Although New Years is often thought of as a time of hope and possibility, it can also be a time of stress. For people who have been feeling stuck, the renewing of the calendar can cause feelings of being “left behind”—as though time is marching on but somehow nothing new is happening. For my patients who are in a rut at this time of year I often suggest doing a “mental reset.” I have found that by getting people to reconsider their habits, time, and relationships they are often more ready to face the New Year than people who just make New Year’s resolutions, which, almost never work.
Here are three simple strategies to perform a “mental reset”
1. Make a Habit “Hit List”
naturally develop patterns and routines so life can feel orderly.
However, some of our habits— like exercising or brushing our teeth— can
serve us in the long term, but others— like binge watching Netflix, or
intensive ‘retail therapy’ might feel good in the moment, but can
contribute to feeling stuck. If this sounds familiar to you, try
printing out a blank calendar for a week and writing down a list of just
about everything you do. At the end of the week, do a ‘habit check.’
Circle all of the behaviors that you do over and over again. Any habits
that seem like they just a waste of time and not helping you to move
forward should be on your “hit list” for the New Year. Challenge
yourself to spend half as much time on those habits over the course of a
month, and then half again over the next month.
2. Discover More Time
Time is your most
valuable commodity. With enough time (and effort) you can do just about
anything. By studying how we spend our time we can often discover new
ways to use it more effectively. Pick up that calendar that you used
for the Habit Hit List and look for opportunities where you can squeeze
in some important activities that you never seem to get around to. If
you take an hour lunch break, try cutting it to 40 minutes. Use the
rest of the time to finish that quilting project, or research new career
possibilities. A few spare minutes are all you need to do those things
that tend to get pushed off for later.
3. Do a Relationship Re-alignment
relationships are essential to a good life. The New Year is a great
time to re-align your relationships. None of us wants to see friends
and family as having a negative influence on our lives, but if you have
people in your orbit who are holding you back from being truly happy and
fulfilled, you need to take a hard look at how much time you spend with
them. Go back to your weekly calendar and look at how much time you
spent with friends, family, and acquaintances.
Ask yourself: Do I really want to use two hours of my
week to listen to a co-worker who just talks about herself? Did I
really only spend 11 minutes with my sister who I adore? Remember: You
can’t force or expect your friends and family to change, but you can
make better choices about who you choose to let into your life.
If you are thoughtful and honest about performing
this “mental reset,” you will almost certainly find that you have more
time and energy for doing the things that bring you joy, like spending
time with people you love and living your best life. And that’s what
its all about.
Dr. Ben Michaelis is a clinical psychologist in
full-time private practice in Manhattan and is a Visiting Scholar at
Columbia University. Dr. Michaelis writes, speaks regularly about mental
health, creativity, taking action and helping people to get 'unstuck;'
He is the author of Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving
and Get Happy.