New Year's Resolutions are extremely common. It's natural to wish for change and to want to feel better. However, taking an extreme approach to behavioral change can backfire, and may even be dangerous.
Here are some of the most common things people resolve to change in the new year:
-Compulsive Behavior such as gambling, pornography use, shopping, or over-working.
Most of the time, these resolutions involve "all or nothing" thinking or taking a "cold turkey" approach. Most of the time, they "fail."
Resolving to quit a behavior that is meeting an emotional need without addressing the emotional need first is like trying to weed your garden by snipping the weeds with scissors. It's silly, it doesn't work, and it leaves you with less time and energy to deal with the true issue.
Not only can this approach be exhausting, it can also be harmful. Extreme restriction can be like laying out a welcome mat for our inner critics (who often thrive on impossible standards). When we fail to meet a goal of "perfection" we can slide into a cycle of self-abuse.
The real kicker here is that beating ourselves up often results in the exact feelings that led us to engage in the behavior in the first place!
This can result in behavioral relapse, shame, emotional flashbacks, and difficulty reaching out for support (especially if you made your resolution intentions public "to keep yourself accountable").
If you are considering using the new year as a time to try and modify behaviors that are no longer working for you, consider the emotions associated with the behavior. Is binging the only time you feel nurturance? How can you add more nurturance into your life? Chances are, the behavior you want to change is a whole lot less important than learning how to recognize and meet your own needs.
Ask yourself, what do I REALLY need this year?