Making and Keeping New Years Resolutions

Happy New Year Everyone! I am happily back to writing after my hiatus for the holidays. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season filled with love and family. At the start of the new year I, like most, think of new beginnings and see the new year as full of possibilities.

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As a culture we tend to approach the new year with promises, or resolutions, for the following months. Promises to lose X amount of weight,  to quit smoking/drinking, to make more money etc. These resolutions are often the same ones you have had every year for the past 10 years, always losing momentum come Valentines Day and quitting all together by St. Patrick’s Day. The issue comes when we make resolutions that the sheer magnitude of the task becomes overwhelming and discouraging in itself. I propose the keys to successfully accomplishing resolutions are, use of wording and self-compassion.

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If part of the problem is the prospect of acting on your resolutions causing stress and intimidation to even think about – why not change the wording slightly to reflect a more doable and less arduous task? Try:

– Resolving to be more healthy or active each week, building to where you would like to be

– Resolve to lessen your amount of cigarettes/drinks each week until you become less dependent on these vices. Or resolving to buy a nicotine patch, use e-cigarettes, attend an AA meeting weekly etc. If you quit cold turkey you will feel deprived and frustrated making it more likely that you fall back into the destructive behavior patterns you are trying to change.

– Resolve to be more productive at work or create a budget allowing for X amount being put into savings each pay check

Have you ever heard the old adage, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew”? Well that applies here. If you are able to break your resolutions up into small and more attainable steps then you will experience more successes and be more likely to continue making progress. As I demonstrated, it can be as simple as re-wording your original resolution into something that will give you more immediate results.

As a rule, the human brain is more apt to respond to rewards or success (baby steps) rather than punishment and shame (“I can’t even get through 30 minutes on the treadmill without getting tired, I suck”). When we are consistently feeling disappointed by our efforts there will come a time when we will give up trying, never feeling good enough to achieve. Hence the reason you are 10 years older and still making the same resolutions as the year before.

Granted, failure comes along with success and learning. There will be time when you WILL make mistakes and that is OK! Which brings me to my second must have in keeping resolutions – Self- Compassion. It is important to recognize that you are human, you will mistakes and those mistakes don’t mark failure, but give you an opportunity for persistence. There will be times when you will want to quit which means you need to take a break. Do something that builds you up, rather than continuing to beat yourself up over something that just isn’t working in that moment. When you feel yourself getting frustrated or discouraged think of something that you can do that makes you feel especially good (read a good book, get massage, go see a movie). For more detailed ideas on how to take care of yourself take a look at my Thanksgiving post entitled Don’t Forget to Thank Yourself. It is amazing how helpful separating yourself from a difficult task for a couple hours or even a couple days  can be.

Overall, remember that new years resolutions are for you to feel better about YOU, so take the time to make accommodations to help support the success of your pursuit. Most of all, celebrate small successes, for it is those small successes that will collectively lead you into a more healthy, productive, peaceful and happy new year!

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