Here we find ourselves in 2016 with the month of February rapidly approaching. Many of us have given up on our new year’s resolutions and have gone back to our less than stellar activities. For those still walking the path to redemption, I commend you. If you have fallen off the wagon, there is still hope. Bring yourself out of the funk and break the cycle. Typically, we get caught up an an ever revolving circle of disappointment that results from our own decisions. We cheat on our diets, we skip workouts, we hit snooze on the alarm to many times, we make plans, we break plans, and we give up. January is the world’s reset button. The past year is now behind us and we look forward to keeping all the promises that we make to ourselves.
The #NewYearNewMe statement is everywhere. Our resolve can be strengthened by the idea that this is “our” year. We created a new year’s resolution to become better and stop doing the things that drag us down a self-destructive path. Then the inevitable happens. We slip once, then again, and again until we no longer feel we can continue our plan of redemption. Most will make it three weeks, some tough it out for a month, and the rare will brave it past February. No matter what, at some point, we will fall prey to our inherent weaknesses and give in to the voice that says, “it’s okay, everyone is breaking their new year promises”. This does not have to be the case.
Here are some tips to turn your New Year’s resolutions into concrete goals:
- It’s easier to Add instead of Subtract
When most of us begin creating our resolutions, we focus on eliminating our harmful behaviors in one fell swoop. This method can be problematic because we tend to cut out too much too quickly, which can shock our brains and send us running back to our comfort zone. Instead, focus on adding healthy behaviors and gradually stripping away the negative areas. If you love pizza and have been eating this cheesy delicacy three times a week, a good idea would be to add more home cooked, healthy meals and cut back your marinara pie indulgence to one time a week as a “reward meal” on Saturday or Sunday. This will give you something to look forward to after a hard weeks work and you will associate pizza with reward instead of shame. Restart your resolution by turning a vice into a reward for consistent effort.
2. Cut Yourself Some Slack
Let’s face it. You are going to fall short. This is part of the process of change. It is almost like the 5 stages of loss: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. At first, your mind and body will reject the change, which causes a disbelief in the new behaviors taking place. You will get mad at your progress and go full on rage mode as you try to grasp the concept of giving up an ingrained habit, comfort food, or guilty pleasure. You will attempt to make deals with yourself on how cheating isn’t a bad thing or the voice in your head will say something like, “just once won’t kill me”. You will give in to your deep rooted desires for things to remain the same, which will throw you into a state of regret and shame. This is a pivotal moment in the process. At this point, you will either decide to give up on your quest for change and trudge back to the old, stifling behavior or you will press onward with firm resolve to finish what you started. This is all normal. Don’t completely de-rail your confidence train because of a few slip ups. If you stay on the track and keep pushing forward, the new behavior will become your normal and your vices will get left behind.
3. Join Forces
The chances of success in any battle are always bolstered by reinforcements. In the fight for your new, healthy lifestyle it pays dividends to bring a buddy along for the ride. If you can find a friend that is looking to make the same lifestyle changes, or one that has already laid the ground work in his or her own life, then your able to wage war together. This provides motivation, accountability, and a competitive twist to an otherwise lonesome walk down improvement road. You can push each other through tough workouts, prepare and eat healthy meals together, check in on each other’s progress, and provide positive reinforcement when the chips are down. I have had my best experiences in my fitness escapades when I worked in tandem with a partner. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it definitely wasn’t built alone. Grab some back up and get busy!
4. Stay Positive
A positive attitude works wonders when you’re trying to alter negative behaviors. This is a practice that is much easier said than done. It is so easy to spiral downwards and crawl back to the comfortable shelter that those fatty foods or couch parties provide. Remember that your situation is never as bad as it seems and that your sadness, discomfort, and pain are temporary feelings. When these inevitably crop up, take a deep breath and remind yourself of why your making these changes. Try and feel the elation and triumph you feel when you finish a hard workout or you go a day without indulging your sweet tooth. Visualize yourself hearing complements from the people around you and how amazing it will be when your wardrobe size shrinks. Remind yourself that you can finish what you have started and the reward at the end of the hard road is just over the horizon.