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Making New Year’s Resolutions for 2021

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT
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Last year at this time we published an article about New Year’s Resolutions. What we talked about was unconventional, as far as New Year’s resolutions go. We didn’t advise making typical resolutions like learning a new skill, exercising more, being more responsible with money, or losing weight – although we think those are all great resolutions, and if those are the kinds of things you resolved to do last, year, and want to again this year, we say go for it and good luck.

Here are the resolutions we suggested you consider for 2020:

  1. Be Kind
  2. Be Compassionate
  3. Be a Good Friend
  4. Listen More
  5. Judge Less

We’re curious: did any of you take us up on our advice?

We want to know, because another thing we included in that article was a report on whether people who made resolutions for 2019 had actually kept them. It did not surprise us that 56 percent of people who made resolutions said they did not keep them. When asked why, they offered the following reasons:

  • 45% said they lost motivation
  • 20% said they got too busy
  • 15% said they changed their mind about it
  • 11% said did not have adequate support

We honestly wonder about what happened to everyone’s resolutions in 2020, for obvious reasons. Up until late February, things were cruising along pretty much as always, but then, boom. The pandemic arrived and all bets were off.

Did people put off resolutions, too?

Whether they did or not, we suspect that during the pandemic, you realized the importance of things like kindness, compassion, being a good friend, listening more, and judging less. If 2020 taught us anything it taught us that we need our friends, family, and loved ones during tough times, and they need us.

How to Modify Your Resolutions

Another lesson from 2020 we learned was that we need to be adaptable. When things change – emphasis on when, absence of if – over the next twelve months, we need to be ready to change along with them.

And things will change in 2021, that’s guaranteed. One thing we know will change is the pandemic. Right now, almost every region in the nation is experiencing a winter surge. Cases, hospitalizations, and tragically, deaths are all increasing. We know this will change because of the good news we received during the first and second weeks of December: more than one vaccine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and as of the writing of this article, frontline healthcare workers and older citizens are receiving the first doses.

That’s a big-deal game changer.

There may be others, but that’s one we know is coming. It’s emblematic, though, of our need to think through our resolutions for 2021. If our default day-to-day conditions are bound to change, we need to make resolutions that can survive the change.

We can help with that.

Here’s what we suggest as you think about making your New Year’s Resolutions this year:

How to Create Durable Resolutions 2021

1. Make Them Simple

This year, since we don’t know what’s going to happen over the next couple of months, we suggest making resolutions that don’t rely too much on other people. In other words, if you want to learn a new skill, make sure you can learn on your own, or with the help of family. Access to teachers – even via Zoom – could be iffy. The same for exercise: if working out more is your resolution, figure out a way to do it without relying on group classes or going to a gym, because – vaccine notwithstanding – you don’t know when, or for how long, those resources will be available.

2. Keep Them Achievable

Let’s take learning a skill, for instance. If you want to learn woodworking, or learn to play the violin – two very different examples – break your goals down into small pieces that you know are within your reach. Resolve to learn one scale on the violin. Resolve to make a simple birdhouse out of wood. Once you complete those, move on to what’s next: a simple song on the violin, and a set of bookshelves for your woodworking. Build on these over the year, and by next December, you’ll have a new skill.

3. Make them adaptable

By this we really mean expandable. We all want, more than anything, for things to approach normal at some point this year. And there’s a very good chance they will. If and when they do, we want you to be ready to take your humble, basic resolutions and broaden their scope. If your resolution is exercise related, for instance, then you can get to that gym, participate in group sports, or sign of for a mass start 5k foot race and rub elbows with people for the first time since last February without worrying about your health.

One Last Thing: Help Others

We’re a service-oriented bunch. That means that while we understand that New Year’s Resolutions default towards personal improvement, they can also lean the other way. They can lean toward helping others. In fact, that would be an admirable resolution for 2021, in our book: help others as much as possible. That’s also a durable resolution you can apply at any time, and almost any place – and it’s also pandemic-proof. This has been a challenging year on just about every level for just about everyone. We know that there are plenty of people out there who could use a helping hand. You might need one, yourself – and if that’s true, you can start a cycle of support that sustains itself through 2021 and beyond. You can help friends, family, children, or parents in innumerable ways, from the simple to the complex.

We’ll leave it up to you to decide how you can help. But if you happen to be a teenager reading this article, we suggest starting by helping your parents around the house. It may take some of your free time in the short-run, but – and this we promise – the benefit will redound to you in the long run.

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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