Every year most of us begin with a New Year’s Resolution. The most common is to change the bad habits that we have accumulated over many many years of practice: lack of exercise, poor eating habits, smoking, etc…We are motivated and have good intentions but unfortunately, most of us fail to make any real change.
People fail at resolutions for several reasons. The main reason is that a New Year’s Resolution is a global change in behavior that is too difficult to master all at once. Another and more important reason is that the brain is hard-wired to do what is familiar. There is little conscious effort involved in doing what we have grown accustomed to doing for most of our lives. Finally, the resolutions are hard to stick to because there is no plan.
Here are some tips to help you make the changes you want for 2012 and really feel good about yourself.
First, accept that your brain is pre-programmed to fall back into habits. Once you accept this is how your brain works you can compensate by teaching it to perform differently. You don’t need a herculean effort to change when you commit to the following steps:
1. Breakdown your habits into steps. For Example, if you eat poorly identify the worst food habits that you have. Make a list.
2. Commit to choosing one item on your list that you will focus on for one month. Don’t tackle all the behaviors at once. Practice the one new behavior for one month until it becomes a habit. Your brain loves habit. Feel good that you taught it a healthy one.
3. Start with the easiest one to change first. With a feeling of success, you can then move onto the next one.
4. Once you have broken down your habits into specific steps, you will be able to devise a plan for the next several months or the year if it requires that many steps to reach your goal.
5. Work on your habits in a group. The brain is highly influenced by others. If others are supportive and practicing good habits, you will too.
6. If you have a hard time identifying your specific steps, ask for help from someone who has succeeded at the same goal you are setting for yourself. They can coach you towards the ultimate goal: a healthier you in a Happier New Year.
Individual therapy and coaching services are available at Specialized Therapy Associates and at LifeWork Strategies. There are coaches who specialize in using techniques for efficient and effective change.
Dr. Vanessa Gourdine