Monday Medical: How to make resolutions reality
Steamboat psychologist recommends focus, 4 steps to success
January 3, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Have you made any New Year's resolutions? Or are you jaded by the fact that these hopeful promises we make to ourselves often fade away before the snow melts?
When a new year rolls around, it's common to reflect on the past year, look forward to the future, and resolve to make it better. Popular resolutions include improving one's health, improving one's financial status, getting organized, helping others and spending more time with family and friends, to name a few.
Making a resolution to change and sticking to it is not easy. So I asked Tom Traynor, a licensed psychologist in Steamboat Springs, for some strategies.
First and foremost, he thinks that coming up with an entire list is too much.
"Take on one and only one resolution," he said. "There is no right one or best one — just pick one. It doesn't matter what you pick."
Next, Traynor suggests applying these four steps:
■ Look at the bigger picture.
"To make a change work, you need to be able to go beyond the issue and see the bigger picture," he said. "Make a list of reasons why you should make that change."
Think about all of the possible outcomes that will come of that change. For example, if your resolution is to quit smoking, your list could include: save money, breathe more easily when working out and get rid of smoker's cough. Consider how this change will help you as well as those around you. Changing your diet or drinking less will help you live a healthier and longer life so you will be there for your family and friends.
■ Visualize the new you.
Identify yourself as if you have already made the change in your life.
"Define yourself as the change you want to come about," Traynor said. "Learn to say, 'I am a nonsmoker; I am 10 pounds lighter.'"
Once you start to identify your new self you can imagine how your life will change as your new self. Imagine how you will feel physically and emotionally. What can you do now that you could not do before?
■ Team up.
People who join support groups such as Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous often have success because people are working together to achieve the same goal. You can communicate how you are doing with others who understand. Traynor thinks that change can be more attainable with support, even if it's one person. So buddy up with a friend or a spouse to help you eat better, or work out more. Check in with each other to keep it going.
■ Reinforce yourself with a reward.
Celebrate your success by rewarding yourself with something you want. The money you save by quitting smoking or drinking could help you buy that new pair of skis. Lose a few pounds and buy those new jeans. If you've been eating better, treat yourself with upgrades in the kitchen.
Last but not least, if you get off track, don't be discouraged. If you stray from your resolution, Traynor said to think of it as part of the process of change, and keep trying.
"If you relapse, instead of saying, 'I'm not going to be able to do this,' say, 'This is good practice. I learned something about myself and the change I am trying to make.'"
Apply these steps to your resolution, and keep at it. If you have not made a resolution yet, take your time. You have all year to make it happen. Have a happy and healthy 2011.
Riley Polumbus is a communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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