Reviews | What if you made New Year’s resolutions? Don’t give up yet!
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It’s the end of the first week of January, which means there’s a good chance you’ve already given up on that resolution you made on New Years Eve. After all, 80% of them don’t. do not hold.
Many common New Year’s resolutions are usually pretty solid ideas. Getting more exercise is good. (Awesome, even!) Lots of people commit to drinking less alcohol, getting involved in a cause, or taking up a new hobby. And of course, a lot of people want to lose weight, a goal with which I have great personal knowledge.
But the problem with taking a resolution isn’t usually the resolution. This is the process. “Most New Year’s resolutions require us to make huge changes in behavior, and most of those resolutions are taken without thinking about a clear path to achieve them,” Dr. Supatra Tovar, clinical psychologist and dietitian. “Time and again I have seen this omission as the most common culprit in our abandoning our resolutions.”
In short, we treat resolutions like wishes. Wouldn’t it be nice if we finally ran 20 miles a week or wrote a symphony?
But what can working to get a resolution made, and what has worked for me is realizing that the change you want to make isn’t an idea. It’s like moving to a new city.
The move is difficult and boring. You need to pack everything you own and transport it to your new home. You have to change your address with the post office – and your whole image of yourself.
When I left St. Louis for Washington, DC 12 years ago, I missed my friends, of course, but I also missed knowing how to get from point A to point B. Where was the grocery store ? How did the metro work? Why on earth were so many people here such huge fans of “The West Wing”? But eventually, I became a citizen of my new city. What was new and scary has become regular.
And to some extent, that’s what I did to achieve one of my particular goals. After years of ups and downs with my body size and a lot of anxiety and guilt about the role food has played in my life, I moved to I Write Down Everything I Eat in Town and I walk 10,000 steps a day in town – I have residences in both. I started logging each meal in an app designed for this type of tracking. (Recording what you eat can be helpful for weight loss because it encourages more mindful eating.) As of the date of publication of this newsletter, I have documented everything I have eaten for three years, eight months, one week and four days. And for over a year and a half, I have walked 10,000 steps a day, wherever I am, whatever the weather.
It has helped me get a size that fits me.
Now, I don’t think too much about writing down everything I eat or taking 10,000 steps a day. I just do it, like how I go to a grocery store near my house instead of the store I went to when I lived in St. Louis. In other words, it has become automatic.
And that is the key to success. Once a behavior becomes routine, we are more likely to do so. “Much of what we do each day is habitual – we automatically repeat everything we usually do with little active decision making,” said Dr Lynn Bufka, associate executive director for practical research and policy at the American Psychological Association. Our memory of what to do – whether right or wrong – “sticks out because we’ve been repeating various behaviors so consistently for so long. “
But how do you go from old habits to new ones? Dr. Bufka told me that in order to achieve a goal, we should do a bit of strategizing. “Identify times or situations when it will be more difficult to adopt this new behavior or to make this change and remove the obstacles that are in your way. So instead of saying, “I would like to drink less alcohol,” pretend that you just don’t live in the town of I drink wine every day anymore. Your new home is I Don’t Drink Ever. Now that you live here, it doesn’t make sense to have multiple bottles of wine or liquor in your house (a big hindrance to your goal), and you don’t go out to bars regularly because you don’t. just not what we’re doing here.
Another strategy is to change your goal to make it more achievable for you, Dr. Tovar said. If you know yourself well enough to understand that you probably can’t go completely vegan just yet, don’t. In short, take it easy on yourself. Perhaps you are starting out at a gym near your home or in your office building, or trying to work out in the comfort and safety of your home, where no one can hear you squat jumping. And use positive reinforcement: When you save money by not drinking cocktails, use that money to do something you love.
I may have slipped into I write down everything I eat in one day, but habits can also be built over time. Dr Tovar told me that making small changes in behavior makes success more possible and missing a few days less of a big problem. “It’s much easier to go back to smaller baseline behavior than insurmountable behavior,” he said.
This is the thing. You can always start over. And then, one day, what was once a goal is just your life. A life different from what it was and hopefully better.
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