With the arrival of the New Year, thoughts often turn to resolutions. Will this be the year you (fill in the blank) stop smoking? Start swimming? Limit sodas? Increase vegetable intake? Stop being snarky? Start being grateful? All of the above?
Whatever your plan and however bold your intentions, there’s always the danger of a slip-up, alas. With that in mind, two University of North Texas faculty members in the Department of Disability and Addiction Rehabilitation have tips to keep those resolutions strong. Paula Heller Garland is a senior lecturer; Justin Watts, an assistant professor.
• Ask yourself why you’re doing this. Start with this: “What will I gain from making such a change?” suggests Watts.
The answer should be something positive, Heller Garland adds, like improving your health.
• Set an action plan with realistic and specific goals. Instead of saying, “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to be a better person,” determine ways to make that happen.
“What does it mean ‘to be a better person’ for you?” Watts asks. “Set a few specific, realistic goals that you can obtain, such as becoming involved in a charity a few hours a week or increasing the number of hours you spend with your children. Or for weight loss, set a goal to lose one pound a week.”
• Remember that change is a process, not an event. “It takes time, and there will be slip ups,” Watts says. “Learn from them and keep going.”
• Be vocal about your plans. Let people know about your goals, Heller Garland says. This is where an accountability partner, someone who shares your resolution, is important.
“Some of us aren’t equipped to not betray ourselves, and support systems are great, especially if someone is doing the same thing as you,” she says.
• Plan your response to people who may not be supportive. Maybe every time you go to a family gathering, your grandmother offers you a piece of your favorite pie. Let her know you appreciate the gesture, and explain you’re cutting down on portion size, Watts says.
“Setting clear boundaries and expectations with family and friends, and clearly communicating these is an essential part of the change process,” he says.
• Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. This is important if you’re trying to break a chemical addiction – to tobacco or alcohol, for instance – but also if you’re just plain struggling.
“Counseling has helped a lot of people to make the changes that they really want to make,” Watts says. “If we can discover the purpose that an unhealthy behavior has in our lives, we can find other, more effective and healthier means to meet our needs.”