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New Year’s resolutions 2022: psychologist explains how the end of the year can impact people’s mental health

New Year’s Day is just around the corner, with many planning ahead for next year’s resolutions and reflecting on 2021 as it’s coming to an end.

But can the end of the year and resolutions for the next 12 months impact on people’s mental health?

NationalWorld talks to clinical psychologist, Dr Marianne Trent, about the effect the end of the year can have on people, and how to deal with anxiety surrounding a new year.

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‘New Year’s resolutions can be triggering’

Looking back at the year just gone, especially after the last couple of years of the Covid pandemic, can be “overwhelming” for some, said Dr Trent, founder of Good Thinking Psychological Services and author of The Grief Collective Book.

Dr Trent said that when people are struggling “it can feel like many areas of our life could do with improving and so when we have a rake through to find resolutions it might be that several different areas scream out at us all at once”.

This can then lead to self-criticism, lowered mood and a sense of “stuckness”, Dr Trent adds.

Dr Trent says that although New Year and a fresh start can be appealing for many, she added that for those with “all or nothing thinking styles and/or dysmorphic thinking styles around diet and exercise”, New Year’s resolutions “can be triggering”.

Although Dr Trent said that people “have the unique ability to be able to weigh up our past actions and to anticipate and plan for the future”, we also have the “well-practiced ability to berate ourselves, and sometimes even punish or hurt ourselves for goals not achieved”.

What can people struggling around the New Year do to help their mental health?

Instead of setting New Year’s resolutions, it can be helpful to strive for small changes which become part of your daily routine and in turn then become positive habits, Dr Trent said.

“Aiming for healthy, lasting habits, but with compassion is something we can all benefit from,” she said.

For those struggling with the impact that the end of the year and the prospect of the new year may have on their mental health, Dr Trent said: “Learning to sit with distress and to breathe and just recognise our thoughts without running away with them can be the single most important strategies that any of us can learn”.

This form of mindfulness and the use of breath work “is always a great place to start as we can never breathe in the past or in the future, only right now,” Dr Trent added.

She also notes that people should “beware of anyone advocating distraction as a way to help you to cope”, as distraction “only has a very short term relief”.

Instead, Dr Trent said that acceptance and control are what people should be striving towards, and that these are so much more likely to have lasting results.

As a final note, Dr Trent added: “The one New Year’s Habit I would recommend to all is to welcome in self-compassion. It might well just change your life.”