Welcome to another post in our “Ask A Counselor” series, where therapists from Lutheran Family Service answer your questions about mental health and marriage and family life! This week, we’re looking at New Year’s resolutions. 

Q: I like the idea of making New Year’s resolutions and setting goals for the coming year, but sometimes wonder if it’s a good practice for my mental health. Can you shed some light on this?

As we begin a new year, many of us may be participating in the tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions with the hopes of rejuvenation, self-improvement or personal growth. While these goals can offer a sense of purpose and motivation, we may question the potential mental health pros and cons.

Pros of New Year’s Resolutions

Pros of New Year’s resolutions include:

  • goal setting
  • focus
  • sense of accomplishment
  • routine and structure

New Year’s resolutions give us an opportunity to set clear goals and can give us a sense of direction and purpose. This kind of focus can contribute to improved mental well-being by creating a roadmap for our personal achievements and can be drawn from things about which we are uniquely passionate, increasing the likelihood of follow through. When we achieve set goals, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, we can gain a sense of accomplishment and experience a boost of self-esteem.

Such positive reinforcement can impact mental health by fostering belief in our ability to effect change. Resolutions often involve the establishment of new habits and routines. This structure can be beneficial for mental health, offering stability and a sense of control, particularly in times of uncertainty.

Cons of New Year’s Resolutions

Cons include:

  • unrealistic expectations
  • pressure and guilt
  • comparison
  • diminished self-worth

Setting overly ambitious goals may lead to unrealistic expectations. When we struggle to meet high standards, it can result in disappointment, frustration, and a negative impact on mental health. The pressure to stick to resolutions can create a burden, contributing to stress and feelings of guilt when setbacks occur. This self-imposed pressure may overshadow the positive aspects of personal growth.

The tradition of sharing resolutions can lead to social comparison, particularly with the use of social media platforms. Constantly measuring one’s progress against others may erode self-worth and contribute to feelings of inadequacy.

As former President Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”.

Strategies for a Healthy Approach

Several strategies may help us to have a healthy approach to New Year’s resolutions.

  • Set realistic goals.
  • Set achievable and realistic resolutions.
  • Break larger goals into smaller, manageable steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Embrace flexibility.

Understand that setbacks are a natural part of everyone’s journey. Be kind to yourself and give yourself grace if things do not go as planned. Shift your focus from the end result to a process of personal growth. Celebrate small victories as you go, fostering a positive mindset.

Be Mindful and Realistic

New Year’s resolutions can be used as an effective tool for personal development, but it is essential to approach them with mindfulness and a realistic mindset. Prioritizing mental well-being allows us to benefit from the positive aspects of resolutions while mitigating potential downsides and this can ultimately create a path toward a healthier and happier self. Happy New Year and happy goal setting!

If you or someone you know would benefit from Christ-centered mental health counseling, refer to or contact us today.

Lutheran Family Service walks with those experiencing difficult times through mental health counseling, marriage counseling, crisis pregnancy counseling, and adoption services.


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