New Year's Resolutions Don't Work? Try These Alternatives

January 3, 2021 Kate Beveridge

I support the positivity of setting goals for the year, but I've found that New Year's resolutions don't work for me. While living with borderline personality disorder (BPD), I have learned that I need to work consistently on the same issues every year. This process is constant and doesn't change with the calendar.

New Year's Resolutions Don't Work

When I was younger, I used to set New Year's resolutions, but they never worked for me. I would focus on common themes like healthy eating, an exercise schedule, or reading more books. However, these resolutions never lasted. I would put in a lot of effort for a few days or weeks, and then my interest would drop off.

There were always strong feelings of guilt that would accompany these resolutions. If I wasn't working on them actively, then I felt like I was failing. This negative motivation didn't work well to actually make any significant change.

Mostly, New Year's resolutions don't work for me because I have ongoing work that I need to do. Adding more obligations on top of that seems to interfere with my focus and my recovery. I don't feel like there are significant changes that I need to make at the start of each year because I am steadily working on the same recovery goals from the last few years.

Alternatives to New Year's Resolutions that Do Work

Instead of New Year's resolutions, these are the improvements that I focus on every day during my path to recovery:

  • I stay away from harmful substances. I have avoided alcohol and drugs for the last year and will continue to do so. Keeping my brain clear from artificial stimulants and depressives helps me to maintain more control and stability.
  • I resist any self-harm urges. When I become upset, my brain's first impulse is to hurt myself. However, I avoid this by using distress tolerance techniques like holding ice in my bare hands. I also redirect my hands to holding my arms while I wait for the urges to pass.
  • I work on regulating my emotions. When I become upset, it can feel like a flood washing over me. When this happens, I focus on identifying the different emotions. I also ride the wave and wait for the upsetting moment to pass.
  • I avoid acting out or making rash decisions when I am emotionally stimulated. In the past, I would engage in risky and dangerous behavior or pick verbal fights. I try to isolate myself now when I am upset to avoid unnecessary conflict and harm to my relationships.
  • I try to express myself more neutrally.  Rather than using emotionally-loaded or accusatory language, I focus on expressing my feelings. I also try hard to see the situation from the other person's point of view.
  • I work on accepting responsibility for past actions. With past conflict or trauma, I used to treat myself like a victim or feel overwhelmed with shame. Now, I think about how I can improve unwanted behavior in the future and try to practice forgiveness.
  • I practice positive self-talk. I used to have a terrible relationship with myself, calling myself unwanted, worthless, and unloveable. Now, I try to use more neutral or positive language. This isn't always easy, but my relationship with myself has improved a lot.

Each of these actions used to be overwhelming, but they become easier the more that I practice them. I can now keep checks on various aspects of my mental wellbeing, allowing me to cope better while living with BPD.

Do you set New Year's resolutions? Do you find them helpful, or do you prefer to work on smaller goals throughout the year? Maybe New Year's resolutions don't work for you at all. Let me know in the comments.

APA Reference
Beveridge, K. (2021, January 3). New Year's Resolutions Don't Work? Try These Alternatives, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Kate Beveridge

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