It’s the beginning of a new year and a popular time for resolutions. Take a moment to think about resolutions you have made in your life. Maybe you’ve made a declaration to eat healthier, exercise more, quit smoking, or go out with friends more?
If you look up the statistics on resolution success rates, the results are quite grim as a very small portion of those who make resolutions keep them. So what are some things that you can do to actually implement change in your life?
The following are some suggestions to help you on your path to a committed change this year.
Set realistic goals. Change is hard and needs to be something eased into. If going to the gym is not typically something you do, a goal of getting to the gym 7 days/week is unrealistic. Perhaps start with 2 days a week and reap the rewards of reinforcement when you are successful in your plan. You can always add more days when you have succeeded for a determined amount of time.
Find social support. Whatever it is that you are committing yourself to changing, find someone or a group to discuss progress/setbacks with or to be accountable to. You can learn a lot from others’ experiences. It may also be beneficial to you to be the one providing support and encouragement to someone else.
Recognize setbacks are not failures. If you find yourself hitting a rough patch or not meeting your goals, don’t give up. Try to figure out why you have not been successful and what needs to be tweaked or added to help you get back on track. It could take weeks for a new behavior to become habit and months for it to be integrated into your personality. It takes time and perseverance.
Write things down. There is a power to putting things to paper. Outline your plan to meet your goal. Make a calendar. What will you do if you have an urge to stray from your target? Have a written plan for setbacks. Write down your reasons for working towards the change you are attempting as a reference for when things get hard.
Reward yourself. Keep track of your progress and plan rewards along the way. Treat yourself to something you enjoy such as a meal at your favorite restaurant after a month of not smoking or new fitness clothing after 10 gym visits.
Although the beginning of a new year is a great time to start fresh in making a positive change for yourself, anytime is a good time to act on improving your life.
Put thought into what you want to work on and start with one thing. Use these tips above to help you along the way. Good luck and have a very happy new year!
Dr. Andrea Tesher, Psy.D., is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Lukin Center for Psychotherapy, specializing in the treatment of adults with anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, difficulties regulating emotions, relationship problems and women's issues.