Better outcomes for 2018

Despite this being “the most wonderful time of the year”, it can be a tough season for many. As we size up our successes (or lack of them), and combine that assessment with high expectations for the holidays, the result can be stress and depression. If you’re looking back at 2017 and thinking, “Well, that didn’t go exactly as I’d hoped,” what you say to yourself next can make the difference between 2018 turning out better, or worse.

Educational psychologist Kristin Neff, Ph.D., in her TED Talk on, recommends that rather than beating yourself up over what did or didn’t happen this year, you instead support yourself with the same compassion you might show to a good friend. Research backs this up as a more effective strategy.

Turns out that when we become upset with ourselves, and use self-talk such as, “You’re a failure in this area,” our brains tap into our defense system triggering a fight or flight response. “Give up! Protect yourself!”, it warns us, and our bodies get into the act, too, producing more cortisol, increasing stress, and reducing overall health.

Yet if we instead view our status with the same compassion we’d show someone we really care about, we’ll have better outcomes, including improved wellbeing, greater motivation, and overall a healthier life. So rather than saying, “Katy, you fell short this year, you’re a loser,” in its place I can say, “Katy, this year didn’t go as you’d hoped. That’s got to hurt a bit. I know you have hopes for achieving your goals. What can you do to support yourself for a better 2018?”

Neff also recommends that rather than focusing how we aren’t measuring up as compared to others, we instead accept that as humans, we are imperfect, as are all of our fellow men and women.  When we don’t behave in an ideal way, rather than being abnormal, we are in fact, being especially normal.

This is the season of hope, after all, and my hope for you—and for myself—is that we support not only each other with compassion, but ourselves as well.