Question: Last year I made a resolution to lose weight but I didn’t end up following through. Now, I’m having trouble sleeping at night because I need to lose the weight and I keep thinking about how to make it work this year. What’s the secret to making New Year’s resolutions work?
-Joe Kantania, Hollis, NY
Answer: The most common reason why New Year’s resolutions don’t work is because they are unrealistic. Some things are much easier said than done and often in moments of inspiration we overestimate our true capacities. Then, when an individual does not (cannot) follow through on the resolution it leads to feelings of helplessness and lowered self esteem. “Why can’t I push myself to do this?” Perhaps the answer is that you are trying to do something that you are not ready for.
You are saying that you are so anxious about losing the weight that you are having trouble sleeping. Bearing in mind the blow to your self esteem of not having followed through on your plans last year, your anxiety may be more about the assault on your feelings of competency as a person (your ability to accomplish things you set out to do) rather than stemming from a concern for your health (due to your weight).
One of the keys to mental health is recognizing what you are capable of accomplishing and being comfortable with who you are. The Serenity Prayer often used in addictions treatment comes to mind: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
There is nothing wrong with making a New Year resolution as long as it is realistic. Small steps toward a larger goal are often far more effective. Best of luck in the New Year.