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New Years Resolutions

Monday, December 28, 2015

I am not much of a New Year’s resolutions type gal.  I am more of a “list of things to do this year” woman.  Both approaches to starting the New Year have the same pitfalls.  The resolution or to-do list is too long, too vague, and too somebody else.   For example, every year, I put scrapbooking my children’s lives on the list.  Every year I fail – pics still in shoeboxes on the shelf.  Why?  - Well, for one thing, I am not particularly crafty and for another, 20 plus years of photos are quite frankly overwhelming. The job is too big.  The good news (or at least comforting news) is I am not alone.  While 40% of us make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% manage to keep them.  Nonetheless, the start of the New Year brings with it certain hopefulness that this year will be different.  We like the idea of a fresh slate and a chance to try one more time.  And indeed we should.  Among the top 10 resolutions for all Americans, are the very worthy goals of: lose weight, spend less/save more, get organized, stay fit and healthy, and quit smoking.  Who wouldn’t want to do these things?  The question is:  How can I become one of the 8%?

Experts from psychologists at the American Psychological Association to business gurus at Forbes all agree, setting new goals is important.  However, understanding the secrets behind those who succeed is more important.  There is a science to keeping resolutions.   Succeeding at resolutions is essentially changing behaviors.  In order switch out one behavior for another, you have to change your thinking and “rewire” your brain.  Basically, new thinking creates new neural pathways in your brain.  These new pathways are created by a focused activity that is repeated and reinforced over time.   So no matter what is on your list, here are a few tips for success:

Focus

Keep the list short and focus on one resolution at a time.   Long laundry lists of things you want to accomplish or do, seldom get done; instead, concentrate on small attainable goals throughout the year.  

Be Specific

Set realistic, specific goals.  Getting in shape is not a specific goal.  Walking 20 minutes per day, three times per week is a specific, realistic goal that can not only be attained but maintained over time as well. Remember repetition is crucial so set a goal that you can easily repeat and build on over time.

Post, Talk, and Track

Make your new adventure (fitness, dieting, saving, etc.) public knowledge.  Post it on Facebook, tell a friend, and track the results with a personal diary, an on-line tracking system, or a chart on the frig.  Sharing your goals adds another layer of accountability. People are more apt to follow through with a resolution if they have someone to report to on a regular basis.  Furthermore, we all need a cheerleader who will urge us to carry on when we are discouraged and cheer us on when we succeed.

Believe

Stay in the present.  Don’t worry about the past or the present.  Concentrate on the task at hand - for example, eating 3 vegetables a day, walking a mile a day, saving $10/week.  What is the one thing you can do today, right now, toward your goal?  Then believe you can do it and do it.  It does not matter if you have done it in the past or if you think you can do it tomorrow.   The more you tell yourself you can do it, the more you will actually do it!  Believe it.

Celebrate

Don’t wait until you have completed the final goal.  Rejoice in the small accomplishments.    If your goal is lose 10 pounds in 90 days, celebrate the loss of the first 3 pounds! Tell a friend, go to a movie, buy a new workout shirt…but remember, perfection is not possible.  Don’t give up completely if you eat that brownie or skip the gym.   Resolve to recover and get back on track.  

The last bit of advice is don’t take yourself too seriously.  Have fun and laugh a lot as you travel down the road of your resolutions.   If you goof up, laugh at yourself and move on.  If you slip up, don’t let it hold you back from working toward your goal.  So here is my new resolution – create one digital book of my kids’ baby and toddler years in the first quarter of the year.  Specific, realistic, and techy not crafty – I can do this.  I really think I can do this!

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville.  If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at lwichtowski@noyeshealth.org or 585-335-4327.  

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