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New Year’s Blues

Does the end of the year get you down?

Rewriting the New Year’s Scorecard

For those stuck in the end-of-the-year scorecard exercise, Abramson and Nolen-Hoeksema offer these suggestions to get out of the rut:

  • Anticipate.  If you've been in this ruminating route before, make a plan to minimize it this year --before the end of the year arrives.
  • Ask why, not "Why me?" When the rumination starts to surface, don't dwell on your shortcomings. Instead, think a bit about why some things you wanted to happen this year didn't.
  • Shift into action. Instead of moaning or moping, ask yourself: "What is a small thing I can do to change the situation?"
  • Get active or distract yourself. When you fall back into the ruminating habit, walk around the block, go to the gym, or head for the mall. Physical activity works, Nolen-Hoeksema says. "Within 10 minutes you are feeling better," she says. "It's hard to ruminate and shift to action at the same time." Distraction works, too, she has found in her studies. When she asked some ruminators to think about something else other than the problem, they weren't as adept later at recalling negative events as those who weren't distracted from their ruminating.
  • Be specific. If you decide to make a New Year's resolution, be reasonable and decide exactly what you will do, Abramson says. "Not a global resolution about making yourself a wonderful person," he says. Instead: "I won't yell at the kids." Or, instead of "I will lose 20 pounds," try: "When I know they are having doughnuts at work, I will bring fruit instead."
  • Examine your expectations. Decide if they are realistic. If they aren't, that doesn't mean giving up on the goal, says Abramson. Instead, break it into multiple steps.

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Reviewed on October 19, 2008

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