From the Editor

New Year’s resolutions: Hazardous to your health?

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Do you make New Year’s resolutions? At least 60% of Americans do, according to a Kaiser Permanente “New Year’s and Health Issues Survey” of 1,000 U.S. adults. Rather depressingly, the survey also found that for every 10 respondents who kept their resolutions all year, 99 did not.

Going online to learn more, my Google search for “new year resolutions” yielded 1,360,000 results (by comparison, a search for “alien abduction” found 711,000). The U.S. government Web portal lists as the “most popular” resolutions: drink less alcohol, eat right, get a better education, get a better job, get fit, lose weight, quit smoking, reduce stress, save money, take a trip, and volunteer to help others.

Is it mentally healthy to make New Year’s resolutions? I suppose so, if they motivate you to make positive changes. For example, in this issue, Drs. Phil Bohnert and Anne O’Connell describe how to make changes in your life to prevent or recover from burnout. But the 10% New Year’s resolution “compliance rate” in the Kaiser Permanente survey suggests that fundamental lifestyle changes are uncommon, despite our good intentions.

If we make resolutions but don’t keep them, how could that be good? Maybe taking on health and moral issues once a year is countertherapeutic. Making resolutions, not keeping them, and then feeling guilty probably does more harm than good.

My resolution for 2005 was not to let anything drive me crazy during the year. That clearly proved overly ambitious. For 2006, I have resolved to try to watch more TV and to gain a few pounds. At least these resolutions should not leave me feeling guilty.

Best wishes for a healthy and happy new year from me and the Current Psychiatry family!

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