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Chasing a New Year's resolution? Here's one psychologist's advice for success

For many, entering a new year means resolutions and goal setting to help focus on missed things or areas of improvement.

While resolutions can be helpful, registered psychologist Dr. Ganz Ferrance told CTV News Edmonton that constantly fixating on them can do more harm than good.

"Resolutions help if we see them correctly," Ferrance said. "If we see them as things we must hit otherwise we are failures, then they're not. They're just another tool for us to beat ourselves up with.

"If we understand goals are actually things that are used just to point us in a direction and keep our energy focused in that way," he added, "they become helpful.

"Once we understand them as tools, we can then be successful because if I am moving along the path then I am successful."

Ferrance gave an example of being more financially savvy and saving more as a common resolution. If the goal is to save an extra $50,000, but someone reaches $30,000 or $40,000, that should still be framed as a success.

"You still achieved," the psychologist said. "If you are moving in the right direction, that is a success and something you should celebrate.

"You want to see the progress and celebrate that."

When it comes to making large-scale lifestyle changes, Ferrance said it is more helpful to start small and work your way up towards more significant change.

"Make one change at a time," he said. "Make that stick, and then go on to the next change.

"You are much better when you can have success at something, and then that success builds momentum for the next success."


Ferrance says he saw more people booking appointments and reaching out for help in the past year, especially for stress, anxiety, and dealing with uncertainty.

"People have been quite stressed," he said. "The difficult thing has been uncertainty, not knowing what is coming or how long things will last.

"Uncertainty is extremely difficult for humans to deal with," he added, "but then you couple that with the isolation, because usually what we do to handle stress or difficulty is connect with other people, and we haven't been able to do that in the way we normally would."

While starting 2022 with the highly transmissible Omicron variant, Ferrance said people should take time to remember that Canada is in a different place from the previous year.

"It might feel like the same," he explained. "The difference is we have a lot more tools.

"We know more about the virus. We know more about transmission," he said. "We are in much better shape."

For Ferrance, the best advice is to always think about the positive things, no matter how small.

"Our brain works in a way that whatever we feed it, whatever we tell it is important, our brain will go out and find those things," Ferrance said.

"So if we are thinking about hopeful things, we are much more likely to experience hopeful, positive experiences versus the negativity," he added. "That helps to create more positive momentum. It feels better. Because we feel better, we tend to do better and function better."

As a starting point of dealing with anxiety, Ferrance advised ensuring that you have a strong baseline of health by hydrating well, getting enough and regular amounts of sleep, eating well, and having patience with others.

"In order for New Year's resolutions to work, in order for us to feel happy and cope with uncertainty, we need to have a foundation of self-care," he said.

"Look after yourself on a regular basis," he added. "If we do that, we lay the foundation for physical health but also strong emotional well-being."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jessica Robb Top Stories

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