The New Year brings a myriad of reactions for people; joy, sorrow, relief, anxiety, happiness and hope. Not everyone experiences the changing of the numbers the same way.
Many people I know have a mixed reaction about the New Year. Some feel relief a tough year is over, other’s hope the New Year will bring about change and happiness, and some a renewed sense of motivation to set goals and attain dreams. And then there are those who perceive the New Year as simply ceremonial; the passing and marking of time from one year to the next.
How do you embrace the New Year?
If you are one to make resolutions, you are not alone; approximately half of all Americans will make a New Year’s resolution. However, only 8% of those who make a resolution will achieve their goal by the time the next year comes around. The following information may be helpful in deciding how to make the most of keeping and achieving your resolutions.
Resolutions for the New Year most often fall into categories of self-improvement, education, improving finances and relationships. A research study published in 2014 by the University of Scranton in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, reported approximately 48% of Americans make New Years Resolutions. The top ten New Years Resolutions were:
- Lose Weight
- Getting Organized
- Improving Finances (Save more, spend less)
- Enjoy Life
- Becoming more fit and healthy
- Learn something new and exciting
- Quit Smoking
- Help Others in Their Dreams
- Fall in Love
- Spend more time with family
If you have made one of the above-mentioned resolutions this year or in years past, it’s worth mentioning:
- 75% of people were able to maintain their resolution the first week after the New Year
- 71% of people kept their resolution past two weeks
- 64% kept resolutions past one month
- 46% were able to achieve their resolution past six months
As mentioned earlier, only 8% of individuals are successful in achieving their resolutions by the time an another year passes.
A little discouraging don’t you think? We all have such good intentions don’t we?
So what makes a new years resolution achievable so you can ensure you are in the 8% who achieve their goal if you choose to make a resolution?
1. Assess what needs to change. Before you jump into a resolution, ask yourself what needs to change? Then ask yourself what are you doing well in this area. Is this resolution something you want for yourself or are you feeling pressured to do so because of other reasons or people in your life? In order for change to happen, an individual needs to want to make a change and be ready to put a plan into action.
2. Be specific about your resolution. For example, a common resolution is to be healthy in the new year. But this a broad and vague goal. The more specific you can be, the more manageable it is to set behaviors and goals to achieve your resolution. If you want to be healthy, what part of health do you want to focus on? Diet, exercise, smoking cessation, reduce drinking or improve sleep schedule? I would encourage you to choose one part to start with first. Too many goals can become overwhelming.
3. Break your resolution into small, manageable steps. If your goal is to eat healthy-first, you have to make a list, or analysis is of your unhealthy behaviors. Then you need to put into place ways to reduce and eliminate the unhealthy behaviors and start adding new desired behaviors or goals. If the problem for you is late-nite eating in front of the television, first you need to start by finding other things to do during this time. For example, reading a book, journal, engage in a hobby, or call a friend. If you don’t want to change watching television, then plan to drink tea or eat a healthy snack instead of mindless bingeing.
4. Don’t Dwell on Challenges. Starting, developing and maintaining new behaviors takes work and discipline. If you have a rough day or slip into an old pattern, instead of giving up or calling yourself disparaging names, ask yourself, “What can I learn about myself from this setback?” And, ” How can I provide support to myself to reduce the possibility of this happening again?” Don’t dwell on a rough patch or set back,resume as soon as possible.
5. Measure your accomplishments. Small goals and achievements add up to make meaningful change. In Alcoholics Anonymous, when a person is sober for a day, they receive a chip. At each milestone, sobriety at 30 days, 90 days, six months and a year and beyond, there is a chip given to the individual to represent an accomplishment. When making change, highlight your success, even one day and then build upon that success thereafter.
6. Know yourself. Be realistic about the goal you want to achieve. If you want to exercise more, but are not a gym person, joining a gym, paying for a membership you will never use is going to feel discouraging and could make achieving your goal difficult. Spend some time thinking about how to incorporate more exercise into your day-to-day routine. I have a friend who found walking her dog every day, versus joining a gym, was the best form of exercise, and she loved being in nature as well.
7. Limit sabotaging thinking. Making statement to yourself like, ” I don’t know why I try, I can never follow through with anything” or ” I should just give up, this is too hard.” Don’t dwell on something you didn’t achieve or if you if you had a set back. Instead, keep focused on the big picture, starting a new behavior or eliminating a problematic behavior in your life takes time, energy, and effort. And often, starting something new requires perseverance and flexibility to adapt to see how to make the goal work. Remember, it’s a journey of change.
8. Be Compassionate and Encouraging to Yourself. Watch the way you talk to yourself. We often say negative things in our mind to ourselves; we would never imagine saying those same statements to other people in our lives. Offer yourself the same compassion and encouragement you would give to a child, family member or friend. If find yourself in a negative place, ask yourself, “If my friend came to me and told me what she was struggling with, how would I respond?” Often we are kinder to other people than we are to ourselves.
9. Reach Out for Support. Reaching out to supportive people for encouragement can help you in the process of change. Whether it’s a support group, friends, family or a therapist, a solid support system can help to achieve personal goals.
There is no right way to approach the New Year. Only you can decide where your energy lies to make a change. You need to be ready to make the change for yourself.
Wishing you a healthy and happy New Year!
© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2014