The party hats are packed away and we’re finally in the habit of writing a different digit when we need to designate the current year. But what about our efforts to revise other habits - those which would really improve our lives?
Where are your New Year’s resolutions now?
While many of us make resolutions on or about January 1st, only a small percentage of us stay on track over time. Estimates range from a low of 17% to a “high” of less than half of the 45% of of those who resolve to lose weight or fit in fitness actually maintain their new behaviors at the end of the year. Other common New Year’s resolutions include spending more time with family and friends, quitting smoking, enjoying life more, getting out of debt, getting organized and learning something new.
Here are some pointers to keep on target and in touch with your resolutions year-round:
1) Rather than resolving to forego an unwanted behavior, whenever possible plan to replace it with something positive and pleasurable.
For example, an effort to avoid all cakes, cookies and candies is rarely effective and will lead to fantasizing about those foods and bingeing on them when they’re available. Occasionally allowing yourself to savor small amounts of the foods you love will help remove the danger of proximity to those treats at parties, in the office or wherever. A former compulsive overeater, I can attest to that fact that I now enjoy several small chocolate chip cookies and a glass of skim milk, which I savor as I sit, so much more than the box of the same I once scarfed down standing up.
2) Add the “fun factor” into everything you do. If part of your resolution includes exercise – essential if weight loss is your objective – find a way to make it as pleasurable as possible. If you hate the baggy tee shirt you always wear for working out treat yourself to one in a flattering color or buy an attractive outfit. Search for one that’s on clearance if you’d rather not commit to buying something costly in your current size.
Download recent music into your i-pod or tune in to fascinating seminars and listen to those only while exercising. Transform those times – to whatever extent you can - into an entertaining or intellectual treat.
3) Schedule it in. Using your appointment book, i-phone or other device make dates with yourself to improve your life! For many of us the mornings are a good time to add a new activity, prior to the resumption of our daily routine with its time-sensitive responsibilities and demands. But if there’s a gym on your way home from work and its evening classes appeal to you, go for it!
4) Increase your self-awareness. It’s important to know the strengths that will help you succeed, as well as the weaknesses that could sabotage you. Write these down, along with strategies to capitalize on the first and conquer the second.
The most insidious, self-sabotageing enemy of your efforts is invisible and almost undetectable. What is it? It’s your attitude about your ability to better yourself and your life. Any negative thoughts you’re in the habit or harboring will fight against your efforts to move forward.
For example, if you call yourself a “failure” after five tries to quit smoking did you realize that the average number of attempts before succeeding is seven? (Bingo – that’s exactly the number of times it took for me, a few decades ago.) So ask yourself what skills you’ve learned on each attempt to help you succeed in coping sans cigarettes for days or weeks, or even years. What were the stumbling blocks that set you back and how could you handle them differently this time?
One of my favorite fables is that of someone asking Edison, “How come you’re still trying to make a light bulb when you’ve failed 500 times?” His answer, “I haven’t failed. I’ve discovered 500 ways how not to do it!”
Perhaps your most recent bout with cigarettes ceased because you couldn’t concentrate on your studies. Ask yourself why and select and implement strategies to offset this. Did you miss the sense of security of holding something in your hand and mouth as you read? If so, what else might work? This time try sipping tea from a hefty mug or other sensuous receptacle, alternating with other occasions when you chose to chew gum. Reward yourself with a fifteen-minute break every forty-five minutes to take a walk or call a friend or flip through a magazine.
5) Don’t wait until you “feel like” doing the desired behavior. Many experts believe it takes 21 days for new behaviors to become habitual. Do what you can to make it as easy as possible to perform the desired behavior and as hard as possible to repeat past practices. (“Operationalizing” the new behavior is a term used in management to refer to this process.)
If your plan’s to work out on your way to the office, place your gym attire by your bedside, directly in your line of sight as you awaken. Remind yourself in the morning that the best way to start a really new day is to wear it.
Likewise, keep a gym bag, packed and ready to go, in the trunk of your car, so that you can take advantage of any unexpected opportunities to exercise. Eliminate any and all imaginable excuses.
6) Put more fun in your life! As for food, it should be fun but far from your only pleasure. Finding time for fun is an aid to your efforts at self-improvement. How? We all need refueling and it’s easier to work on what’s important when we’re refreshed and relaxed. So,whatever your resolutions, add enjoyable activities to your weekly routine. This is an important “homework assignment” and one you should take seriously.
Make it a happy, healthy New Year!
All my best,
Arlene B. Englander, LCSW, MBA, PA
Categorised as: Uncategorized