This year has us all glad it is coming to an end. Uncertainty has created chaos and anxiety in our lives. This is why I love creating new year’s resolutions. And more specifically, I love talking about self-care as you enter this new year in particular. This includes things like eating healthy, taking up a mindfulness practice, and seeking therapy (among many other things, of course). All of these contribute to living a life with less shame and more confidence – a lifelong goal that we all have.
Most resolutions fail, a study shows, “Seventy-seven percent maintained their pledges for 1 week but only 19% for 2 years.” Why? Because the idea that you can decide to change your life on a certain day with little help or guidance on how to do it is a fallacy. In order to change your behavior, you need to consider many factors.
- You need motivation. How does motivation happen? By surrounding yourself with others who share the same goals – people, places and things. If you want to cut down on drinking then find friends who do not drink and take up a new hobby. If you want to lose weight, you are unlikely to be able to do so just by dieting or starting some fad diet. You need constant reminders for behavioral change. It would be helpful to join a weight loss community like Noom or Weight Watchers in which you are surrounded by a fellowship of people to motivate you. Other options include hiring a trainer or connecting with friends to work out together where you all have the same goal.
- You need to change your negative spiraling thoughts about the subject. When people are trying to create behavioral change, there will always be relapses. People who are able to live in the next moment and easily forgive the missteps are the best at moving forward. For example, if you are trying to lose weight but then decide to eat pie, do not go into a negative thought spiral. Do not focus on how you might as well eat a bag of cookies too, or that there is no point because you are always destined to make the same mistake. People who have a positive attitude think “oh well, there is always another chance to make a better choice or I can just have a salad at dinner” are often the most successful. This is where getting a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) treatment can be useful, as it teaches you how to change thoughts to be more rationally balanced, and learn to be kind to yourself.
- Select a realistic and reasonable date. Do not just start the resolution on January 1st because it is a traditional date on the calendar. You need to prepare yourself for change. Think of things like setting up a therapy appointment, or joining a fitness group first. Setup the date for change after you have figured out a detailed plan.
- Monitor your gains and relapses, and set up a plan to correct. This requires thought and time. For example, if it is a weight-loss plan and you manage to lose 10 pounds, but then gain 3 pounds back. It is helpful to figure out the reasons for the weight gain and implement a plan to correct for it. Maybe you realize that when you go to the grocery store, you tend to buy more items, so instead you can order groceries on auto delivery to avoid the temptations of tasty treats. This can help to figure out how to make the best choices and with more thought.
- Reward yourself. Do not forget that with each goal obtained ie. 5 lbs lost, 1 month sober, etc. reward yourself with something. Some examples are to celebrate with friends or purchase some new clothes. Do not immediately go to the next goal and forget to take time to focus on the positives obtained each step of the way.
Now is the time to reflect on this past year and come up with the goals you want to achieve. Although it is traditionally done in conjunction with the new year, these goals should be well thought out and accompanied by a detailed plan. The goals should be measurable, realistic, and come with a reward system to reinforce motivation. What goals will you make for 2021?