One of the first things people do in the New Year is make resolutions to be a better person, to be kinder, to take more time with family and friends and to try to be healthier. Unfortunately, we sometimes get overwhelmed with our resolutions and end up leaving them along the road of life somewhere. How do we follow through with these resolutions?
The What? Know exactly what to change. Do you need more information about what to change? Do you have a reliable source for information on: Diet? Exercise? Tobacco? Alcohol? Whatever else you wish to change?
Not all sources of information are accurate. Is the web page, flyer, etc trying to get you to buy something? Remember! If it is too good to be true, then it isn't! If those products that promise you ripped abs in 2 weeks worked (or lose weight or grow hair or …), we would all be thinner and have better hair! That stuff doesn’t work!
The Want? Decide whether you even want to change. If you don’t really want to change, then nothing will happen. If you are trying to change because someone else wants you to, then you won’t succeed. YOU have to want to change and you have to do it for yourself, not someone else.
Sometimes wanting to change and finding the motivation can be very emotional. What if I fail?? Why can’t I do this right?? Why won’t anyone help me?? Sometimes when we block ourselves emotionally (I KNOW I am going to fail) it is easier to change the emotional roadblock by changing your behavior first, and then work on the emotions. That means - once you are walking every day or eating less or whatever – then you can tell yourself “see! I CAN do it right!”
The How? Develop the 7 skills you need to make the change happen:
· Set a course for success.
· Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
· Arrange for success, not failure.
· Watch what you are doing.
· Reward your actions.
· Recruit a support team.
· Have a plan to stay on track.
You need to have all of these skills, to have the best chance of success. Set a course for success. Sometimes we start with a goal that is too general and become overwhelmed. Start with a general goal, and then specify what you have to do to achieve it.
For example: General goal: I want to eat better. Target behavior: I will eat 5 fruits & veggies every day. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It is better to start small and be successful in the long run, than to aim too big and get burned out. So rather than immediately start eating 5 fruits and veggies every day, maybe start out as “I’ll add one more fruit or veggie to my daily diet every week until I reach 5 a day.”
Arrange for success, not failure. Change your environment to help you achieve success. For example, with regards to the 5 a day goal: Don’t buy a week’s worth of “5 a day” at the very beginning or it will go bad in the fridge. Don’t buy any new junk food – use up or give away what you have at home. “If I buy fruit or veggies that I like to eat – and not so much junk – then I will gradually replace the junk with healthier options.” If you re-arrange your kitchen stocks and don’t stock junk, you are less likely to eat it. Also, if you buy too many fruits & veggies in the beginning, you will feel overwhelmed and your digestive system may over react to the extra fiber.
Watch what you are doing. Keep a written record of how you are doing and your progress. By keeping track of what you are doing, it helps to positively reinforce the behavior you want to change. Keeping track of your daily progress gives you one more tool to help you achieve the change you want. “Wow! I made my goal for this week regarding the number of fruits & veggies!”
Reward your actions. We ALL need to be rewarded for a job well done! What works for one person as a reward, may not work for another. Why is food such a great reward (although not always healthy)? Because it fills emotional and physical needs so well. One bite = rewards & two bites = guilt! Also, over time the new behavior itself becomes the reward when you start to feel better about yourself and your accomplishments. Include your rewards in your daily logs so that you remember to give yourself the rewards. “I made my goal this week as to the number of fruits & veggies, so now my reward is _______ (not Ben & Jerry’s)!
Recruit a support team. No, your friends can’t do the work for you, but they can act as your cheer leaders. Our friends and family can either support us in our goal to be healthier or they can block us and prevent us from being healthier. If your family or friends are blocking you from being healthier, then find friends who are supportive and can help you rather than hinder you.
Get a change partner – someone who is trying to make the same change as you and can become your team mate. Have a change supporter – someone who isn't trying to change the same behavior as you, but who is supportive of your actions. “I can go to the farmer’s markets with my neighbor and make it fun to buy fresh fruit & veggies.”
Have a plan to stay on track because the new behavior takes a while to become second nature. We all have a tendency to slip back into old habits until that new behavior becomes the new second nature. Keep using your daily logs so you can help prevent this drift back to old behaviors before it happens. If you see yourself drifting back to old habits, steer yourself back before you get too far off track. For more information on making healthier choices, contact Health Promotion & Wellness at (760) 830-2814.