Resolutions lead to frustration when you set too many or they’re unrealistic. Sure everyone would like to lose 20 pounds in one week (ever wonder how they do it on the Biggest Loser?) or go from sedentary to marathon runner in a month. It just doesn’t happen – or if, by some miracle it happens like it does on the Biggest Loser, how sustainable is the achievement?
The American Psychiatric Association (www.HealthyMinds.org) offers some tips to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions:
Try again. Everyone has both made and broken resolutions. We’ve all tried to lose weight or go to the gym more frequently or eat more fruit and veggies. Not totally succeeding before doesn’t mean that you won’t succeed this time. Have a positive approach. Create new positive habits to replace the old negative ones.
Don’t make too many resolutions. Our brains don’t like too much disruption at a time. They’re used to doing something one way. Pick one thing at a time and create a habit around it.
Be realistic. Pick a realistic, attainable goal with a clear time frame. A personal goal isn’t a “deal” which can never be broken. Don’t paint yourself into a corner by swearing you’ll do something that might be impossible to achieve –like swearing you’ll never eat ice cream again.
Choose your own resolution. Make sure what you are doing is what you want to do for yourself and not for your friends or relatives. Do you really want to lose weight or are you doing it because your partner wants you to?
Make a plan and write it down. Plan what you’d like to accomplish in three and six months. Set mini goals for each week that lead to accomplishing the big goal. Achieving the mini-goals gives you motivation to keep going and allows you to keep track of your progress. For example: your big goal is to eat fast food only once a month rather than your current five times a week. How about a mini goal of 4 times a week for the first two weeks, then 3 times a week, etc.
Write it down. Writing your goals down reinforces and solidifies your commitment. It also makes it harder to lie to yourself.
Create a support network. Family and friends can support your efforts, be a source of accountability, and motivate you to keep going. Unfortunately, they can also be saboteurs (both intentionally and unintentionally) so know what you’re going to do or say if that happens. Have you heard this: “Gee, I know you’re on a diet but why don’t you have a little piece of this chocolate cake I made just for you because I know it’s your favorite.” Figure out how to deal with comments like that.
Forgive yourself and have a plan for setbacks. Having a plan for when you slip or get off track helps you get back in the swing rather than throwing in the towel in frustration. So you polished off the breadbasket last night at dinner and then followed it up with half a container of ice cream. It happened. It’s over. Don’t let it derail you. What’s your strategy for getting back on plan?
Give yourself visible cues to remind you of your new behavior. Send yourself emails, ask co-workers to keep you on your toes, leave post-it note reminders on your kitchen cabinets. Old habits die hard. A note on the cabinet where you keep the crackers and chips might prevent you from mindlessly reaching in and munching.
Be committed and willing to work on your goal. Decide if you’re really willing to make the change in your life. Just making a resolution because it is the New Year won’t keep you motivated to attain your goal. Give yourself visual references – pictures, clothes you want to wear, etc.
Congratulate yourself. Reward yourself when your intermediate goals or resolutions are met. Maybe it’s time to buy a new pair of jeans to fit your new slimmed down or toned up body.