New Year’s Resolutions 2020: Increase Your Resilience With Positive Psychology

3 tips from positive psychology and mindfulness


Do you want some inspiration for New Year’s resolutions in 2020? Look no further. These 3 tips for personal growth are sure to help you in the next year, both professionally as personally. As New Year’s resolutions notoriously do not stick for everyone, I also have a suggestion on how to apply the tips I will give you in this post.

What is positive psychology?

Positive psychology is “the scientific study of human flourishing and an applied approach to optimal functioning”. (Positive Psychology Institute). Some of the keystones of this field of research are that strengths are as important as weaknesses and we should focus on the best things in life instead of only preventing the worst.

Positive psychology may sound a bit fuzzy, but I assure you that the research results show quite the opposite. Historically, psychology was all about curing psychological ailments. However, it was not focused on key strengths of people or on how to cultivate new positive habits. The drawback of this, was that once, for example, the depression was treated, someone still was not happy.

This changed in the last decades and positive psychology did not only have a positive effect on healthy people, but also people who were struggling.

Some positive side effects of applying one the techniques I will mention below are:

  • Increased resilience in stressful situations
  • More creativity
  • Even improve health and immune system

3 tips for your new year’s resolutions in 2020

3 habits that will really help you in the next year are scientifically proven to help you to become more resilient, happier and more optimistic. Even if you’re not a naturally optimistic person. The first 2 tips are grounded in positive psychology and the last tip is about mindfulness (also a widely researched skill).

1.     Dealing with difficult situations with the ABCDE method

An important skill is to redefine a difficult situation to a realistic outlook. We are often inclined to always assume the worst when a less desirable situation occurs. However, the worst case scenario is often not very realistic and makes us unhappy. Moreover, it has been shown that overly pessimistic people tend to be less biased for action. This in fact makes the pessimistic attitude even worse.

What’s also important to realize is that bad feelings follow your negative (often unrealistic) thoughts. This is important knowledge, as it will help you to reframe an existing situation, both at home and at work. You can use the ABCDE approach for this.

It is important to write this down for yourself, as it helps to internalize everything and focus.

A in ABCDE: stands for the activating event. Describe here as objectively as possible what happened. This could be someone yelling at you at work, something you did wrong or something else that triggered the unwanted behavior and emotion in you.

B in ABCDE: stands for the beliefs. Write down your thoughts and beliefs about yourself and others triggered by the event here.

C in ABCDE: stands for consequence. Write down your basic negative emotion here (anger, fear (including shame) and sadness). Next to this, write down the physical sensations (stomach aches, headaches etc.). Also, write down your behavior which was the consequence of the event (for example, getting angry, worrying etc.)

D in ABCDE: stands for discussion. Write down critical questions about the beliefs in step B. This will help you to get a more realistic view of the objective event that happened in A. For example: “Does everybody really think I’m stupid?” or “Does it really matter that much if someone is angry at me?”.

E in ABCDE: stands for effective new thoughts, emotions and behaviors.

Write down more realistic thoughts here, based on the questions in step D. Write down the new emotion you feel about the new (more realistic) thoughts and the new physical sensation (for instance, “relief”, less headache etc.).

The new behavior could be action driven or to simply not worry anymore.

2.     Writing down 3 positive things about your day

By maintaining a diary each evening with at least 3 positive things, helps to cultivate an optimistic mindset. The rationale is that it takes effort to have positive thoughts, just as with learning another skill. You will have to create neural pathways that get stronger with more practice. Just like learning any other new skill.

3.     Meditation / mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce cortisol levels and give your immune system a boost. The big advantage is that initial effects of meditation are instantaneous and increase over time. It’s also quite simple and does not take that much time. For an example of an exercise, please refer to this blogpost I wrote earlier. There are also some good and free apps available (at least for the basics), such as Headspace.

How to not stop with your new year’s resolutions

A lot of people make New Year’s resolutions, but few keep them. That’s because creating new behavior is very difficult. It’s important to start small however.

For instance, if you want to start meditating, make sure to do this at set times. For instance, each time you wake up or after you’ve had dinner. That way, you learn to associate the new behavior with dinner, breakfast, or whatever.

It’s also important to start small. If you want to meditate, start with 30 seconds or 1 minute. Often, when you’ve started it’s way easier to go on a little while longer. When beginning with any new behavior, it’s more important to start and to cultivate the new behavior than to achieve any measure of performance.

And don’t stop when you’ve missed one or a couple of times. Just start over again. Once the behavior is really in your system, you’ll be happy about it!

For more details on cultivating new behavior, be sure to read this article.

Good luck with your new year’s resolutions. I hope I’ve inspired you and help you to keep at it in 2020!

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See you back here next week for a new post!

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