Out With the Old, In With the New: Creating New Year’s ReSolutions Based on Evidence-based Therapy

“I keep wasting all my time trying to make the wrong things right.” - Crying Over You by The Band Camino

With the start of a new year, it’s no surprise that we are all determined to make 2022 a year of change and success. Especially since we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope that this year will be better for us and everyone we love. Be it starting a new business or hoping that we’re all healthy, the new year presents an opportunity for everyone to thrive in their way.

A new year’s resolution is one way to steer us in the right direction, but oftentimes some people don’t continue pursuing them. Most of these resolutions consist of a what and a why: a person will exercise more to look good or buy fewer clothes to save more money. However, they eventually abandon these resolutions because they’re either too difficult to achieve, are not aligned with values, have unrealistic expectations, fail to track their progress, or are influenced by problem talk. Problem talk is when someone focuses heavily on the details of the problem without offering a solution.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with abandoning these resolutions as long as it’s for the right reasons. It could be for the safety of your physical or mental health or could be that you already have too many things to worry about. However, having effective resolutions can help make your year more fruitful!

So how can you come up with achievable resolutions? One way is to use solution talk. Solution talk, unlike problem talk, focuses on what can be done to solve the problem rather than focusing on the problem itself. It comes from Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), which was developed by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg from the Brief Family Therapy Center in Milwaukee, USA.

When thinking about an issue, solution talk considers the following:

  1. If it works, don’t fix it.
  2. If it works, keep doing it.
  3. If it doesn’t work, do something different.

Since these perspectives are pretty straightforward, it allows you to look for solutions that don’t impose too much stress. It is important to note that these solutions should embody the SMART qualities: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Relevant, and Time-limited.

SFBT also suggests some strategies to help you come up with better solutions. The first strategy is known as common project, in which you identify what is present rather than what is absent. For example, instead of saying “I don’t want to eat junk food all the time.”, you can say “I want to avoid processed sugar and chips on weekdays.” The latter statement has a more concrete and specific goal that you can do. A resolution is easier to achieve when it isn’t so broad.

The second strategy is called exceptions. When you have an issue, you look for the moments where you got over it. These are the “exceptions” being referred to. Then, you come up with a solution according to that exception. For example, a person could be feeling lethargic ever since the pandemic began. However, the exception is that this person didn’t feel tired when they slept early, rather than staying up late as usual to watch Netflix. A possible solution could be to stop watching Netflix by 9 PM. Netflix in this situation is what’s causing the person to feel tired, so having a specific time to stop watching it would persuade them to follow through.

The third strategy is called scaling. It refers to identifying the solution to a problem on a scale and deciding whether the solution can be improved or plotted on a “higher number”. On this scale, zero (0) would be the worst possible outcome and ten (10) would be the best possible outcome. For example, the problem could be struggling to finish work on time. The existing solution is to wake up at around 7 AM, but that falls under a 3 on the scale. The proposed solution could be to wake up at 6:45 AM and take fewer but longer breaks. This could fall under a 4 or 5 on the scale, which means it is now a more desirable solution. Although the first solution follows the SMART qualities, the new solution provides multiple ways to solve the problem rather than just waking up earlier. It allows the person to take several steps to solve their problem, which can improve their lifestyle.

While these strategies can be helpful, we shouldn’t forget that not every problem can be solved easily. It requires effort and time to commit to the resolutions you make fully, but that shouldn’t stop you from accomplishing them! It’s easier to do something you’re used to, but if what you’re doing isn’t good for you, it’s healthier to change that than wait for something better to happen. After all, the problems you face are not always going to be consistent. Some problems may be small, and some may involve drastic changes, but in time you can always find a solution.


SOURCE:

Cruz, J.B., (2022). New Year’s Solutions: Turning Problem Talk into Solution Talk.

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