropped in New York City’s Time Square. Fireworks lit up our skies as the New Year approached, and all will wished each other a Very Happy New Year.

It is with the beginning of the New Year that many of you will be making New Year’s resolutions; thinking and planning activities and other issues that you wish to accomplish in 2018.

he tradition of making New Year’s resolutions actually began about 4,000 years ago in Babylonia, wherein the Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year; albeit their New Year began in the spring time.

The Romans began their New Year by making promises to the god Janus, which morphed over time with the Roman-Gregorian calendar into January named after the god Janus. As the tradition spread over Europe, and finally came to the American Colonies the tradition developed into the concept of reflection upon self-improvement…plans for the New Year.

While probably one-half of the populations in the U.S. make New Year’s resolutions, most do not keep them; within just a few months they discontinue the resolutions due to a variety of reasons; but primarily due to setting unrealistic goals for themselves. According to research conducted by Richard Wiseman at the University of Bristol, 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52 percent of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning.

The most popular goals, resolutions made, include: improving mental well- being: thinking positive, laugh more often, enjoy life. This is most important to us whom are senior citizens, and has always been most important to me in my chosen profession and personal life. Other top resolutions made are: Improving physical well-being, improving one’s career, improve education, manage finances better, volunteer to help others, make new friends, spend quality time with family (this should be at the top of the ladder), spend less time on that computer in social media (a very real problem that most individuals nowadays can benefit from), improving ones spiritual needs, stopping the use of tobacco products, getting help for an Alcohol and/or drug problem, and other areas.

As I previously mentioned, most people fail with their New Year’s resolutions because they set un-realistic goals for themselves. Also they may lose interest, or just give up, in working on the goal they have set. As example, a person may make a resolution to lose weight but have not developed a workable plan of just how to do it. Or, they may consider a goal of making more money, but have not developed a plan on just how to do that either.

Of the many individuals I have counseled over the years, the major problems they have encountered are due to them having faulty assumptions concerning their ambitions and goals. They have great difficulty in comprehending a “you can’t get there from here” attitude…they need to change their thinking in order to change their actions. They very often had placed their emotions over their intellect, which is very often problematic; and thwarts the accomplishment of goals.

I am reminded of the teenagers that I have worked with in counseling sessions. When I asked of them “what are your goals, your future aspirations?” they most often replied with a goal without a plan to accomplish, such as “I am going to be a rock star,” etc., most often magical thinking on their part. Even those with great goals and ambitions, such as wanting to be a surgeon or a lawyer did not have the intellectual capacity to go through university or the necessary training to be a lawyer or physician.

All of us fall into faulty assumption and magical thinking at times, only to be brought back to the realm of reality after thoughtful, rational thinking. Let us all remember to keep our intellect over our emotions, not to fall into the trap of “it it feels good, do it.” Rational thinking, and taking “baby-steps” toward resolution accomplishment, my friends, allows us to make New Year’s Resolutions that are most meaningful and indeed may be fulfilled. Some tips to help with making New Year’s resolutions, as provided by the American Psychological Association are: Start small, change one behavior at a time, talk about it with family and friends, don’t beat yourself up, and ask for support if needed.

Most New Year’s resolutions center around our physical being and materialistic goals. I suggest we be more concerned with our Mental Health needs; such as, this is the year that I will read more books to improve my mind; this is the year that I will improve my self-concept so I will be able to interact with others better; this is the year that I will work on improving my memory; this is the year that I will take more responsibility for my actions; and above all, this is the year that I will work on maintaining my intellect over my emotions.

These are but few actions that can be taken to improve our mental health, and in just accomplishing these goals will have a marked improvement on working on our physical and materialistic resolutions. I hope you all enjoyed a most wonderful New Year’s celebration and have a most wonderful year ahead…that your healthy ambitions and goals be fulfilled.

Until next time, Stay Healthy My Friends!