“Thoughts are but dreams till their effects be tried”. – William Shakespeare, 1564-1616
Whether as New Year’s resolutions, birthday wishes, or daily promises, most everyone vows at some point to make a major life change. But change is easier said than done, especially when it comes to better managing our wellness amidst the chaos of everyday living. Most of us make our yearly resolutions but every year by February some drops their New Year’s resolutions. What can an individual do to keep them?
Unfortunately, for many of us, by Valentine’s Day your New Year’s resolutions feel long forgotten. Let’s face it-it’s too hard to keep them. Yet, successful resolution-makers often unknowingly take steps that, collectively, restructure the brain’s wiring for pleasure and therefore success. Now, let us explore some reminders on how to keep or rather sustain our new year’s resolution
Focus. Write down issues that bother you. The most common topics are taking charge of finances, weight gain, to be a better person, to strictly do my diet activities, drinking too much and procrastinating.
Select. Choose the issues that are important to you. If you aren’t sure, ask yourself: “Which ones endanger my health? Which ones make me feel very ashamed or insecure?” Another big mistake is to set too many goals at once. You set yourself up for failure if you try to do a complete overhaul of yourself.
Or, select one that you have tried before. Usually, resolutions are not plucked from the sky. Instead, they are often issues that you have already tried to work on but failed in your attempts. Now is the time to review what went wrong.
Identify your triggers. Often, there is something that sparks your unwanted behavior. For example, people who are trying to quit smoking are often told to give up spicy foods which can stimulate the desire to smoke. Think about your unwanted behavior and ask yourself: What prompted me to eat that half a cake or smoke another pack of cigarettes?
But don’t eliminate the pleasurable activities. We don’t like depriving ourselves of pleasures such as eating good food, drinking fine wines or shopping for fun things. The more you deprive yourself and the more difficult the task the more likely you are to give up. Your sense of giving up too much and for too long will make you indulge big time!
Instead, build in rewards of your favorite things so that your brain can make a connection between discipline, deprivation and pleasure and inner peace. Weight Watchers and most of the prepared meals of diet plans know about the need for building in pleasure and rewards. They address the issue by allowing you to eat a brownie or some carbohydrates. The secret is portion control and frequency. Some people need to reward themselves daily while others can delay their rewards. Eventually, the pleasure of the reward was more important than the pleasure of the unwanted behavior.
Break up the large goal into small steps and doses so that you don’t take on too much or increase your anxiety. Alcoholics Anonymous recommends “taking one day at a time.” You might even have to take it one hour at a time. Eventually, you will be able to check your progress daily and then weekly. And don’t get down on yourself if you experience a setback. Remind yourself that progress is often in fits and starts. Forgive yourself and get back on track right away.
Get a buddy or a whole roomful of them. Weight Watchers and alcoholic support groups succeed because they don’t allow you to take such big steps alone. Others who are going through similar problems can provide tips and emotional support. If your partner or other family member does not want to make changes with you, joining a support group is even more important. By taking the initiative–and sticking with it–you increase your chance that your significant will change.
Don’t give up. Tell yourself that you deserve to be happy, healthy and in charge of your life. Happy New Year everyone!