New Year’s resolutions are commonly made with good intention, but are they less likely to stick? Perhaps the impact of the COVID pandemic this year will be reflected in the kinds of resolutions we are making. Do we have more uncertainties? Will there be greater resolve to our decisions? Over half of the US population is expected to be making resolutions accordingly to the Western Connecticut Health Network. It is human nature to set goals at the start of something new. But statistically, less than ten percent of us will likely continue our challenges beyond a few months.
For many, common goals may be to lose weight, get more exercise, quit smoking, or save money. The likelihood of our failure will come from three common psychological issues: difficulty breaking old habits, inability to focus on specific outcomes, and problems identifying our purpose. We must develop new habits at the same time as we eliminate our old bad habits. Stopping smoking means eliminating smoking as a daily activity. Losing weight means changing our dietary habits and increased effort to exercise.
Our old habits have many facets that make them challenging to break. A smoking habit is influenced by lifestyle, places you go and people you associate with, the physical addiction to nicotine and the associated rituals such as alcohol, coffee or just plain emotions. Many get easily frustrated if their goals do not occur in short order. The serious quitter will commonly have initial failures before their efforts gain traction, and some may give up with the initial stumble.
Things that may help us achieve our purpose include developing a concept such as why we may want to lose weight as opposed to just an arbitrary number of pounds. Rather than that specific weight loss goal, work on a purpose of gradually losing weight over time which will require changing both eating habits as well as increasing your exercise. Do not put a time stamp on it. The more excited you get over introducing these concepts, the more likely it will work. For example, plan to exercise four days a week, but start at only fifteen-minute sessions. As this pattern becomes a habit, increase your time to twenty, then up to thirty minutes. Put half of your normal serving on your dinner plate, but still allow yourself to have limited seconds. Drink a glass of water with each setting. These compromises should not provide significant hardship but provide a level of self-satisfaction with each day’s accomplishment.
Lastly, make your intentions known. Let family, friends or co-workers become a part of your purpose. Those likeminded individuals can provide encouragement, perhaps even to participate with you as your base support. We are much more likely to meet our goals if there is some level of accountability that we set, either to ourselves or to others. Pick a positive plan for an effort you would like to make, develop a process to get there, give yourself time to accomplish, and do not quit at your first stumble. Give it your best shot!
Bradford Croft, DO
East Flagstaff Family Medicine