As the new year is approaching, it is time to reflect on your past year and think of what you want to accomplish in this upcoming year. That is usually the reason that people create new year’s resolutions. The only problem with new year’s resolutions is that we usually pick a goal that incorporates changing a habit or forming a new habit. It is very hard to change a habit. That is why using cbt techniques can be helpful for you to accomplish your goal.
What is CBT?
CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. As a psychotherapist, I am trained in using CBT to help my clients with a variety of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and even just wanting to change a habit. I will explain the steps of CBT that you can try to implement yourself so that you can achieve your new year’s resolution and goals for next year.
Anchor Therapy is a counseling center in Hoboken, NJ with psychotherapists specialized to help children, teens, and adults with anxiety and depression.
below are 5 CBT Steps to go through so that you can achieve and maintain your new years resolutions:
Before we even start discussing how you can accomplish your goal, you have to actually create the goal. First, get out a pen and paper to write on. Reflect back on this past year and write down 5 things you are happy you accomplished or changed in your life this year. Next, write down 5 things you wish you could have done this year or things you did this year but you are not happy about. Now look over your lists. Is there anything on the positive side that you want to continue or increase? Is there anything on the negative side that you want to change? If you have multiple answers then I want you to circle which one is your top priority to accomplish. Ask yourself, “How realistic is it that I will obtain this goal and what is my timeline?” A common goal is, “I want to lose weight”. How much weight do you want to lose? When do you want to lose it by? What is your reason for wanting to lose weight? Have you tried this before and what went wrong? What went right?
After you sort through the real reason behind why you chose your goal, you want to then make it realistic. Following our example of losing weight, you shouldn’t want to lose X amount of weight in a year. You want to pick a realistic goal and to break it down. What can you realistically accomplish in January? Maybe it would be to start tracking your exercise and increase it by one day a week. Maybe you want to start tracking your water intake and set a goal to drink more each day. Maybe you want to cook your own food rather than eat out as much. These smaller goals are much more realistic and measurable versus saying vaguely that you want to lose weight next year. Also, keep in mind that your weight does fluctuate so I wouldn’t recommend weighing yourself every day. Professionals also recommend measuring yourself on different parts of your body. The reasoning behind measuring yourself is that you could be gaining muscle which makes you lose inches but gain weight. Whatever your goal is next year, make sure to break it down so that it is doable and keep it realistic.
Now that we chose a new years resolution for you, it will be time to implement it soon. You can start today if you would like or January 1st which is when most people start a new years resolution. Let’s use another common new years resolution of wanting to find a new job. You may find yourself over analyzing in your head what career you want to go into, what position is right for you, how much money you want to make, if you’re good enough for these jobs, etc. These thoughts and worries are unhelpful. Yes, it’s good to have an idea of what jobs you want to apply to and a salary you’re comfortable with. But it does you no justice to sit there worrying about a position that you didn’t even apply to yet. It is better to throw your resume at any job that meets your minimum requirements. Then, if you do get offered an interview and/or the position you can hopefully have multiple positions to decide between. Wouldn’t that be great! But by worrying about which jobs are a perfect fit for you are a waste of your time since you’re just spending time in your head worrying. And no time applying.
By using CBT, you are to notice that you are overanalyzing and overthinking things in your head. You are then to challenge these thoughts and refocus on what is happening NOW. Did you get a job offer from that company? No? Are you sort of interested in the position? Yes? Then apply. It should be as simple as that. CBT techniques can help you refocus these anxious thoughts so that you can accomplish your goal.
By challenging and refocusing your thoughts, CBT helps you feel differently about those thoughts. Let’s use a new common new years resolution of wanting to make new friends. The thoughts you may be having are what if no one likes me and what if I get rejected. How would this thought make you feel? Probably sad, anxious, angry, etc. But if you are practicing refocusing and challenging these thoughts you may say that in reality, people do like you and you haven’t even put yourself out there yet to meet new people. So why not try and see what happens. Otherwise you’re worrying about these fake future scenarios you’re creating in your head. If you’re able to refocus these thoughts, then the next time a thought like, “What if no one likes me” pops into your head, you will no longer feel sad or what you were feeling before. You will know this thought isn’t realistic and it is just a worry. Since this thought doesn’t hold as much weight for you, you will be able to brush it off and not feel so strongly impacted by it. You will then feel more confident in putting yourself out there to start making those new friends!
4. CBT Helps Change Behaviors
The point of using CBT is to ultimately make a behavioral change. Overall, you want to feel better in your life and you believe your new year’s resolution will get you there. If you followed all of the steps above, then your behavior should start to change. You will start to meet the goals you set. As long as you keep them attainable and realistic. You will start to lose weight, apply to jobs, and socialize with new people.
5. Keep going!
In CBT, it can be seen as a short-term therapy approach in which you can start to see a change in your behavior within just a few weeks. What is the most challenging part though is to keep it going. Researchers have shown that it takes 21 days to officially change a habit. You also want to remember that progress is never a straight line up. There are usually set backs so it will be a jagged line with an overall trajectory of going upwards. As long as the trajectory is going up overall then you are making positive progress. You are looking for a life change that is sustainable. So when you do have a set back, just continue towards your goal right after and keep going. That shows you are making real progress.
If you want some accountability with your New Year’s Resolutions and are interested in learning more about CBT feel free to reach out to me by filling out the form below.
And feel free to comment below what your new years resolution is! anchor therapy wishes you a happy and healthy new year.
Courtney Glashow, LCSW
is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Hoboken, New Jersey. She specializes in helping children, teens, and adults with anxiety, depression, and changing behaviors through counseling. Courtney can help NY or NJ residents through telehealth (video/phone) therapy sessions as well.