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2023 New Year’s Resolutions

December 13, 2022

It’s time to start making your 2023 New Year’s resolutions. CFR Staff Therapist Marrisa Kos, MSW, RN, shares her thoughts on the following topics:

  1. How to think about New Year’s resolutions
  2. How to make and keep your resolutions
  3. Ideas for 2023 New Year’s resolutions
  4. What to do when you’re struggling with your resolutions.

Thinking about New Year’s resolutions

Many people have high aspirations for new resolutions and goals at the start of a new year. The clean slate that a new year offers may seem like the perfect time to reset and get to work on our plans for growth and change. This is especially true after the stress of the holidays.

If you are anything like me, you probably take this opportunity to start the new year with goals to stop doing something you view as having a negative impact on your life. Or maybe you start doing something to promote wellness. Unfortunately, I usually fail at these initiatives when only implementing behavioral change and neglecting to take a deeper look, with compassion, at what might be underneath those parts of me that I would like to change.

My intention is not to give tips or tricks on accomplishing your 2023 New Year’s resolutions, but rather to encourage you to consider going a bit deeper this year when working on your goals.

How to make (and keep) New Year’s resolutions

All of us have habits or behaviors that we view as undesirable and would like to change. However, making any meaningful change may be more challenging if we don’t understand the unrecognized role that these habits or behaviors have taken on in our lives to protect or soothe us.

The Internal Family Systems model (IFS) developed by Richard Schwartz, PhD, provides a helpful way of understanding our internal world, and how our habits, thoughts, and behaviors may have developed and are maintained to protect us.

In this model, our internal system is believed to be made up of an inherently good core self and many different parts of us that are interacting to help us navigate our personal experiences and the world around us. Each of our parts have evolved through our unique life experiences. Sometimes these parts evolved after suffering emotional pain or distress that our mind would like us to avoid feeling again in the future. Our parts remember how those experiences felt and will step in whenever needed to prevent that kind of discomfort again, sometimes making us behave in ways that don’t feel in line with our true selves or goals.

IFS is often used as a treatment approach in therapy with the support of a trained clinician to understand and heal deep emotional burdens. However, a general perspective of parts and self can also be helpful for each of us in our daily lives and internal dialogues.

New Year’s resolution ideas

The following are a few examples of small changes which would serve as great 2023 New Year’s resolutions:

  • Improving your nutrition
  • Increasing your physical activity
  • Developing a mindfulness routine
  • Spend less time on your devices
  • Decrease the use of substances

Accomplishing your 2023 New Year’s resolutions

When we view these goals from a parts perspective, we can take a more compassionate look at what part of us may be activated in each scenario that is well-intentioned to keep us from feeling discomfort but may also be keeping us stuck in the same patterns.

  • Maybe a part has learned that food or a substance can soothe or distract from emotional pain.
  • Maybe a part of us feels resistant to engaging in a healthy activity because it has concerns about not being good enough at it or that it will use up our valuable time or energy.
  • Maybe a part of us feels at a safe distance from the demands of everyday life when disconnecting from the world around us for a brief time while scrolling through social media.

Whatever the reasons for engaging in these behaviors, our parts know them, and they are working hard to do their job by protecting us in the ways they know how.

What to do if you’re struggling with your resolutions

As this new year begins, I encourage you to explore the roles of what may seem like negative parts of you with compassion and curiosity. Might these parts be shielding you from discomfort in some way? Might they have really good intentions of protection or soothing for you?

When you notice the urge to give up on a resolution or goal in the coming year, see if you can get to know and understand that part of you a little better. You may learn that there is more to it than you originally thought, and this deeper understanding and acknowledgment may allow you to move in a new direction of growth and healing.

Marissa Kos, MSW, RN, is a Staff Therapist in our Philadelphia – Center City office, Philadelphia – University City office, Bryn Mawr and Wynnewood, PA offices, and also provides online therapy. To set up an appointment, you can reach her at mkos@councilforrelationships.org or 215-770-2448 ext 4202.