How To Make Lasting Changes For New Year’s or Any Time Of Year

Any Time Is A Good Time For Healthy Changes

Setting goals (rather than taking the traditional ‘resolution’ approach) can transform your year!

Each year, many people make resolutions for change, and each year, most of those resolutions go…unresolved. This isn’t due to people’s lack of desire for a better life; it’s just a byproduct of the reality that change is difficult. Our habits become ingrained and automatic; changing them requires constant effort until a new habit is formed. This resource can help you to make necessary alterations in your expectations, attitudes, and methods of change so that you can experience real results that last. The following ideas can help:

Think in Terms of “Goals”, Rather Than “Resolutions”: While most people make resolutions that they’re determined to keep, a better tactic would be to create goals. “What’s the difference?” you may ask. With traditional resolutions, people generally approach change with the attitude, “From now on, I will no longer [name a given behavior you’d like to change]>” The problem with this is, after one or two slip-ups, people feel like failures and tend to drop the whole effort, falling easily back into familiar patterns. By setting goals, one instead aims to work toward a desired behavior. The key difference is that people working toward goals expect that they won’t be perfect at first, and are pleased with any progress they make. Rather than letting perfectionism work against them, they allow motivation and pride to do their magic. The following ideas can help you with meeting your ‘New Years Goals’:

  • Remember That It’s A Process: Expect to work your way up, rather than maintaining perfection and feeling let-down if you don’t achieve it immediately.
  • Work Your Way Up: In setting goals for new behavior, aim for once or twice a week, rather than every day. For example, instead of saying, “I’ll go to the gym every day,” plan for “every Wednesday” or, better yet, sign up for a fun exercise class, and you can work your way up to more often.
  • Set Yourself Up To Succeed: Set small, attainable goals, and add more steps as you complete each one. This way, you gradually work your way toward the life you want and the necessary changes, but you experience much more ‘success’ along the way, rather than feeling like a failure if you don’t experience ultimate change overnight.

Have A Goal Each Month: If you’re like most people, you may have several changes you’d like to make in your life; if so, it may be a good idea to tackle one each month. This way, 1) you can focus more, as you won’t be trying to make several sweeping changes at once; 2) you can re-commit yourself each month to a new idea, so you keep growing all year, and self-improvement becomes a way of life; and 3) you can build on each success, so you can first free up time before you take on a new hobby or get involved in an important cause, for example. Also, habits generally take 21 days to form. This setup enables you to devote energy to forming new habits more easily before moving on to the next, so you’re not relying solely on will-power.

Reward Your Progress: While many of your resolutions carry their own reward, changing your habits can be challenging, and it’s sometimes easier to do so if you have a little extra help. (Remember how positive reinforcement from a supportive teacher helped you learn, even though the knowledge itself was its own reward?) Providing extra rewards for yourself can help you to stay on track and maintain your motivation, even if you sometimes don’t feel like making the effort solely for the sake of the benefit the change itself will create. The following are ways you can create rewards for yourself:

  • Team Up: Have a buddy who knows your goals, and encourage each other, even if you’re working on separate goals. This will provide you with someone who can give you a high-five when you deserve one, and a little encouragement when you need it.
  • Reward Small Successes: Divide your goal into bite-sized steps and have a reward waiting at the completion of each.
  • Align Rewards With Goals: Have rewards that are in line with your achievements (like new workout clothes for every 5 gym visits, or a beautiful new pen if you stick with your journaling habit for two weeks).

As for the goals you set, it’s important that you choose your goals wisely, or it will be hard to make them stick. You also want to pick goals that will really help improve your life, so the effort will have a nice payoff. I suggest these Top 10 Resolutions for Stress Relief or these Top 5 Changes for a Healthy Lifestyle. Good luck!

By Elizabeth Scott, M.S., About.com Guide

 

5 Ways Stress Affects Your New Year’s Resolutions

We often make New Year’s Resolutions at the stroke of midnight. We choose to improve things we’re unhappy with about ourselves. What we forget to think about is how stress affects whether or not we’ll actually follow through and stick with our resolutions for however long they’ll take to accomplish.

  1. We forget there are good (and bad) stressors that knock us off track.

Did you know there are two types of stressors: good and bad? Both cause an elevated spike in our stress-producing hormones: cortisol and adrenaline. We often forget that the good stressors can stress us out too. Even if we’re anticipating good stressors like: births, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, parties, and other celebrations…we can still end up feeling overwhelmed or anxious about the event. Our good intentions to follow-through on our resolution to exercise, lose weight, sleep more, eat healthy, invest money, etc., often are the first things to fall by the wayside.

  1. Stress is stress.

If our bodies have excess cortisol and adrenaline, then despite our best intentions, we find ourselves going back to old habits. Why? It’s easier, it feels safe, and our energy is going towards ridding our bodies of excess cortisol and adrenaline. It takes over 90 days for new behaviors to become automatic habits. When you’re resolving to do something new or different, concerted effort must be taken to think and then act on the new behaviors. If your motivation is down, then it becomes difficult to convince and hold yourself to carrying through with your new resolutions.

  1. We ignore our bodies’ warning signals…physically.

Fatigue, headaches, indigestion, migraines, weight gain, high blood pressure, clenched jaws, tight muscles, not being able to slow down/relax, and insomnia are signs of too much stress.

  1. We ignore our bodies’ warning signals…emotionally.

Feelings of being alone, overwhelmed, unsupported, anxious, ignored, unimportant, rushed, or angry means for:

Women—we do not have enough of our stress-producing hormone, oxytocin.

Men—we do not have enough of our stress-producing hormone, testosterone.

  1. We ignore our bodies’ warning signals…mentally.

We set ourselves up for failure when we heed the negative talk in our heads.  Fogginess, confusion, and black and white/all-or-nothing thinking are signs that your brain is not working at peak capacity.

Solutions

  • When making your resolutions, plan around and anticipate that BIG life events (good stressors) will happen sometime during the year.
  • Make your resolutions have specific start and end dates.
  • Pencil in the dates on your calendar for the fun and happy events (good stressors) that you already know will occur.
  • Plan down-time into your life, so you can off-set stress and replenish your stress-reducing hormones. You need to do stress-reducing activities daily to keep stress levels low.
  • Sit down with your calendar, and write in your start and end dates for your resolutions.
  • When you do have bad stressors happen—like accidents, deaths, illnesses—re-visit and re-define your new end date for your resolutions.
  • Find someone who can keep you accountable. When you ask someone to help keep you on track—make sure they are willing to give you feedback. When you’re held accountable and have access to objective constructive criticism to what’s working and what’s not working is a great way to fireproof your resolution and ensure 100% commitment to accomplishing your goal(s).

Life happens. When we’re able to roll with the unexpected changes, then we can do things pro-actively to work with both kinds of stressors so our stress levels remain low and our motivation high. It’s when we forget to plan ahead for the contingencies that we lose motivation.

Lyndsay Katauskas, MEd

Mars Venus Coaching

Corporate Media Relations

16 Steps to Write New Year’s Resolutions that Work

Are you wondering how some people can make New Year’s Resolutions and stick with them, while other people can’t or don’t or won’t even thing about writing them out, let alone completing them. Here’s how to be successful at following-through on the new you in the new year.

  1. Start thinking about what your short term goal is for the next year.
  2. Remember or come up with your 5 and 10 year goals.
  3. When you make your New Year’s Resolutions, make sure that they relate in some way to either your short term or long term goals. The reason behind this is to link your resolution into what naturally motivates you to pursue change. This also helps you keep your resolutions high on your priority list as well.
  4. Plan out 2012. On a calendar pencil in the BIG events for the year.
  5. Pick a day where you have space and time to think, plan, and write out your resolutions. Anticipate writing out your resolutions. Make it fun and memorable. Our bodies are wired to seek pleasure.
  6. Brainstorm and jot down the things you’d like to change or do more of in the next year.
  7. Next, look at your calendar to see how much time you have each month to devote to each of your resolutions. Estimate how many hours or days per week you can work on each resolution.
  8. Plan for wiggle room. We usually have a head’s up for when there are good stressors or life events such as births, weddings, birthdays, celebrations, etc. However, illnesses, deaths, accidents, layoffs, car troubles, are usually unexpected. Give yourself time and compassion to deal with these unforeseen events.
  9. Set start and end dates for each of your resolutions. Before you commit to due dates, read through and do steps 10-13 first.
  10. Next look at how far you think you’ll get with each resolution in the next 90 days. Define what you will have to do to accomplish that resolution in the next 3 months. Write each step out. It’s okay to have 10 to 20 steps.
  11. Then looking at your calendar, define how many of those steps you can do in the next 30 days.
  12. Before you commit to what steps you’ll do in the first 30 days, check-in with your calendar to see how much time you can devote for the next 4 weeks.
  13. Set weekly due dates with 1 or 2 days to allow for the unexpected.
  14. Remind yourself of when things are due. Set up reminders in your phone, with software, or online calendars.
  15. Tell someone what you’re planning to do.
  16. Ask someone to hold you accountable to follow-through on your resolution. Someone who does not want your time themselves, who can be objective, can offer feedback, ask the hard questions, and help you brainstorm how to trouble-shoot setbacks, loss of motivation, etc. will guarantee a higher level of commitment out of you to perform and accomplish what you’d like to change.

Lyndsay Katauskas, MEd

Mars Venus Coaching

Corporate Media Relations