Whether or not you are the resolution type, a new year brings both a new start and a jolt of fresh confidence that our lives can change. Our New Years’ goals often involve improving our emotional well-being in some way; who wouldn’t want to be happier, healthier, more confident and less stressed?
The problem with New Years’ resolutions is that they are notoriously difficult to keep, especially when they involve breaking long-standing bad habits. How do we stay confident and positive when stress and challenges of life, work, school, and family hit us hard?
I think the answer to that lies in our willingness to not just make superficial behavioral changes but to deal with our guilt, decide to be grateful, take care of our health, stop thinking about ourselves and work on our relationship with God.
1. Let go of guilt
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning.
Psalm 38:3-6 (NIV)
One of the most overlooked sources of sadness is guilt. When we feel burdened, overwhelmed or discouraged it’s easy to blame our circumstances, people around us, and even God. But this scripture very clearly outlines that guilt actually makes us feel low and sad. Taking responsibility for our guilt, sin and mistakes is very freeing and brings joy (Psalm 32:1-6) even if our circumstances don’t change. Sins like pride, impurity, bitterness and jealousy are some of the biggest culprits when it comes to destroying our emotional well-being, and identifying them actually brings refreshment and relief.
Take a few minutes to reflect on what sins may have affected your emotional well-being last year. Look through 2 Timothy 3:1-7 if you need help identifying specific things that may make you feel guilty.
2. Grab on to gratitude
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
Gratitude changes everything. Anxiety is probably one of the most unpleasant emotions I experience every day, and as this scripture says, we can pray and pray about what we need but if we want to actually experience God’s peace we have to take time to be thankful. Gratitude reminds us how much we really have, and anxiety often comes because we want more than we really need.
Practice thinking about at least 5 things you are grateful for each day, and next time you feel anxious take a few minutes to not only pray for what you need but also to thank God for what he has already done.
3. Take care of your health- emotional and physical
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Psalm 16:6 (NIV)
We often have areas of our physical or emotional health that we neglect – maybe it’s a chronic health condition, a learning disability, an injury, anxiety or depression, an eating issue or any number of other things. I think boundary lines are the parameters God gives us so that we can live a happy healthy life. Maybe your boundary line is that you need daily exercise, or maybe you need the advice of a professional to help you with a mental or physical challenge. Maybe your boundary is that you need more sleep and you need to go to bed earlier, or you need to be taking a certain medication regularly.
God says in this scripture that boundaries are supposed to make our lives pleasant. So if we are not living within God’s boundaries, our lives will become unpleasant.
What are the boundaries God has allowed in your life to help your emotional and physical health? Are there any you have been neglecting? What can you begin to do differently to live within your boundaries?
4. Don’t think about yourself too much
My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.
1 John 3:18-20 (MSG)
Spending too much time thinking about ourselves can lead to a lot of unhappiness. The Bible teaches that loving other people is actually the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. That means even if your negative thoughts were all true, loving other people could actually take them all away. Just trying to not have negative thoughts is difficult, so you need something else to focus on. Loving others brings meaning, purpose and gratitude to our lives.
Who is someone God has put in your life to care about? What can you practically do to show them love today?
5. Spend time with God
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 (NLT)
The Bible describes God as the source of hope – spending time with him by praying and reading scriptures is one of the best ways to improve our emotional well-being.
Do you spend daily time with God where you get hope, joy and peace? If not, why not? Decide this year to try listening to the Bible and spending focused time praying each day.