THE BLOG

Back to Square One: How Pressures to Change Ourselves in the New Year Leave Us Feeling Down and Depressed

26/01/2016 23:05 GMT | Updated 26/01/2017 10:12 GMT

Everywhere you look at the moment you are encouraged to transform yourself. You are meant to head to the gym, give up drinking, ditch the sweets and miraculously find more cash to set aside each month. Many of us expect ourselves to be able to do this in just one-miserable-month.

Consumed by such pressures and self-perceived shortcomings, it is all-too-easy to believe that you need to become a better person. The trouble is this isn't conducive to achievable goal setting and setting unachievable goals usually just makes us feel worse.

At Samaritans we know that by breaking down your problems into smaller more manageable ones it is easier to work out a way through. For example, it's reasonable that somebody who is struggling with money would look to what luxuries they can cut back on. Giving up cigarettes is therefore an obvious New Year's resolution. But how many more people do you know who have successfully switched to vaping, compared to those who have successfully given up all together?

To set these achievable objectives you first need to know what difficulties are really troubling you. Addressing these issues - the problems that are particular to you - will make you feel in control of your life. Fine, you might quite like go to the gym and get fit. Like most people, you would probably like to be in a more secure financial position. But are these the worries really that really get to you?

My time as a listening volunteer has taught me that many people find it hard think about what is really bothering them. Given the time and space to talk you can breakdown what really worries you and what matters most to you. With someone to listen to you, you will soon start to realise that you are the expert in your own life.

You might also find that far from 'needing to change'; you simply need to carry on working things through. Samaritans are there to listen at any given time, no matter what you have done or what life has done for you.

If you are finding New Year's resolutions unhelpful, ask yourself why you picked them in the first place. Was it to fit in? Was it a bid to fix your problems? More importantly, can you actually say that it has worked? Adopting prescriptive resolutions simply because you 'should' in January may not make a lasting impact to your life. Talking about what is getting to you however, will help you work your own way through in the long-term.

Wanting to be more selective, just work through what is getting on top of you is, in my view, both more achievable and much wiser. You may not be on trend in January but in the long-run, you will probably have worked through more of your personal difficulties.

On 18 January aka 'Blue Monday', Samaritans asked people to transform the meaning of the day by volunteering to be a listener. We coined it 'Happy Monday' and reminded people that there is little evidence to prove that 'the most depressing day of the year' actually exists. We can aspire for more than the winter blues if we want to and so can you.

You don't have to be suicidal to call us. Whatever you're going through, call us free any time from any phone on 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch.