Lots of people start out the New Year full of hope for the upcoming year and ready to make some self improvements. Often by late January, early February, however, the resolutions of the New Year have fallen by the wayside, leaving you discouraged. If you want to make this the year that your resolutions finally stick, follow these simple steps.
1. Set realistic goals. Keep your goals manageable, and only make one change at a time. It's great if you want to quit smoking, lose weight, exercise more, switch to a healthier diet, kick your career into gear, find the love of your life, and generally be a better person, but it can be overwhelming to make a sudden life shift in every area of your life overnight. As admirable as your goals may be, making too many goals is a recipe for failure.
Your goals should also be a reflection of what you want for yourself. For instance, everyone knows the hazards of smoking, but unless you really want to quit for yourself, pressure from your family, doctor, and friends is not going to be enough to sustain your successful quitting. 'Shoulds' generally won't get you very far. You have to want it for yourself. Ask yourself why you want to make the change. Make a list and keep your personal reasons in mind as you work through your goal. Post them somewhere you'll see them often, even if that place is someplace only you can see them.
If you have a lot of goals, or even one big goal, map it out with timelines for smaller goals on the way to your big goal(s). Chunk the goal up into bite sized segments that you can manage to rock successfully. Set up incremental goals on your calendar or smart phone with concrete tasks or behaviors every day or week to get you to where you want to be. Make a vision board to incorporate your more creative side, along with your linear mind. Chunk the goal up into bite sized segments that you can manage to rock successfully. Celebrate and reward yourself for every step that you reach successfully.
2. Plan. How are you going to work your goal into every day life? The stresses of work, school, and family are likely not going to magically line up to create space for you to have the perfect environment for change. You have to plan ahead. How will you deal with stress? What's your back up plan? What steps do you need to have in place to create space for your changes? How do those fit in with the goals and mini-goals you've set for yourself? Visualize yourself being successful in daily life. What does that look like? What do you need to make that happen? It might be keeping a stash of healthy snacks on hand, or a sticky note to remind you to breathe on your computer or dashboard. Whatever it is, make a plan.
3. Enlist support. Find friends, family, and community to help support you and keep you accountable. This might mean that you find partners to help keep you accountable for things like diet or exercise, or it might mean finding group classes that help keep you on track. It may also mean finding a good personal trainer, or enlisting the help of a professional like a counselor, naturopathic, or chiropractic physician. Find a friend or group to walk with, take a healthy cooking class, or just find a fulfilling group activity that gives you something meaningful and rewarding, even if it has nothing to do with your goal directly. When it comes to friends and family, find people who earnestly have your best interest at heart and will support you, even on the days that you feel low. Pick people who will keep you on track and feeling good about yourself.
4. Sleep on it. It's really hard to make changes without enough sleep. Lack of sleep sabotages every goal, and as humans, we are light-sensitive creatures. People tend to need a little more sleep in the darker months naturally, but society encourages us to keep going. Lack of adequate rest leads to increased food cravings and intake, can sabotage the best exercise plans, and leave you less focused for work or school or social engagement. Good sleep makes stress much easier to deal with, and helps cement your good work towards your goal. The processes that happen in sleep will help make your daily activities towards your goal more of a natural habit, and easier to sustain.
5. If at first you don't succeed... try, try again. If you fall off the wagon, just get back on ASAP. Making a mistake or being imperfect doesn't make you a bad person. It makes you human. Don't waste any time beating yourself up about it. Shame is not useful for reaching your goal, but can send you into a downward spiral. Now is the time to be kind and gentle to yourself. Stop any negative thinking and ask yourself what you need to get back up and reach your goal. It may be time to ask for assistance.
Re-evaluate your goal. Was it realistic? Did you do enough planning? Was it something you really wanted? Is it something you still want? It's not a failure if you realize that it's not something you really want, and you decide to let it go and pursue something else that's more in line with what you want for your life. If it is still something that you really want, go back to step one and reset your goals and plans, find support and get back on track! Sometimes failure can lead to some insights and a better plan and greater success in the long run, if you use it to your advantage and really take the lesson from it.
6. Setting a habit takes about 21 days. Go back through these steps until you make it through for three weeks or so. At first, it may feel like you're white knuckling through, but it should get easier and easier to maintain without a lot of additional effort, especially if you remind yourself why you want this for yourself. For most goals, you can start to relax a little once it becomes more habit, and start to follow the 80/20 rule. If you're doing the right thing (diet or exercise) 80% of the time, you're still going to see results. (Smoking, dangerous or addictive behaviors, eating disorders, or areas that may be real triggers for you are exceptions).
Bonus: If your goal is to have a healthier diet, lose weight and resist cravings, my colleague Dr. Ben Lynch, ND recommends this protocol. If you are craving simple carbs like chips, chocolate, ice cream, or bread, and these foods leave you feeling more relaxed, calm and happy, you may be low in serotonin. Combat these cravings, and get the peaceful effects without giving in to the craving by taking one capsule of 50mg 5-HTP. If you're craving more calorie-dense foods like pizza or fast foods, you may be low in dopamine. A capsule of 250-500mg of L-Tyrosine may help curb the craving. These supplements should not be taken if you are on some medications, and may need to be supervised. If there is an underlying mood issue or eating disorder, that should also be addressed with your physician. (This does not constitute, and should not be construed as, medical advice. Dietary needs are unique depending on the individual, and I recommend individual evaluation depending on your unique needs. Every calorie is not created equally!)
Everyone starts out the New Year with the best of intentions. We can help you keep them!
Call for your appointment today. (503) 305-7762