We have all done it. January 1st comes around and we make resolutions to conquer those things that have been pestering us or that we have been putting off…only to be broken a few months later. Well, we are not alone. According to the University of Scranton, only 46% of people maintain their resolutions for more than 6 months.
So what is it about New Year’s Resolutions that make them so hard to keep? One reason may be that we often use this time of year to change something that is pretty huge to us and has been hard to modify in the past. We also tend to pick things that make us feel bad in the short-term when we do them, even though we know they will make us feel better in the long run. Getting up in the morning before work sure can feel hard when you first get started. Similarly, anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows that when you decide to start your diet, the feelings of hunger and the thoughts of all the foods you cannot have feel like they get stronger and pester you even more than normal. Quitting smoking is also a wonderful thing to do for yourself, but can feel emotionally and physically painful in the process. It’s no surprise these resolutions are really hard to keep!
This year, I would like to challenge you to think about resolutions from a different perspective. One that just may help you reach those big goals you have for yourself!
So here is the big question. Why would I ask you to GAIN this year?
Merriam-Webster defines GAIN as: “something wanted or valued that is gotten; something that is helpful; advantage or benefit; an increase in amount, size, or number.”
Over time, most of us have come to associate the word GAIN, with something negative. Often times our minds go straight to gaining things we see as bad, such as weight, debt, stress. What if…we applied this definition toward other, more positive things that we really wanted to add into our lives?
Adding in the positive to our lives is often easier than taking something away. It feels good, it is reinforcing, and it often leave far less space in our lives to engage in those pesty negative behaviors we want so badly to get rid of.
So what kinds of GAINS do you want to make this year?
– Is it gaining quality time with your family?
– Is it gaining strength emotionally or physically?
– How about adding healthier, more nutritious foods into your diet?
– Could it be gaining a healthy and positive view of how you see and talk to yourself? (How often are we guilty of saying hurtful things to ourselves that we would never say about anyone else?)
– Would you like to gain a hobby or gain a sense of satisfaction or by challenging yourself to learn something new?
– It could even be gaining more ability to be patient, honest, or forgiving.
Often times these positive GAINS are incompatible with our previously unhealthy lifestyles. When we add the healthier choices or behaviors, we sometimes find that the negative ones fall away on their own.
The great thing about focusing on the positive in your New Year’s Resolution is that each minute, hour, day or week is a chance to start over. So instead of slipping up, having that cigarette and calling it a failure, you are able to ask yourself, “what else can I focus on today to meet my goal?” Resolutions do not need to to be completed perfectly. They are chances to learn from mistakes and find ways to continue to make healthy choices.
Sometimes, however, it can be hard to get our minds to stop focusing on the goal of less or loss. It has become a habit. We get stuck in these patterns of cognitive distortion that keep us from moving forward. Some of the common cognitive distortions that we get ourselves stuck in are:
– All-or-None Thinking: This type of thinking often uses terms like every, always or never. It leaves very little room for the grey area. “I will wake up EVERY morning to get to the gym.” “I am NEVER able to keep my resolutions.”
- SOLUTION: We have to challenge ourselves to see the grey area. It is important not to think in extremes. Thoughts like, “I will wake up a few days this week to go to the gym,” or “I have had a hard time keeping my resolutions in the past, but I am capable of making change” can keep us from feeling like failures or giving up.
– Mental Filter: This type of thinking happens when you focus on the negatives and ignore the positives. “I keep screwing up.”
- SOLUTION: Making sure that we make an intentional effort to notice our successes is an important step. We tend to focus and give more weight to the things that we feel bad or insecure about. We need to give equal or more weight to the things we have done well. “I may have had a slice of cake tonight, but I have had healthy food choices all day long,” or “I had that cigarette, but I didn’t have any yesterday.”
We tend to beat ourselves up with “shoulds” and discredit our healthy and positive choices.
If you find yourself stuck in these types of thoughts or finding yourself in a rut with reaching your goal, often times a behavioral health professional can help to find the solution.
So this year, rather than telling yourself of all the things you want to lose, let’s focus on all of the amazing gains you will have this year. Cheers to a happy and healthy Year and YOU in 2015.