December 29, 2016

Making New Year’s Resolutions that Work in 2017

Making New Year’s Resolutions that Work in 2017

The key to making and keeping New Year’s resolutions is that they have to involve a complete lifestyle change. Throwing money at a gym membership without a solid plan to change your lifestyle results in squandered money and disappointment. Here are six tips to help you create New Year’s resolutions that will actually change your life.

  1. Make a plan. If the change you want to make is important to you, you must make a plan to ensure that the change happens. For example, if you want to improve your fitness, you must identify a type of workout that you enjoy and schedule that workout into your day as a non-negotiable activity – the same way you schedule brushing your teeth. If you choose something you do not like or allow yourself to put the activity off, you’ve failed before you’ve begun.
  1. Make your change fun. If we address change with a bad attitude, it isn’t going to happen. If you dread an activity, you’re likely to let yourself off the hook by not continuing to do it. Are you trying to eat more fresh vegetables? Serve yourself on beautiful new plates or get flowers for your dining room table. Reward yourself for a week of healthful eating with ten dollars in a jar that you save up for a day at the spa. If you get short, medium, and long term rewards for your change, odds are better than you’ll stick with your program.
  1. Don’t glorify the past. If you tell yourself, “Boy, I sure do miss my morning donut,” then you can bet that pretty soon, you’re going to start pulling up to the donut shop. Once you’re past the initial shock of the change, think through relapse into old habits. Was the daily donut really better than the increased energy you have now? Most of us lie to ourselves to reinforce our old habits. Tell yourself the truth. Having another Christmas with the grandkids is a better outcome than stuffing your face with sugary treats after your doctor has warned you of the probable health outcomes.
  1. Set short term goals. If you need to lose a hundred pounds, that’s going to take time. It’s easy to get lost on the way to long term goals. Instead, set short term goals. After you lose the first ten pounds, reward yourself with new gym shoes. For fifteen pounds lost, take yourself to a movie with your best friend. If you set, attain, and reward yourself for short term goals, you’re more likely to make it to the end result you want to see.
  1. Be positive in your self-talk. If the whole time you’re on your evening walk you’re telling yourself that you’re a fat S.O.B. who can’t do anything right, you’re probably not going to continue with that activity for very long. Instead, tell yourself over and over how proud you are of yourself for making a change. Look at you, up off the couch! You’re doing a great job! Congratulations on making an effort! Write yourself encouraging notes or postcards so you get something other than bills in the mail. You’re making changes to improve your life. You can do it!
  1. Ask for help. If the change was easy, we would have no need for resolutions. If you need help, seek it out. Maybe you need a psychotherapist to help you sort out interpersonal issues or a life-coach or mentor to help you get your career on track. You might need a personal trainer to encourage you during your workouts or a friend to help you go through the pantry and get rid of all those things you shouldn’t eat. Use your support system to help you stay accountable to yourself.

Change isn’t easy, but with solid goals, a good attitude, positive self-talk, and maybe a little help, 2017 can be a new year in which you meet and exceed the goals you set for yourself.

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About Constance Scharff PhD