As 2021 winds down, many people might be gearing up to make those New Year's resolutions. Most involve weight loss, better fitness routines, keeping more money in the bank, and getting better organized.

But Dr. Carrie Ditzel, clinical psychologist at Baker Street Behavioral Health in Hasbrouck Heights, said this year people seem to shift their focus on their mental and emotional wellness.

How do you set realistic goals?

Dr. Ditzel said when setting any goal, think about the larger goal, then break it down into parts. Those parts are the things where someone can actually make some gains and feel the rewards of those gains.

Iif fitness is the goal and a person has a pound amount in mind they want to lose, set smaller goals for each day. Ditzel said that could be making a healthy food choice each day. That puts a person in a good mood and motivates them to maybe add in another goal the next day. Make it honest and achievable.

Instead of saying you'll work out an hour each day, be honest.

"Am I going to get to the gym five or six days a week for an hour? Probably not. But can I do a 20 or 30-minute at-home workout two days a week? I absolutely could," she said.

So achieve those small goals daily, get the reward, and enjoy the success, which in turn, may motivate a person to do more and more.

People like to cross things off on physical lists to show themselves they accomplished things each day. Some people need that visual board to feel successful. But setting a goal to pay attention to one's own mental and emotional wellness for a few minutes a day, is just as valuable as doing a physical task, Ditzel said.

'Start small and build. That's the way to set yourself up for success.'

How to avoid getting tripped up

Ditzel said people get tripped up when they set goals that are large and long-term. When they do that, they never feel like they're reaching their goals quickly enough. They then become frustrated and negative. That negative tape running through a person's head could start as early as a couple of weeks into starting the New Year's resolution.

To combat that, Ditzel said to re-evaluate the goals and resolutions. Maybe it isn't this quantifiable number on a scale or a certain amount of money saved in a bank. Maybe it's about spending more time concentrating on the things that make you happy. Maybe it's about focusing on your mental health and wellness.

She said those are the things that a person can actually achieve in their everyday life for even just a few minutes. They'll feel better, feel accomplished and that will be the push to add in more goals and do more.

"Start small and build. That's the way to set yourself up for success. The way we trip up is by making it too large, not doing it, then making ourselves feel bad for not doing it," Ditzel said.

Why is it a good idea to make a New Year's resolution?

Setting a resolution means investing in oneself, and trying to better oneself which is always valuable, Ditzel said. Taking some time each day to look into one's mental well-being and emotional wellness is more important than certain achievements.

Give yourself a break if you trip up. Resolutions are not easy to keep but taking it one day at a time, having honest, achievable daily goals, and asking for help when it's too hard will pay off in the end.

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