We made it through the holidays and now we’re ready to make some big changes that will make the coming year better and more productive than any previous years. We will lose weight, stop smoking, be more attentive to our loved ones, find a better job, etc., etc., etc.
Many of us have New Year’s resolutions that resemble an elaborate holiday shopping list that is not only unrealistic to keep but doomed for failure no later than the second week in January.
Keep in mind that a change in behavior is more likely to occur when setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, rather than spectacular and grandiose achievements, even hard to achieve for the most disciplined individual among us.
“It is not the extend of change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.” (Lynn Bufka, PhD, 2009)
Rather than viewing the new year as a catalyst for dramatic character changes, view it as a time to reflect on past behavior and a commitment to make positive lifestyle changes.
Make resolutions that you know you can keep; for example, your goal is to exercise more often and consistently, schedule an activity such as walking that you can incorporate into your daily schedule easily; set a goal to take a walk before or after work for 10 minutes every day. Add some minor changes in diet, such as letting go of all the soda drinks.
Just try to change one behavior at a time, unhealthy behavior takes time to develop, therefore, requiring time to replace healthy behaviors with unhealthy ones. Don’t beat yourself up rewriting your entire life story, work toward changing one thing at a time.
Once you have made a commitment to change a behavior, talk about it with your friends and family, because sharing your struggles and gains with others makes your conquests to a better lifestyle not only easier and more fun, but also express a verbal commitment.
Remember, nobody is perfect and we may all have a “glitch” here and there, resorting back to old, unhealthy behaviors; however, this is normal and acceptable. Don’t give up because you missed your daily walk and had fudge at the office. We all have ups and downs, acknowledge your mistake, correct it and resume your original goal of pursuing a healthy lifestyle by taking a daily walk and avoiding high-calorie deserts.
If necessary, ask for help from those around you and if you feel overwhelmed or discouraged or unable to meet your goals by yourself, talk to a professional. Psychologists have the unique training of understanding the mind body connection and can offer assistance as to how to adjust goals so they are more realistic and attainable, and ultimately help with changing unhealthy behaviors and address psychological and emotional concerns.
Astrid Heathcote is a licensed psychologist with a private practice and residence in Ahwatukee Foothills. Reach her at (480) 275-2249 or www.drastrid.org.