New Year’s Resolutions: Harmful or Helpful?

It’s Chriiiiiiiiistmaaaaaaaaas! *Queue the Christmas hits and endless supply of Baileys*. It’s December again, a whole 12 months since I made New Years Resolutions to: read 52 books throughout the year (currently reading 36/52- this goal is out of reach, I have no excuses), stop biting my nails (mostly fail- gross I know, but at least all the handwashing means it’s less gross than usual), drink 2 litres of water every day (half fail), exercise regularly (win) and journal more (smashed it). I personally try to make resolutions every year in the spirit of ‘new beginnings’ and ‘fresh starts’, feeling like a brand new all-improved Kayleigh- for a few months at least. I’ve never ended the year with the ability to gloat about how I’ve achieved all I set out to… so why do I keep setting myself up to fail?

For some, New Year is a marker to encourage pause and reflect on the past 12 months. It’s a reminder to check in with ourselves and decide if there’s anything that we can do to make things better next year and, let’s face it, we’re human and more likely to do this if everyone around us is too. For others, New Year is the ultimate trigger to enhance those self-critical thoughts. It’s a time we see others celebrating their achievements, which can be hard if we don’t recognise our own. Our reflection, even with the best intentions, can lead to noticing the things we didn’t do or awful things that happened that were completely out of our control. No matter what your views of New Year’s resolutions are, as we watch Jools Holland’s Hootnanny and guzzle our Prosecco we’re reminded that many people will be setting goals to make a change for 2022. We can set goals too, if we want to. I think that’s the most important part.

It’s true what they say- we don’t need to wait until January 1st to make a positive change. Any day is the perfect day to change something to make you happier, healthier or more fulfilled. That being said, we have busy lives. We run around all day working hard, supporting our families, exercising, trying to balance a social life with self-care and when we finally have a few minutes peace, it’s bed time and we need to recharge to do it all again tomorrow. New Year is often the nudge we need to stop what we’re what doing and ask ourselves; if next year is exactly like this year, would we be OK with that? If the answer is yes, brilliant. If it’s no, we might want to think about the things we can take some control of and switch it up a bit. Wrap that in tinsel and fairy lights and bam, you have yourself a resolution.


One of the scariest parts of New Year’s resolutions is that they seem so formal. The whole premise is to give us control over our lives, yet it adds yet more pressure and I get it, we really don’t need the stress. Some people manage this by setting their goals and keeping them to themselves. These people are “work-hard-in-silence-and-let-the-success-make-the-noise” kinda people. That’s fine and dandy until life gets in the way and 12 months later, we could still hear a penny drop. The dreaded feeling of failure creeps back in and either contorts itself in to a new, harder goal as some kind of punishment we give to ourselves or feeding in to low self-worth, making us feel even worse than we did last year. A counter-intuitive resolution doing the opposite of what we hoped it would achieve. On the surface, we think “self-improvement can never be a bad thing, right?”; but becoming obsessed with changing ourselves and believing our value is only determined by our “achievements” can be damaging.

I say “achievements” *air quotes and eye-roll* because what counts toward success for one person may mean absolutely nothing to another. A resolution I set may be something you have always done without a second thought. That’s why we should only set goals if it’ll truly make a positive difference for us and we deem it as important. We will see an influx in detox teas and tummy-toners over the next few weeks- but you don’t need to lose weight or firm-up. You don’t need to do anything you don’t want to do. Imagine you were on a desert island without the beady eyes of consumerism or societal expectations. Your resolutions should be things that you would want, even in these circumstances. Do it for you, not for other people. Often, the goals we don’t achieve are because they aren’t our own, they’re things we feel pressured in to (even subconsciously). So, if nothing jumps to mind and you’re truly happy with everything as it stands, just don’t do it.

Graphing Paper With Text

If, like me, there are a few things you’d like to change- go for it, but be kind to yourself. I don’t know much about manifestation (other than it is ridiculous to assume the universe will provide us with something if we ‘manifest’ it, without changing our actions), but I am aware of the psychology behind us being more likely to achieve our goals if we articulate them. In that respect, I will completely selfishly share this years resolutions over on Instagram in a few weeks time. If this is you too, remind yourself that just because you have recognised areas in your life you’d like to change, that doesn’t mean you aren’t exactly where you need to be right now. Our wishes and expectations of life change as we do, and that’s OK. It’s more than OK. It’s growth and the epitome of personal-development. When you set a resolution you’re setting an intention with a 12 month time limit which immediately provides the opportunity for us to fail but, let’s see failure as a chance to learn. It doesn’t mean we didn’t work hard enough or are unworthy, it gives us time to look at what made it difficult and make a new plan. It might even prove to us that what we thought was important, wasn’t really a big-deal all along. These things shouldn’t come as a surprise to us as we reach December. By checking in with ourselves and monitoring our progress throughout the year we have time to come to terms with the fact that things may be slower than expected or give us the push we need for the final sprint. Again, it doesn’t have to feel so formal; it could be an app on your phone (I used Goodreads to track my reading progress), a vision board or journal.

Sticky Notes on Board

I’m the type of person who always wants to learn something new and better myself, which is exactly why despite my annual ‘failures’, I keep making resolutions. I make New Years resolutions and I also make smaller resolutions all the time to work toward short-term goals throughout year. I achieve some of my goals, others go on hold and some I discard of all together. I’ve learned that not achieving resolutions means less about my character than my intentions whilst making them, and I’ve also learned change isn’t so scary. We all make purposeful change on a daily basis. We recognise we’re tired, we make a ‘resolution’ in our head to go to bed earlier. We work a lot and miss our family, we make a ‘resolution’ to call them at least once per week. And, if you’re sat there thinking “I never make resolutions anymore because they did more harm than good for me”… you’ve made a resolution right there and hell, you’re sticking to it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s