Keeping Those New Year’s Resolutions

Photo: Matthew Verdun.

By Matthew Verdun

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The coming of a new year brings hope and optimism for what lies ahead. Most people make some sort of change resolutions in the new year. Sadly, many people also do not keep their resolutions. Whether your resolution is to eat healthier, be a better partner, get in shape, drink/smoke less, or anything else, here are some solution focused tips to help you stay on track.

Do what works for you! There are mountains of articles and advice columns about how to make change, each giving dramatically different advice. There is a reason for this range of advice: no one solution works for all people. A key is to try new ways of change for a few weeks and see how the plan works for you. Keep trying on changes until you find one that fits.

If you fall off the wagon, get back on. Whether you find you stopped eating healthy or found yourself on an app way too much (again), take a step back and start over. Look at the slip as an opportunity to evaluate what didn’t work and how you can change tactics in a new attempt. Each attempt is an experiment to see if it will work or not. If it works, do more of it and evaluate what is working to further enhance the benefits. If the attempt does not work, take a step back and look at what made it not work. Was the whole idea not workable or was there something that happened to make it not work and you can account for that issue and try again?

The solution is not always related to the problem. We often think of solutions in a limited range of options. The solution is usually to stop doing the problematic thing or find a different thing to do (replacement behavior). An example of replacement behaviors are carrots or gum instead of cigarettes. While this is good, it does not necessarily meet the description of solution not being related to the problem. An example of solution not related to the problems is something like: taking the time you would be on your smoke break with coworkers to chat in the breakroom. In this example the smoker wants to have social interaction but also wants to quit smoking, they get the social interaction need met while not smoking.

Small steps lead to big change. There are always stories of people who went “cold turkey” for some sort of change. If that works, I’m glad to hear it. For most people repeated failure leads to demoralization and giving up. If your goal is to improve something in your life, choose small ways to make those improvements every day and celebrate every time you do them. Note: there may be times when going “cold turkey” is necessary, like using drugs or alcohol. If you are concerned about withdrawal from substances you may need assistance with detoxification and should consult a medical doctor.

Celebrate achievements! People often tell me they have difficulty celebrating making progress toward a health goal because they “should” be doing it anyway. If you were doing whatever your goal is, you wouldn’t need to make change. Celebrate the small achievement you have on your way to making lasting change.

Keep these things in mind and you can accomplish your goals. Take small steps each day. When you “fall off the wagon” evaluate the information as to what led to the fall and make a plan to avoid that pitfall. Finally, remember that solutions are not always related to the problem, get creative in how you stick to those resolutions.

The information in this article is for informational purposes only. If you believe you need mental health services please contact your insurance provider, medical doctor, or local mental health agency for referrals.

Matthew Verdun, MFT
CA BBS License Number: LMFT85437