Sticking with your new year's resolutions

Sticking with your new year's resolutions

Sticking With Your  New Year’s ResolutionsEvery year in January many of us make New Year’s Resolutions to be healthier, loose weight, eat better etc. We make these commitments because we know that a healthier lifestyle will help us:- Have more energy.- Decrease our risk for a variety of medical conditions including:     high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis etc.- Remain active, mobile, and independent.- Sleep better.- Fit better in our clothes.- Increase our self-esteem.Yet many of these efforts are abandoned within weeks. Why do people abandon their resolutions? Problem 1:  The most common reason is that people try to make too many changes at once. I often have students come in January who say they want to lose weight, stop smoking, reduce stress, eat healthier, spend more time with family, etc. all at the same time. The problem is that we are creatures of habit and change is hard. When we set too many goals for ourselves we are setting ourselves up for failure. We create a laundry list so long that it becomes unmanageable and unattainable.Solution:  Write down all of the changes you wish to make in your life. Then list them in order of priority. When doing this be honest with yourself. Pick the goals that are important to you, not the goals that others think are important for you. Trying to please others is not a motivating enough reason to change. The change must be something you believe is worthwhile. Also, when making your list you may find that some behaviors affect others. For example you may want to lose weight, and you know that you tend to overeat when you feel stressed. Therefore make your number one priority to learn better ways to manage stress. As you begin to learn better ways of coping you will tend to turn to food less and therefore lose the weight.   After making your list, pick just one; yes just one, habit you wish to change. Then when you have accomplished that, move on to the next. This allows you to focus your attention on one goal alone. This is more manageable then trying to make too many changes at once. When you accomplish your goal and realize you can make changes, this can help you to find the motivation and know-how to move on to other changes.  Problem 2:  People frequently become discouraged when results don''t come quickly enough, and there is too much discomfort because changes where made too drastically. Behavioral change requires sustained effort and commitment. It is also typically accompanied by physical discomfort. For example, reducing food, alcohol or nicotine intake from a level to which you have become accustomed, results in cravings. Trying to exercise too much to hard, results in soreness, injury, and fatigue. Then forcing yourself to get off your cozy chair to exercise is difficult when you''re tired and sore. All of the above can cause you to procrastinate until tomorrow, and before you know it you have abandoned your efforts altogether.Solution:  Realize and accept that change takes time and hard work. There are no quick fixes. A healthy lifestyle is a lifetime commitment not something you do for just 6-8 weeks and then stop. Those fad diets and workout routines may work initially but they do not teach healthy skills that lead to a lifetime of good habits. Be realistic. The surest way to fall short of your goal is to make your goal unattainable. For instance, resolving to never eat your favorite desserts again could be a bad choice. Or, if you have not been exercising at all, deciding to all of a sudden work out for 1 hour everyday is too much to start with. Strive for a goal that is attainable.   Make small or short-term goals so you will see results sooner. There is nothing more motivating then reaching our goals. If you want to loose 30 pounds, break it up into smaller goals such as: each month I will loose 6 pounds. This is a very achievable goal and when you see that you have lost the 6 pounds, it will motivate you to continue. If instead you just set a goal of loosing 50 pounds, it will take time to achieve this, and many people get discouraged and give up.  If you want to start exercising, start with just 2-3 days per week for 20 to 30 minutes. This is a plan most people can stick with. Then slowly add more days and time as your body adapts to the routine. Other helpful hints:1) Outline your plan. Write out the exact steps you will take to reach your goals. Also decide how you will deal with the temptation to skip the exercise class, or just have one more cigarette. This could include calling on a friend for help, joining a group, or practicing positive thinking and self-talk.2) Talk about it. Don''t keep your resolution a secret. Tell friends and family members who will be there to support your resolve to change yourself for the better. The best case scenario is to find yourself a buddy who shares your New Year''s Resolution so       you can motivate each other. Sometimes family members are not the best ones to support you as they may be affected by the changes you are making.3 )  Reward yourself when you attain those smaller goals you set. This doesn''t mean that if your resolution is to diet you can eat an entire box of chocolates. Instead, celebrate your success by treating yourself to something positive that you enjoy.4 )  Don''t beat yourself up. Obsessing over the occasional slipup won''t help you achieve your goal. Do the best you can each day, and take one day at a time. We are human and everyone experiences setbacks and falls off track once in a while. The important thing is to recognize this and return to better choices right away.5) Stick to it/Stay with it. It takes about 6 weeks for a new activity/behavior to become a  habit, and 6 months for it to become part of your personality.6)   Keep trying. If your resolution has totally run out of steam by mid-February, don''t  despair. Start over again! There''s no reason you can''t make a "New Year''s Resolution" any time of year. Do not go for too long before getting back to healthier choices. If you get off track on Monday, do not give up the rest of the week. Get right back to your plan on Tuesday. If you give in to temptation, do not use this as an excuse to abandon the whole program. Learn from your mistake and move on.7) Focus on the behavioral change more than on the goal. For example, if you decide to control your eating, your goal for the day is not to lose a specific number of pounds,  but to stick to your program. Such focus on your behavior will help you feel in       control of your life. You will gain satisfaction from making sensible choices several times throughout the day.8) Make tasks and goals non-negotiable. People who are most successful at  implementing changes are those who make their tasks non-negotiable. For example, if  in the morning you debate with yourself whether you feel like getting up to exercise, you will probably opt for staying in bed for another half-hour. But if getting up for exercise is no more negotiable than getting up for work, then you''ll do it regardless of how you feel about it. We can almost always find an excuse not to do the things we  need to do. However, if you make a non-negotiable decision that''s based on a sound logical reason rather than on how you feel at the moment, you will be successful.9) Do it now. If you''re waiting for a more convenient time to begin behavioral change, it won''t happen. It''s almost never convenient to change ingrained habits. Now is just as good a time as any. Avoid the common pitfall of saying you will start to exercise diet next month, in the spring, or another time. Chances are when the“other time” arrives there will be other reasons to wait. Also if you begin now rather than later, you''ll have a jump on a healthier and more satisfying future.Lori Newell MA, CPT. Is the owner/operator of the Sacred Space Health Center in Harwichport, MA. She holds a Masters degree in Health Promotion ans is a certified personal trainer and yoga teacher with over 20 years of experience helping individuals reach their health and wellness goals. She specializes in offering programs to beginners as well as those with chronic illness and post-rehabilitation needs. She is the author of several books that outline fall prevention, body mechanics, exercise, yoga and meditation to those with Parkinson’s disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis. She can be reached at:Lori NewellSacred Space Health Center Inc.PO Box 99Harwichport, MA 02646(508)367-6311email@sacredspacehealthcenter.comwww.sacredspacehealthcenter.com