Our Blog

By Marcia Murphy, MA

Ah, the end of the old year and the beginning of the new – this always seems to be a perfect time to make commitments to improve ourselves! Except that by the end of January, all of our good intentions seem to slip away. We wonder why we cannot remain focused on our goals and fault ourselves for not having the willpower to keep doing the “right” thing. Perhaps the problem is not us, but the unrealistic expectations we have of ourselves. When we rely solely on our motivation and stamina without understanding the “why” behind the changes we desire to see in our lives, we tend to fall short and give up before we even make a dent. 

Here I offer a different way to look at making lasting change toward self-improvement through small steps and focused goals. We all have a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual part of ourselves, and chances are, we don’t pay much attention to these on a regular basis. By choosing one small thing to focus on at a time, we can achieve much more success at making changes in any of these four areas than if we go “all in” with a too highly-set goal.

 1. Physical Goals

When we think of resolutions, we typically think of physical goals, usually related to building healthy habits.  We usually say something like we will “go to the gym every single day and work out for an hour!” Or “not eat any chocolate ever again!” But, realistically, how many of us have that amount of time or the unending ability to resist temptation? Perhaps a better resolution would be something more in line with what we value and enjoy. Some possibilities are going for a 30 minute walk at least once a week, or adding more vegetables into our favorite meals, without restricting what we enjoy. Even committing to getting more sleep can do wonders for our energy and health. In all, the goal can be something small and enjoyable that fits your lifestyle, rather than being a burden, which will then be more sustainable. Then once this goal is reached, we can expand to additional healthy changes.

2. Mental Improvement

This is an area that we tend to ignore, as we can go through our days on autopilot, letting responsibilities and the demands of others take precedence over our own mental health. But it can be so beneficial to spend time on intellectual pursuits that help us feel more fulfilled. Perhaps you have books that you have never gotten around to reading, or you have an area that you would love to learn more about, or even a yearning to pick up a new skill that you have never tried before. It may even mean giving your brain a break, especially if you have a mentally taxing job by allowing time for relaxation of the brain muscles. Why not choose one thing to expand your mental and intellectual horizons for the next year?

3. Emotional Care

Yes, this is where self-care comes in. We talk a lot about managing anxiety and improving our happiness, but we can be woefully inadequate in keeping up with this. When we think of emotional well-being, this comes down to asking ourselves what brings us joy and fulfillment. Perhaps we set a commitment to finding something to be grateful for every day. Or we make a point to connect with friends who are upbeat and make us laugh. Some deeper work could be building acceptance for ourselves and our lives, which could look like saying something uplifting to ourselves each morning. Emotional care can go hand-in-hand with the rest of these areas – physical, mental and spiritual – to compound the effects!

4. Spiritual Growth

We all have a spiritual side, and this can mean vastly different things for each person. Focusing on spiritual growth can bring greater meaning and purpose to what we do each day. This type of goal is more internal and should be uniquely designed for who you are and what you believe. Some activities to incorporate into our lives are meditation (this could be a little as 5 minutes!), finding a spiritual group of like-minded people to be involved with or perhaps even committing to a retreat from the world and its demands for a period of time. This also includes worshiping in a way that connects you to God. Is there a spiritual aspect missing in your life that you could commit to exploring this next year?

Creating New Year’s resolutions can be daunting and discouraging, but it doesn’t have to be. Ask yourself: where do you need to focus the most and why do you want to make this change? Try picking from one or more of these areas to identify small goals for yourself for the coming year that are easy to achieve. Commit to setting aside the unrealistic goals of years past. In this, we can all feel a sense of accomplishment and real movement toward bettering ourselves – and by the end of 2024, feel more fulfilled and happy. We CAN DO IT!

The counselors at Lime Tree Counseling are ready to help you set realistic goals for yourself to help you improve all aspects of your life. We provide caring services for trauma therapy, anxiety counseling, and Christian counseling. We offer in-person counseling in Ambler, PA, online counseling in Pennsylvania and online counseling in North Carolina. Please contact us for a free 15-minute phone consultation with a member of our staff today or schedule a 50-minute initial session. We are excited to work with you in 2024!