A New Twist on an Old Tradition

Jan 15, 2023

by Lyndsay Babcock 
Psychologist & Director – The Self Centre 

This year instead of making a new year’s resolution I will be doing something a little different. I will be reflecting on my gratitude and setting intentions for my year…here’s why.

I have spent many years making (and often breaking) my new year’s resolutions. If you are like me, we go into each new year with great expectations, hoping for a new beginning and planning for change. However, research shows that for many people, new year’s resolutions don’t last very long at all. This can leave us feeling defeated, powerless and can even affect our mental health.

Resolutions are intended to allow us to ‘press the reset button’ and move towards what we think we ‘should be’. While this is a great notion, it presumes that we need to be better than we are, that there is something wrong with us, that we are not enough. Aren’t we already too hard on ourselves?

I love the idea of setting intentions and goals for the new year, but I don’t love the pressure setting resolutions places on me to ‘do more’ or ‘be better’ when quite frankly I was already doing my best last year!

Have you ever noticed that when you set a resolution to ‘do better’ or ‘be more’ the very activity of doing this forces you to reflect on what wasn’t working, or what needs changing? I don’t know about you, but I find this negative orientation unhelpful and not a great way to start my new year.

So, this year, I will be trying to reflect on what I value about my life, my choices and my actions last year. I will find moments of gratitude for all I have done, achieved and experienced. Gratitude for the small things, such as moments of rest. Gratitude for my courage and perseverance for working through a very demanding year. Gratitude for my relationships and all the many blessings in my life.

I will focus on what I already have to offer, what I want to continue and what I intend to do more of as I move into the new year.

Setting intentions is slightly different to setting goals. Goals focus on external accomplishments, whereas intentions focus on building an internal relationship with yourself. For example, rather than focusing on something that I want to improve or be better at, I will focus on what I intend to offer to myself this year, again shifting my focus away from what doesn’t work and towards what does work.

Intentions typically state what you aim to accomplish through your actions. So, for example you may wish to be more present, or offer yourself more compassion, or even take the pressure off yourself. You can still have goals that shift, grow and change throughout the year, but your intention to be present, more self-compassionate or kind to yourself can remain consistent as your goals change.

As you move into the new year, I encourage you to consider how practicing gratitude for last year, and then intentions rather than goals could change your relationship with yourself and move you towards being more aligned with your values throughout the year.