by Muffy Walker, MSN, MBA
Muffy Walker, of the International Bipolar Foundation, will be writing a monthly mental health column for KRL.
As 2012 comes to an end, and a new year awaits, millions of us around the world will formulate our New Year’s resolutions. In fact, according to Statistic Brain, about 52% of Americans will make resolutions.
In 2012, the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions were:
1. Lose weight
2. Get organized
3. Spend less, save more
4. Enjoy life to the fullest
5. Stay fit & healthy
6. Learn something exciting
7. Quit smoking
8. Help others in their dreams
9. Fall in love
10. Spend more time with family
Of those who make them, 75% keep their resolution through the first week, but only 8% are successful in achieving their resolution over the long term (a year).
The new year is a time to reflect on the past and assess ways in which we can better our lives. A New Year’s resolution is a commitment we make to ourselves to one or more personal goals. Although that sounds like a reasonable plan and something we should be able to attain, it is clearly not as easy as we each year delude ourselves into believing.
Why then, with success rates so low, do so many of us set ourselves up for failure? Setting goals or resolutions makes us feel more virtuous, more human. We are in effect, admitting our weaknesses or failures and perhaps believe we will be absolved of these failings.
I don’t think that we set out to consciously fail in our resolve, so what can we do to join the ranks of the 8% who are successful?
1.) Be realistic in setting your goals. If your past experience of setting a litany of resolutions has failed, perhaps this year you could start with just one. Have you set this goal in the past year after year? In the example of losing weight, is 50 pounds a realistic goal for someone your age, size & height? Is it medically advisable to lose that much weight? Be realistic.
2.) Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. If you want to live without the stress of unpaid bills, come up with a measurable plan to alleviate that stress. Perhaps saving 5% of your paycheck, learning to meditate or talking to a financial advisor are all steps in this direction. Visualizing yourself as ‘stress-free’ will help motivate you along the way.
3.) Make your goals measurable. Saying I will lose weight or drink less soda or compliment my spouse more are all fine and good, but how much weight, soda & compliments? Knowing exactly what goal it is you are working to attain will help you stay focused. Ex) I will lose 4 pounds by March 1, OR I will decrease my soda intake to only two 8 ounce cups per week by June 1, OR I will give my spouse one heartfelt compliment per week. As you can see, the more measureable, the more likely you can evaluate your progress.
4.) Replace the unhealthy behavior with a healthy one. One reason we may not succeed in sticking to our resolutions is because we take away a behavior; eating, drinking, smoking, but fail to replace it with a healthy substitute. If your goal is to give up smoking, (& I applaud you if it is), your goal might read like this; “Reduce my cigarette use by 1 cigarette per day AND add 5 minutes of brisk walking per day.”
5.) Get support in achieving your goals. If you have difficulty saving money and have set a goal to put 5% of your paycheck away, tell a family member or friend about your goal. Ask him/her to hold your debit card. Keep the piggy bank at your friend’s apartment, out of sight, out of mind. Asking for support from those you know are reliable and trustworthy, will give you the network you just might need.
6.) Give yourself a pat on the back. If your goals were easy, you wouldn’t be making them. Give yourself a break. It’s OK to have some chocolate once a week, or to skip your morning jog. Tell yourself you’ve deserved it and will get right back on track tomorrow. Be careful, however, not to let your break become the norm–again.
7.) Don’t give up. If you do slip up, tell yourself you’re human and get back on track. Call upon the support system you so brilliantly set up for times like this. Focus on the progress you have made to this point, and keep moving forward.
These tips are meant to help you stick to your resolutions. They are not a guarantee, but if you’ve read this article, you’re already on the right path to success.
Warm wishes for a wonderful holiday & a very happy New Year.
Check out KRL’s Mental Health section for more mental health related articles.