By Christopher Carter, chief executive, North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network
Come on now, be honest, have you broken your New Year’s Resolution already? It’s okay if you have: most people do, and that might be a good thing.
It’s natural to focus on making life changes when the calendar clicks over, but sometimes the way we frame these intentions can be unrealistic, setting us up for failure. In some cases, too, resolutions that require long-term planning raise our anxiety levels – which is especially ironic if the resolution involves becoming less anxious.
Setting goals for the coming year can be a very positive thing, but mental health experts tell us it’s important to focus on things that make life better rather than more challenging.
Be sure to acknowledge what’s already right in your life. What things are you grateful for? Resolve to remember these often. Feeling good about yourself will make achieving long-term aims, such as quitting smoking or maintaining healthy weight, a bit easier.
It’s important too to reflect only on yourself and refrain from impossible comparisons. You are probably never going to play tennis like Serena Williams or write pop songs as well as Baker Boy. Your icons aren’t your rivals.
In the end it doesn’t matter if you can’t carry a tune – just resolving to sing might be all you need. If you set small goals, you’re much more likely to succeed. Cook one more meal instead of getting takeaway; try just one new healthy food; read one more book; walk one more lap. Small achievements count.
It’s also important, of course, to not beat yourself up if you slip. The path to any goal is never smooth – it would be too easy, otherwise. Just because you fail once doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
Which raises another important point. You don’t have to reach your goals alone. One of the most useful things to decide is to ask for help when you need it.
If you opt to learn a new skill, don’t be afraid to find someone who can teach you. YouTube might be full of instructional videos, but it can be a pretty soulless way to find stuff out. Human connection can make a huge difference.
The same goes for your mental health. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to a support service, a therapist, a social group, friend or family member. If your resolution is to be the best you can be, that’s something vastly easier to achieve with the company and support of others.
Of course, if you’re having a crisis, ring Lifeline on 13 11 14, or 000. To find non-emergency help, however, consider calling Head to Health on 1800 595 212. A trained professional will take your call, give you advice, and connect you to the best support or service for you.
CAREinMIND™ is another excellent mental health counselling service. You can reach them for a chat on 1300 096 269. Their website – careinmind.com.au – has a great blog, chock full of ideas which can help you get through 2023 with style, smiles and joy.