The end of the year is a time for self-reflection, while the beginning brings a clean slate, hope and new-found motivation, said Deborah Serani, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist and author of the book Living with Depression.
That’s why so many people use this time to create resolutions. In our monthly series, “Therapists Spill,” we wanted to know what goals clinicians are setting for their fresh starts.
For instance, Serani is setting both personal and professional goals — with an emphasis on realistic resolutions.
I like to set realistic goals for myself each year. Some are personal, like exercising more and eating better. Others are professional, such as researching a new subject or presenting at a conference. Of course, I don’t always achieve all these goals. But for me, I know that thinking about change leads me toward change. And that’s a good way to start the year.
Joyce Marter, a psychotherapist and owner of Urban Balance, has three resolutions for the new year, which focus on gratitude, mindfulness and self-care.
I very much believe in the power of gratitude as a way to encourage positive thinking and good energy that will attract blessings, such as positive people, experiences and opportunities in the New Year.
I love the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and Eckhart Tolle and am committed to continue developing my practices of meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga and other mindfulness techniques to anchor myself in the present. Mindfulness practices keep me from obsessing from the past or worrying about the future and also help me be more aware of my emotional and physical state. I find that when I am rooted in the present, I am more conscious and better able to detach from my ego and live my life authentically.
As a mother in a care-taking profession, I have a bad habit of putting my needs last, to a fault. Therefore, I am committed to a lifelong journey of practicing healthy self-love. To help myself with this goal in 2013, I put a small, framed picture of myself as a baby on my nightstand. Each morning, I look at it and set intentions for self-care for the day (healthy diet, exercise, rest, fun, etc.).
Somehow, it is easier for me to validate my self-care if I take a moment to reflect that I am that precious child in the photo — and that as an adult, I have the responsibility to take the very best care of myself so that I can live a healthy life personally and professionally.
Gratitude also is a goal for John Duffy, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and author of the book The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens.
In 2013, my plan is to be present, in each moment, and to be grateful. There are many, many things I intend to accomplish in the coming year, but if I can achieve presence and gratitude, I am confident that all else will fall into place beautifully.
Ryan Howes, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist in Pasadena, California, takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to setting resolutions.
I hate to be contrarian, but resolutions sort of drive me crazy. Part of me loves to target areas to improve, while another part strives for self-acceptance. New Year’s resolutions force me to pit these competing drives against each other. For this reason, I usually avoid making resolutions, but this year I’ll make an exception:
1. Run a 40 minute 10K
2. Measure happiness qualitatively, not quantitatively
3. Get a book deal
4. Be less goal oriented; enjoy the journey
5. Increase Facebook fans
6. Increase humility
7. Change bad habits
8. Accept self as-is
Jeffrey Sumber, M.A., a psychotherapist, author and teacher, resolves to focus on the people in his life for 2013.
Something I intend for the new year is to give more attention and care to my relationships rather than acquiring things, doing things or being someone I think I should be. I want to honor the people in my life and remember that they are the most important part of my life.
Christina G. Hibbert, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and postpartum mental health expert, doesn’t set goals. Instead, she sets a theme for each new year.
I do have a main “goal” for 2013 — to see the publishing of my book, This is How We Grow. But really, I don’t set “goals” or “resolutions” for the New Year. It’s actually something I share in my book — several years ago, in an attempt to get away from the too-easily forgotten New Year’s “resolutions,” I developed instead a yearly theme.
This theme would serve as my one “resolution” for the entire year and give me focused, extended practice in mastering it. A few of my past year’s themes include: humility, charity, patience, gratitude, love, and joy.
At the end of each year I spend time reading through my past year’s journal (I’m an avid journal-keeper), allowing myself to reflect on what I’ve learned, where I am, and where I need to be headed. This helps me determine what my theme for the next year will be. Sometimes I know my theme a couple months before; often, I don’t know it until January 1!
So, what will my theme be for 2013? Right now I’m leaning toward “Optimism,” but, since I haven’t done my “year in review,” if you really want to know my 2013 theme, you’ll have to tune in to my blog in January and find out!
These resolutions have one thing in common: They focus on each person’s values. Whether you’re setting resolutions this year or not, consider striving for a life that honors what’s important to you and isn’t shaped by shoulds. Consider creating a life that respects your needs and wishes.
2013 photo available from Shutterstock