New Year’s Resolutions and Self-Love

We’re well into the start of 2020 now – how are your new year’s resolutions doing? Did you make any for this year? After the indulgence and perhaps stress of the Christmas season, most of us do make some kind of effort to consider changes for the future, but many of these don’t stick with us over the course of the year. Sometimes our resolutions can become sources of stress for us as well! Our London-based therapist Teyhou Smyth examines this resolution tradition and gives some advice on how to approach it in a healthy manner.

Ancient Babylonians started the tradition of New Year’s resolutions around 4,000 years ago. Originally intended as promises made to their Gods, New Year’s resolutions eventually morphed into a January 1st tradition by virtue of Julius Caesar.

During that time, the resolutions were accompanied by sacrifices to their Gods. Christians later adopted the practice of resolution-making to simply reflect on past mistakes and vow to do better in the future.

The modern practice of making New Year’s resolutions is not typically one connected to religious beliefs. One hold-over from the prior days of this practice is the reflection on what one is not doing well in life.

Inherently, resolutions require us to self-reflect upon what sorts of changes we need to make to have a better life. Sometimes this kind of self-reflection can be challenging to explore. It asks us to take an honest inventory of ourselves and assess the ways we may be acting against our own best-interest or value systems. It can be painful.


Establishing our desired changes for the coming year doesn’t require us to feel terrible about our shortcomings. We can reflect on our needs with self-compassion and love. Creating resolutions borne out of self-love and care are more likely to stick than promises we make to ourselves based out of guilt, shame or self-loathing.

Start with love:

Create a list of characteristics and traits you love about yourself. If you can’t think of any, well, you’re not thinking hard enough. What do others love about you? What are your strengths? What are you good at?

Identify underlying values:

With your list of strengths in-hand, look for categories that represent your underlying values. For example, if you notice strengths such as “good friend,” “good listener,” “helping others” the underlying value is probably related to kindness and compassion.

Turn values into action:

Formulate your resolution around the concept of living your values more fully. By focusing on values that stem from existing strengths, we can better appreciate the intent of the goal and the positive impact it will have on ourselves and others.

So, for example, if kindness and compassion is an underlying value, the next step is to create a resolution that brings you closer to living that value. If you can tie in a few values into one resolution, it’ll feel so good working toward it that you may not even notice the effort.

This could be as simple as establishing a goal to boost kindness and compassion through volunteering with your friend-group to make meals at the soup kitchen. This may serve as a kindness/compassion valued resolution that also incorporates your value of spending time with friends.

As you consider resolutions for the coming year, don’t forget to set one related to self-nurturing.

We hustle and bustle through our days, often forgetting that these passing hours, weeks and months are what constitute our lives. Take time. Slow down. Nurture yourself and pay attention to what matters most in your life.

Only you can decide what that looks like; maybe it’s treating yourself to a nap every Sunday or indulging in a hobby you haven’t made time for a while. Whatever it is that lights you up, make time for it. Know that self-care and self-love is a worthy resolution in and of itself.

Sources: Pruitt, Sarah. “The History of New Year’s Resolutions.”, August 31, 2018. Accessed December 12, 2019.

[This blog post originally appeared on Teyhou’s website ~ some content may have been modified for the UK context.]

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