And then there’s the question of whether or not you will even keep your resolution – only about 8 percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions follow through on them – and if that will actually harm your recovery rather than help it. Should you take the risk?
Whether or not your New Year’s resolutions are specific to your recovery, they should be healthy resolutions that will improve your physical, mental, and/or spiritual health. Whether you resolve to learn a new hobby, lose weight, or go back to school, it should be a goal that will improve your quality of life and amplify your experience.
Though that may sound obvious – who doesn’t make a New Year’s resolution based on a goal that will in some way improve their lives? – it is possible to inadvertently make an unhealthy resolution choice. For example, if you are overweight, it is a healthy choice to resolve to get your weight to a healthy level but it is unhealthy to resolve to lose 30 pounds in a month. In many cases, the difference between a healthy and unhealthy resolution is the manner in which you intend to accomplish it. In almost all cases, slow and steady progress rather than an overwhelming change is recommended.
Again, resolutions that allow for a slow progression and the induction of new habits, over an extreme and radical lifestyle change designed to bring instant results, are recommended. For example, rather than resolving to drop three clothing sizes in two weeks, you might instead resolve to drop three sizes by the end of the year. Even better, you might resolve to begin walking three times a week or to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. These things will contribute to weight loss, but they are specific and allow you to note each day whether or not you are turning your New Year’s resolution into a new positive behavior.
Creating a Plan
If you opt for a large or long-term goal – say, resolving to go back to school to get a certificate or finish a degree – then map out a plan that you will follow over the course of the year to achieve that goal. In this example, you might resolve to take one or two classes every quarter until you reach your goal or to work hard for six months and save up enough money to pay for fulltime enrollment for a year. Or, if your resolution is less specific like resolving to figure out what direction you want to take with your life, then make a plan that lists specific activities you can do to reach that goal (e.g., find a life coach to help guide the plan, read a specific book on the topic like What Color is Your Parachute? 2016, etc.). The more detailed and specific your plan, the better able you will be to mark your progress.
Especially if you are in early recovery or experiencing high levels of stress in certain areas of your life, you may want to make sure that your New Year’s resolutions are all low stress in nature. You don’t want to pile on expectations and give yourself one more thing to make you feel bad about yourself in recovery. Rather, you want to give yourself a realistic, low-stress resolution that will help you to feel better mentally or physically and increase your overall level of confidence.
If you want to ensure that your New Year’s resolution will be a benefit to your recovery, consider choosing a resolution that is specific to your recovery. You may choose to increase the number of 12-Step meetings you attend for a certain period of time, or you may opt to pick a new holistic or alternative treatment option that will enhance your ability to stay sober or give you a new method of personal exploration.
Tips for Choosing a Great New Year’s Resolution
• Talk to a therapist about your New Year’s resolution options. Choose a resolution that will help you to make progress in recovery and create a clear plan to make that resolution into a reality. Additionally, a therapist can help keep you accountable and assist you in addressing any obstacles as they arise.
• Commit with a friend. When a friend joins you in making a New Year’s resolution, you may be more likely to keep it simply because it’s more fun when someone else is experiencing what you are.
• Keep it simple. Avoid creating complicated New Year’s resolutions that will take all year to accomplish. Instead, pick something simple that you can make happen right away and within a few weeks.
• Announce your intentions. Tell your Facebook friends, talk about it with your sponsor, or share about your New Year’s resolutions at a meeting to help increase your accountability and likelihood that you will follow through.
• Journal through your progress. If you are implementing an ongoing change (e.g., eating more healthfully, improving your recovery), keep a journal along the way to explore the ups and downs you go through and mark your progress.
• Celebrate small goals along the way. As you take a step nearer to accomplishing your goal – like getting through the admissions process for a local college or completing your first homework assignment or major project – celebrate! You are on your way to a new, improved you!