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  • Rethinking New Year’s Resolutions

    Make any New Year’s resolutions this year? Think they will stick? If you are like most Americans, chances are slim. Out of around 40% of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% keep them.

    Why do we lack the will power to see them through? As it turns out, it isn’t really about will power at all, but about being strategic about forming habits that endure over time. Here are some tips for developing positive habits and for reframing your idea of resolutions to help set you up for success.

    Be realistic

    Common resolutions like “get fit,” “lose weight” or “save more” are unlikely to succeed. Changes that are small, concrete and achievable in the short term have much more promise. If you want to eat more healthfully, for example, try changing one part of your diet, for example replacing salty snacks with raw vegetables or dessert with fruit on set days. If you want to spend less money, resolve to find two ways to cut monthly expenses.

    Make it fun

    Even if we crave long-term rewards like better health or stronger relationships, it is usually the short-term rewards that motivate us. We can’t help it. Our brains produce dopamine, a chemical that makes us feel pleasure and satisfaction, right in the heat of the moment. If more exercise is your goal, try to find a physical activity or sport that you actively enjoy, or add a pleasurable activity like watching a show or listening to a podcast to your gym routine.

    Make it easy

    We are more likely to engage in what we know, what is convenient and what is already habitual. So here’s a simple hack for developing a new habit: attach it to one that is already part of your routine. If you walk regularly but want to spend more time a loved one, invite her along. At the same time, make temptations that may torpedo your resolutions harder to access and easier to resist. If you want to reduce your social media use, plug your phone in overnight in a different room.

    Schedule it

    Find the right hour and a realistic time commitment for your desired habit. If you resolve to meditate, set up a short daily time slot when you can take a break from your other responsibilities. Rather than resolving to find a new job, resolve to spend 15 minutes every morning on your search.

    Enlist support

    Seek out and accept help from your community. Your loved ones can help bolster your resolve, celebrate your successes, and provide support when things go sideways. If you are struggling with your goals and are having trouble coping, therapy can help you move forward in a positive way to achieve health and balance.

    Embrace change

    Unexpected upheaval can be challenging, but it also provides an opportunity to interrupt the status quo, reassess your life choices and even make changes that align better with your true values and beliefs. Remember, however, to set realistic short-term goals. Rather than resolving to change careers, resolve to speak to a career counselor or three people who are currently in your career of interest.

    Be kind to yourself

    Goal setting leads to positive change at any time of the year. If your New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside, you have lots of second (and third and fourth) chances. As Albert Einstein said, “Failure is success in progress.” Besides, there’s always next year.


    by Lisa Isenman, LGPC-Intern
    Ponciano Counseling and Wellness, LLC

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