The American Medical Association reported that 40%-50% of American adults made New Year resolutions. Several studies showing how the percentage of success with a determined behavioral change decreases as time progresses. The most common resolutions are weight loss, quitting smoking, and initiating exercise. Research on smoking cessation as a New Year’s resolution shows that 77% succeeded the first week, 55% the first month, and only 19% maintained abstaining from for the next 2 years.
New Year resolutions offer an opportunity to self-assess and make changes for the better. So, what happens with time? Why don’t we carry through with our resolutions? The answer lies in our readiness to change and our awareness of what might be underlying those behaviors we wish to change.
Everything we do serves a purpose, even those behaviors we might find problematic. A behavior that might become a problem always starts as a solution for something else. For example, biting our nails or smoking can be ways in which we are trying to dissipate our anxiety. Instead of focusing on our anxiety which would lead us to looking at maybe unresolved issues or emotions not expressed, we focus our attention on something else. It is a way of distracting ourselves from what is really happening inside of us. If we do not deal with the deeper issues, our New Year’s resolution will not be able to be kept because it is our way of coping. If we take away our coping mechanism, then we are left with something that we might not know how to deal with which causes anxiety and pushes us to find a way to release it like biting nails or smoking.
Here are some tips that can help you keep your New Year’s resolution in route to be a better you.
- Look at your resolution list… is it a resolution or a wish?
Sometimes we confuse resolution with wish, setting ourselves for failure. It is important to recognize that a resolution is intended to be a behavioral change towards your personal growth. For you to succeed, it is important to determine an attainable goal that depends on you and your inner work. It requires a process.
For example, if you are worried about your weight and your resolution is to lose 100lbs this year, you might be setting yourself for failure as there are many variables that are part of this wish that need to take place for you to lose weight. How much you lose is something very difficult to determine lightly.
- Figure out why you do what you do.
Change is difficult and we are usually resistant to it, particularly when it implies stopping something from which we get comfort like eating or smoking.
Think about your resolutions. Take one by one and see if you can figure out what purpose it is serving you. Ask yourself, why am I doing this? If you wish to stop eating so much, figure out why you are eating? How do you feel when you have this urge to eat, or drink, or smoke… any of the behaviors you wish to change.
Once you have recognized that is underneath that behavior you wish to change, you can start really focusing on what might be your resolution and something you can definitely work on that will lead you to a profound and long-lasting change.
- Is my resolution self-blaming?
Sometimes a resolution is a criticism of ourselves, things we feel bad about, guilty about, ashamed about. When resolutions come with critical and negative emotions, we are less likely to accomplish them because we are touching deep vulnerable feelings underneath our self criticism and usually this comes with negative emotions towards ourselves. Negative feelings towards oneself perpetuates our feelings of low self esteem and brings us down which in turn leads us to look for ways to compensate and distract ourselves from the awareness of such feelings creating more and more strategies such as over eating, drinking, smoking, etc.
See if you can rephrase your resolution as you recognize that everything that you do serves a purpose. So, maybe instead of saying “I want to lose 100 pounds (because I am fat)” and as you recognize that I am overeating because I am stressed or sad for my loss… so your resolution can be “I will take care of myself and my body by eating healthy and exercising”. Notice the difference between both examples in terms of the emotions towards yourself.
- Instead of depriving yourself, substitute for something healthy
As we have seen, we do what we do for a reason. If we take away our strategy to cope, we are left with no way to coping. Instead of taking away, think of substituting. For example, if I recognize that I am over eating as a way of distracting myself from the pain of a loss, I might think of healthier ways of soothing my pain. I might find comfort with my favorite frozen fruit, exercising, or meeting up with a friend to talk.
- Track yourself
Once you have found what is happening inside of you and where your deep transformation lies, write down the steps that are part of the process towards your desired change. Having these steps in front of you do the following:
- Make the necessary arrangements/changes in your environment to allow your steps to be successful.
- Reward yourself as you reach each step.
- Know that as time goes by and you move through your process, it is ok to be flexible and change.
- Find a your Accomplice
Find someone with whom you can work on your resolution. Encourage each other. Help each other avoid self-criticism and blame if you slip.
Be kind to yourself, change takes time and is not always easy but you can do it! Working through your deep emotions will make you stronger, kinder, and better.