If you are struggling to keep your New Year's resolution - or
have given up already - a few modifications may be in order to stay
on track or to renew your commitment.
Many people make their resolutions in haste without much
thought, setting themselves up for failure. Some resolutions may
even be made under the influence of a New Year's Eve celebration.
Ask yourself these questions: is this a change that makes sense for
me and is it something I really want to work on?
Here are some tips to enhance your chances of success with any
positive lifestyle change, no matter what time of year.
Be realistic. The best intentions run
amok when people attempt to make unrealistic lifestyle changes.
They tend to be wishes more than goals. One of my most important
goals as a psychologist is to help people separate fantasy from
reality. I want people to deal with reality. Take a hard look at
your resolution in the light of day to make sure it is something
you can achieve. Unattainable goals are left unfulfilled and
lead to disappointment.
Establish step-wise objectives.
Pursue your larger, overall goal in incremental steps. If
your goal is to lose 50 pounds, start small. Instead of overhauling
your entire diet, replace one guilty pleasure - such as cookies or
ice cream - with something healthier that you enjoy, such as your
favorite piece of fruit. I know exercise is good for mental health,
but I never tell patients to start exercising 30 minutes a day,
seven days a week. Instead, I tell them to start doing something
three days a week, even if it is just walking the dog around the
block. Do what you can; you can always up the ante as your progress
toward your overall goal.
Be persistent. Go easy on yourself. If you
stray off course, don't give up. Just because you succumbed to a
bowl of ice cream on Saturday night, does not mean you have to
resume making ice cream a regular part of your diet. Consider your
relapse a learning experience. Try to figure out why you fell back
into a bad habit, and what you can do to prevent it from happening
again. Nobody's perfect. If resolutions were easy, we wouldn't make
Reward success. When you reach a goal, do
something you enjoy. See a movie or buy a new outfit - whatever
makes you feel good.
Seek support. Find others who share your goals
and pursue them together. Like-minded individuals are easy to find
this time of year - in exercise classes, support groups and smoking
Take one day at a time. Follow the practice of
12-step programs and stay in the present. "Forever" is a long time;
thinking too far into the future can make chasing a goal seem like
a marathon more than a fun run.
Focus on one behavior at a time. People trying
to exercise, lose weight and stop smoking all at the same time are
destined for failure. Pick a "target" behavior that is important to
you and that you have wanted to change for a long time. Make one
resolution and go after it.
Keep a diary or journal. Writing things down
helps you state your goals and track your progress. It's an
expression of your commitment and a good way to look back and see
how far you have come, which can motivate you to continue.
By: Terry R. Imar, MA, a psychologist and member of the
OhioHealth Grady Memorial Hospital medical staff.