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Shifting our Approach to the New Year

Dr. Jess LoPresti, PhD

Chief Medical Officer

It’s the beginning of February. Just over a month ago so many of us started off the year focused on New Year’s resolutions. “Dry January”, “Damp January”, “Exercise x times/week”, “no more sugar”, “less social media scrolling”.  When we set these types of goals at the beginning of the year we feel motivated and energized. Starting fresh and anew is a wonderful feeling.   

The reality is that it is so challenging to maintain that level of enthusiasm about our goals for any length of time. We often find ourselves abandoning these resolutions before we can see any meaningful change. I’d like to highlight a few things that contribute to our abandonment of these types of goals and also a different way to approach change.  

When Habits Become a Way of Life:

First, New Year’s resolutions focus solely on behavioral change and not on the meaning behind the change. Why do we want to exercise more, drink less, and spend less time on social media? It’s likely because we value health and wellness, feeling confident, and spending quality time with the people we care about most. Identifying and focusing on the meaning that underlies our goal-setting can lead to meaningful, sustainable change.  

Beyond January 1 - Shifting Perspectives Throughout the Year:

Secondly, January 1 represents a new year, it does not represent our only opportunity to shift our approach to the way we are living. A year is a very long time, if you find yourself in a place you don’t want to be, you can work towards shifting that at any time. Not just January 1. Which leads to my next point…..

Embracing Gradual Change for Sustainability:

Gradual change is the most sustainable change. Let’s set some approachable goals and build our successes and sense of self-efficacy by making, and sustaining, small changes. Remember, many small changes add up to significant change overtime.  

The Importance of Self-Compassion:

My last point is arguably the most important. New Year’s resolutions suggest that we are somehow not good enough as we are. While some degree of this perspective is inherent in goal-setting, this can also fuel a level of self-criticism, shame, or self-loathing that runs counter to our efforts to change. Turning on yourself is not going to motivate you, it will shut you down. Be kind to yourself, always. Self-compassion is your greatest ally along this journey.  

So, if you have abandoned the goals you set for yourself at the start of the new year, consider a different, sustainable, and compassionate approach to change.  

And, as always, The WhiteFlag Community is here for you. 


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