New Year, Same You? Why Ditching New Years Resolutions May Make You Happier than Ever

Happy New Year! And with a New Year brings a “New You” - right? If a phrase could make me scream after the year we’ve had… that’s the one! Unlike prior years where I’ve greeted this new trip around the sun with excitement and anticipation, I felt a heavy mix of sadness and relief. 2020 was a tumultuous year - one that stretched me thin and simply wore me out. And where I really (truly) want to just say GOOD RIDDANCE, there’s something else I also have decided to swear off this year - and I think you should too.

This year, I challenge you to not make a New Years Resolution.

Better yet, give yourself permission to skip this societal homework.


New Years, like other milestone events such birthdays or even getting a new hairstyle, jump start our motivation due to a phenomena psychologists call the “fresh start effect.” Ironically, the “new year, new you” captures the mechanisms behind this effect succinctly - our motivation stems from perceiving ourselves as a new and improved person, distinct from our less dedicated selves that we were merely yesterday. While it can seem great to capitalize on this effect, it’s very important for us to acknowledge the mindset in which we’re kicking off this year.

Like a marathon runner, many of us are crossing the finish line of 2020 out of breath, depleted of energy, and frankly, relieved it’s over. The last thing we want to do is start planning for the next marathon. So instead, I offer you a few alternatives to help you rest and relax into this New Year. No “new you” needed.

#1 Reflect & Savor 2020

It’s natural (and even trendy) to want to sweep 2020 under the rug, but in doing so, we’re also rebuking the good that happened as well.In this year of doubt and frustration, fear and sadness, I found many silver linings and even some joyful moments that kept my spirit afloat in spite of it all. It’s incredibly important to reflect on the good that happened last year and to hold it close - especially when we’re feeling battered and bruised. Savoring our accomplishments, our moments of joy and laughter, and even patting ourselves on the back are key to our resilience. They help to reshape our perspective of 2020 and in turn, lighten our load as we step into 2021.

Reflect on these questions: What unexpected good came out of 2020? What life lessons emerged after this year that you may not have learned before? What challenge(s) did you overcome in 2020 (from the very big hairy challenges to the littlest scuffle!) and how did you overcome them?

#2 Capitalize on the good!

Put the “fresh start effect” into good use by capitalizing on the good habits you’ve built in 2020, rather than starting from scratch. If you’re like me, maybe your first thought is that you were trying to keep your head above water rather than “self improve,” but since you’ve made it through 2020, you’ve shown a heck of a lot of resilience. Think back to the moments that you’re grateful for in 2020 - the moments that made you happy (Zoom game nights, anyone?), the new hobby you picked up (bread making 101), or even indulging in movement (walks outside for sanity count!) Your life undoubtedly looks completely different than it did a year prior. And whether it was to fill time during lockdowns or trying something out of pure interest, it’s worth asking yourself “what gave me joy/happiness/fulfillment (fill in your own blank) last year”? As for next steps, it’s simple. Keep doing that.

#3 Do Social Good

Even though we’re facing a seemingly insular world with most of us limited in our daily activities, we can expand our horizons (and bolster our well-being!) greatly by giving to others. In today’s world, you do not have to look far to find those that are struggling - unfortunately, that is a legacy of 2020 that is impossible to overlook. So my advice is to lean in. Research shows us a random act of kindness has a near instantaneous positive impact on our happiness, so even if you cannot give monetarily, there are plenty of opportunities to be creative with your giving. Write a letter to an elderly person. Bake a treat for your neighbor. Buy coffee for the person behind you in line. Leave a positive review for your favorite small shop. The options are endless - and the benefit is great.

And don’t forget - in this new year, extend yourself the gift of compassion. 2020 was a test of resilience in the face of a lot of challenges, but you did it. May 2021 spark fresh hope for you and may we all have brighter days ahead.

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