Local experts weigh in: How to stick to your New Year’s resolutions
The year 2018 has arrived, and as the New Year takes hold many of us will take the symbolic date as an opportunity to change our lives for the better. Whether that means quitting smoking, hitting the gym three times a week, eating healthier or spending more time with family, New Year’s resolutions abound.
But many of us find ourselves making the same promises every January, unable to make a resolution stick for more than a couple weeks. So how do you go about making a resolution that’s reasonable, and sticking to it?
The first step is getting in the right mindset. Instead of creating a singular goal, you should think of your resolution as an intention.
“I’m really an advocate of saying intention instead of goal,” said Dianne Drake Foss, licensed professional counselor and certified gestalt therapist. “For me it makes the resolution more serious.”
Instead of setting an end of the year goal of something you want to accomplish, you should try setting smaller, daily intentions of things you will accomplish. This allows you to take your resolution more seriously on a day-to-day basis, and forces you to think about how you will accomplish your resolution.
Often people set end of the year goals, like losing 20 pounds over the course of the year, but fail to set up a plan.
“You should break it up into small steps, like every month I want to lose two pounds,” said Foss. “When you can break it up into small pieces it sounds a lot easier and it becomes more reasonable.”
Foss said that when choosing a resolution, you should also keep in mind the things you are already doing well, and continue to incorporate those things into your new plan.
Once your resolution is set, there are also several steps that you can take which will help to keep you accountable to your intention. Foss recommends journaling, finding a partner with a similar resolution and rewarding yourself on days that you accomplish your intention.
Foss said that journaling helps to compartmentalize your thoughts, and put your inner voice down on paper.
“I equate it to having a bunch of moths floating around your head,” said Foss. “By pulling them down one at a time and looking at it, life just starts to make a lot more sense. Also if you write something down, you’re more likely to follow through with it. It seems more real rather than something that’s just in your head.”
Finding a partner to accomplish your resolution with can also be a helpful tool, as you have another person you’re accountable to, and it can make the process more fun. Finally Foss recommends setting up a rewards system for yourself, ideally something visual that you can look at everyday to remind yourself of your resolution and the progress you’ve made.
“I think rewards systems are a good idea,” she said. “For example one of my specialties is working with problem drinkers. Every time they had an evening without drinking they put a rock, colored piece of glass or money into a jar. You keep putting it in each day and when the jar gets full you give yourself a reward.
“I think people in general tend to think of what they did wrong. It’s important to look at what you’re doing right. It’s a visual that you can constantly look at and see what you’re doing right.”
Changing your life can be frightening and challenging, and it’s important to remember that it takes time for new habits to sink in. It takes 30 to 60 days for a new habit to start to take hold, and during that time increases in stress and anxiety are common, according to Foss.
In those difficult moments it can be helpful to think of ways to replace harmful habits with other activities. Foss recommends carrying a note card with everyday activities you enjoy, so that when the urge to fall back into old habits comes, you’ll have other options at the ready.
“If someone typically walks into the house at five o’clock and they’re used to grabbing a drink, cigarette or snack right away, you have to replace that activity with something different that you enjoy. When you get to that point you can just look at the ideas you wrote down.”
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