by Anna Remus
As 2012 beings to come to a close, friends and coworkers will no doubt begin to talk about their New Year's resolutions--often with negative, despairing attitudes. It is unfortunate that this time of year, meant to be an invigorating, fresh start, often turns into a dreaded ritual.
The problem with New Year's resolutions is that we often fall into the same bad habits when forming them--we form an unrealistic number of them, we spend all enthusiasm for our goals too quickly, or we try to go "cold turkey" and change ourselves in unrealistic ways, completely overnight.
In order to achieve your goals for the new year, it's important to stop thinking of resolutions as a 100-yard dash, and start thinking of them like a marathon. If you start "sprinting" for the first month or so, it's difficult to achieve the long-term results you're after. Instead, it's important to make small, sustainable changes that will form habits quickly and lead to greater progess in the long run. Although it does take longer to see results this way, it is also less likely that one small misstep causes you to panic and lose all of your hard work!
In order to get the fresh start you need for healthy changes, here are some tips to keep in mind when January 1st rolls around:
- Break the attitude cycle
There are a lot of negative attitudes surrounding the idea of New Year's resolutions, and listening to all of this negativity can hurt your efforts. Before you begin forming your resolutions, actively try to keep a positive attitude, and keep faith that you can achieve the goals you'll set for yourself.
- Be specific and realistic
When forming your resolutions, try to be as specific as possible to avoid biting off more than you can chew. If you would like to exercise more, try to think of specific times/days that would work with your schedule, or write down new classes at your gym that you've been meaning to try. Thinking of a specific plan of attack can make daunting goals seem much more manageable.
- Work on one at a time
Don't write a huge laundry list of resolutions, but instead keep it very short (under 5), and stick to one at a time for a shorter period (for example, 2 months). Whittle your list down to only the very top things you would like to improve, then order them by importance, and form your scheduling of them in December, rather than New Years Day. Planning ahead will help you not become overwhelmed, and dividing the work load over several months will keep a healthy pace for your progress.
- Ease into it gradually
Instead of taking your "Lose 15 pounds" resolution cold turkey, consider spreading smaller goals over a period of weeks or months. For example, if you need to change your diet for your goal of getting healthier, start by eliminating fast food in Week 1, then also eliminating alcohol in Week 2, etc. Stacking smaller goals makes the transition easier, and leaves you less likely to feel deprived.
One way to make habit-changing easier is to "piggyback" desired habits with existing habits. For example, if your new goal is to take a vitamin everyday, stick your bottle of them in your coffee cup for the next morning, so when you are getting ready to drink your morning java, you won't forget your goal. Using already-formed habits is a great way to easily adapt new ones!
Whatever your New Years resolutions, we here at CSAM San Diego wish you the best! Have a great holiday season and a happy, healthy new year!