Sticking to Your New Year Resolutions

A Lifelong Resolution
Many of us make new year's resolutions to change something in our lives that we know is doing us and/or others harm, like smoking, eating too much, or drinking too heavily. But often the New Year comes and goes, and nothing has changed. Instead of feeling like a failure, or making the same resolution every year, make a lifelong resolution to change, that simply begins this year. Making a long-term resolution requires a few slow steps, the first of which is to commit.

In order to commit to a change you need to know why you are doing it. Think about what you want to achieve, and why. If your resolution is to quit smoking, why? You probably already know the answers to this question, but it's important to spell them out to yourself. I assure you that you will need to remind yourself of them sometime down the road.

Thinking about what you want to do is the first step towards doing it. (Just be careful not to get stuck at this step.) It allows you to become a little more aware of yourself and your lifestyle. You will start paying attention to what prompts your smoking, or your overeating. This information is valuable to breaking your habit. If you know that you always overeat when you get home from work, that might be just the right time to plan your workouts. Give yourself a week or two to mull over what this change might mean to your life. Play devil's advocate with yourself, and play out all the arguments against change in your mind. Defend your reasons to change, these will become the cornerstones of all the work you have ahead of you.

Planning and Pacing
Part of creating change is planning for it. The key to coming up with a plan that works is to pay close attention to pacing and convenience.

Set goals for yourself that progress at a realistic pace. It's easy to get caught up in wanting it all to happen really quickly, but it will take some time to feel the difference. If you want to lose 20 pounds, try to lose roughly one and a half pounds a week, rather than five. This will help you avoid frustration, will be healthier, and will help you keep the weight off. If you want to quit smoking and cold turkey doesn't work for you, cut out 2 cigarettes a day for the first week, and then four cigarettes a day in the second week, and so on. Give yourself a chance to see the improvements. When you feel like giving up, give yourself another month for your changes to start having an impact on your life. And don't dismiss the tiny differences, such as being less out of breath, these are indications of something much larger.

Setting realistic goals is particularly important in adopting an exercise regimen. A person's body takes time to gain cardiovascular strength, muscle, and flexibility. Rushing this process will lead to injury. Many people injure themselves just when they are getting started. This is often because their cardiovascular strength is the first element to improve and so they begin to push themselves beyond the level that their muscles or joints can endure. It is essential to allow your muscles and joints the time to match your growing cardiovascular strength; otherwise you will be stopped in your tracks by pulled muscles and sore knees. Intersperse hard days with rest days so that your body has a chance to heal, and you have a chance to push yourself without getting hurt.

Planning and Convenience
It is equally as important to make a plan that is convenient to you, and that doesn't demand of you that you make the decision to commit again and again everyday. Don't make a plan that is bound to fail. If your resolution is to drink less alcohol, make it convenient for yourself by making sure you have something else in the house to drink. If you want to workout more often, find a gym that is on the your way home, and choose an exercise that doesn't require a lot of equipment at first, like walking. This way you can be a little more flexible, and less dependent on gym hours or the availability of certain pieces of equipment.

There will be a time or a period of time when you feel like giving up, or you even slip a bit. Don't beat yourself up just get back on track immediately. It is a long process to incorporate new habits into your lifestyle, but these changes are lifelong, and so must be the process of change. If you find that you can't make a change alone, try to find some help. And make sure that the people who are around you know that you are making this effort. Ask them for their help by asking them not to offer you sweets at work, or making sure they offer you something besides a beer to drink. Revisit your original goals, and your original reasons for making a resolution. If you haven't reached your goals, you might have set them too high, lower them and try again. Don't wait for the next new year to get started up again, reassess where you are with the change, for instance how many cigarettes are you smoking everyday, reassess your plan, see where it might not have been the best plan, and recommit.

Good Luck and a Healthy Happy New Year.

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