Depression and New Year Resolutions

How to succeed even when you fail.

Yup, it’s that time of year again. Out with the old, in with the new. Time to stand on the cusp of the next calendar year.

Research reports about 45% of the American population make one or more resolutions at the turn of each New Year- with some of the top resolutions involving weight loss, exercising more, getting finances in order, stopping smoking or drinking, spending too much or other “bad” habits.

Studies shows that only about 25% of those who make resolutions fail at the 1-week mark, with another 40% reporting failure at 1 month. And those who fail at keeping their resolutions experience lowered self-esteem, sadness and depression.

If you live with depression, you don’t need to step into the new year worried that your mood disorder may worsen. Here are some ways to foster well-being while making resolutions.

How to Find Success 

Ask yourself if you’re ready to make a change. Taking on a resolution because someone else suggests it isn’t the same if the idea comes from within you.

  • Don’t wait until the last minute to make a New Year’s resolution. Behavioral change isn’t easy and requires a lot of planning, self-control and self-regulation. If you have too much going on in your life, maybe it’s not the best time to be making resolutions.
  • If you’ve decided to start a resolution, make sure it’s a realistic one. Unrealistic goals set you up for failure.
  • Once you’ve set your goal, be specific. Instead of saying, “I’m going to join a gym and get into shape,” better to say, “I’ll get to the gym three times a week.”
  • Monitor your progress in baby steps as you meet your goal. Cheer yourself on and ask others to rally with you. Short term reinforcement is key to keeping you on track. And rewarding yourself as you go is a very important part of behavioral change.
  • Use positive self-talking strategies and refrain from giving yourself ultimatums. Instead of saying, “I will never smoke again” be more realistic with “I’m going to try to quit smoking. If I slip, I’ll start again tomorrow.”
  • Know that the process of changing your behavior heightens irritability. Let others know what you’re working on in your social, work and home life.


Don’t give up too soon. If you can’t hold tightly to your resolution, give it a few go- rounds before you throw the towel in. Research reports that those who succeed at reaching their goal made six to seven attempts before their new behaviors took hold.

Making Success Out of Failure 

  • If you can’t achieve your goal, give yourself permission to walk away. There’s no shame in failure. In fact, the majority who fail at their resolution report learning something valuable about themselves.
  • While a lot of people who make New Year’s resolutions generally find them hard to keep, research shows that making resolutions gives you direction. People who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain goals than people who don’t make any.
  • Redefine how you experience failure. Depressed people tend to hold a negative view about many experiences in life. For example, “I just can’t do it.” “Things will never go my way.” Instead, shifting mind-sets to more positive and open-ended statements like “I’m a work in progress” or “It’s just a temporary derailment” will keep you moving forward.


Source: Deborah Serani Psy.D.

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