Keep healthy resolutions
Brooke Broadbent, MA
Do you have a health resolution you want to make for the New Year? Learn how to keep your New Years resolutions.
“New Year’s resolutions. Nobody keeps them. They’re not worth making.” That’s the challenge my adult daughter Patricia flung at me when I informed her I was writing an article about New Year’s resolutions. She has a point.
Conventional wisdom tells us most New Year’s resolutions are broken. However, there is another way to look at resolutions, stated intentions, commitments, stated goals, or whatever you wish to call them. They are the pillars of a bridge spanning from where you are now to where you want to be in the future.
Life-changing in more ways than one
I believe that resolutions, at the New Year or any other time of the year, can change your life. Not only is it the content of the resolutions, but also the way you create them, keep them alive, and follow through. The manner in which you handle New Year’s resolutions creates an opportunity for you to develop crucial life skills such as commitment, patience, integrity, and honesty.
We seem to be hard-wired to seek personal improvement. That’s why we line up at bookstores to purchase personal-growth books, make New Year’s resolutions, and read magazines such as alive.
Remembering Dad’s wise words
The words of my deceased father echo in my mind, “If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”
For if we succeed in realizing our intentions, we will experience the good feeling of success in our bodies, develop more self-confidence, embrace more resolutions, and keep moving forward.
You won’t be surprised to learn that another of Dad’s favourite sayings was, “He who works conscientiously toward his goals succeeds beyond all expectations.” My dad’s dour Victorian aphorisms ring like crystal, but they are daunting. Do-it-right thinking can often inhibit playfulness, curiosity, and learning. Let’s consider a lighter perspective.
A modern modification
A New Age version of “let’s do it right” springs to mind: “A job that’s worth doing is worth doing less than well.” Yes, I did say less than well. In this iconoclastic remake of Victorian wisdom, the emphasis is on getting started and overcoming fear of failure. It focuses on learning to succeed by tracking what works and what does not work, and moving ahead by trial and error. This approach, combined with honest self-assessment, can lead us to a better understanding of what makes us tick.
Thoughts on autopilot?
As we gain self-knowledge, we increase our ability to know what holds us back from commitment and the other carrots I dangled in front of you at the beginning of this article. There is a good chance automatic thoughts are holding you back.
Have you noticed that your mind trots out favourite stories in various situations? For example, your complaints about relationships are the same, but it’s always with a different person—or your bosses are all alike, and they cause you grief in the same way. It can be the same with resolutions. Does your mind tell you your resolutions are worthless, unachievable, or doomed for some reason?
As the spiritual teacher Echkart Tolle tells us, our thoughts are not us. Thoughts are in our minds, and we are well-served if we don’t listen to them. When negative thoughts arise about your resolutions, you have choices. As a first step you can breathe in the negative thoughts and breathe out positive ones. Concentrating on positive ideas in this way can set you up for success. If you determine that your resolution needs tweaking, you can do that from a positive perspective.
Have you ever made resolutions at New Year’s or other times about any of the following: What you eat, drink, or smoke? How much you weigh, exercise, or socialize? Have you resolved to eat organically, take supplements, or to use other natural health products? Have you solemnly declared you would make big changes in the way you behave with your arents, children, significant others, or colleagues? Have you watched your resolutions retreat, your dreams dive, your fun fizzle? Don’t despair.
It’s a gender issue
Perhaps the reason your intentions imploded is that you were not following the approach that works best for your gender. Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK, studied the New Year’s resolutions of 3,000 people in the UK and the US and uncovered that successful strategies are often gender-dependent.
Using gender-specific methods recommended by Professor Wiseman, an additional 22 percent of men put true resolve in their New Year’s resolutions, and an extra 10 percent of women stuck with theirs.
Men are more likely to succeed when they set goals for themselves and focus on measuring their progress. For example, a man who resolves to lose weight increases his chance of success by focusing on the health results of losing weight rather than the resolution itself.
For women’s eyes only
Women accomplish their New Year’s resolutions in various ways. They use strategies such as writing down their resolutions, posting them in highly visible places, telling friends about their intentions, and being patient with themselves when they revert to old habits.
For example, women succeed if they are able to put one chocolate binge behind them and refocus on their resolution. Remember, no one is perfect. When you do mess up, talk to a friend, get back on track, and move forward.
Finding group support
For over two years I’ve been part of a group of a dozen people who meet once a month, except in the summer. We are a hodgepodge of men and women from different backgrounds who have two things in common: we took a nine-month personal growth program, and we decided to stay together. We do this by meeting monthly, stating our intentions, and writing them in a scribbler that we bring to every meeting.
At our get-togethers, which include a meal and a good measure of informal socializing, we have a formal update period in which we each report on our personal successes and failures—or should I say, learning. For, one of the principles of the nine-month program states that when you are making big changes in your life you are bound to meet setbacks. These are not failures. They are learning opportunities and a respite to re-tune resolutions, strengthen strategies, and find ways to fast-forward our futures.
Sharing the human experience
In our meetings when we talk about our individual lives, our intentions, and our learning, we realize we are delving into the same challenges, or should I say opportunities, experienced by everyone present. We are all anchored in our heritage as members of the human race. This realization is comforting and freeing, helping us to feel close to everyone present and to create positive, healing energy.
Our vulnerability and intimacy, as we share the details, constantly reminds us that we face the same hurdles as we endeavour to change our habits, manage our diets, and upgrade our relationships. Listening to each other breeds compassion for every member, for ourselves, and for others who are not part of our circle.
At the end of one of our gatherings, I feel a warm glow in my chest and a deeper commitment to my resolutions. My friends seem to benefit also since they keep coming out and offering to host the evening get-togethers.
Using the buddy system
To support and strengthen the monthly support group encounters I’ve described, we have paired our members. Once a week we have a telephone conversation with our buddy. In my case the calls last for 30 minutes, and we come away with a list of intentions for the week. Most weeks we develop a to-be list, as opposed to a to-do list.
Our buddy calls keep the conversation alive between our monthly meetings. They also provide an environment in which we give immediate feedback on what has been achieved, acknowledge each other for our commitments, help each other tweak our intentions, and challenge each other when we are slipping.
Stay and be steadfast
The world is dynamic. At the micro level of physics, the keyboard I’m pecking at seems solid, but it’s composed of atoms in constant motion. In our lives we change jobs, homes, and relationships at a rate that would flabbergast our ancestors. In this dynamic world, personal steadfastness can be elusive. It’s tempting to launch into something new rather than to stay with our commitments, especially when resolutions get difficult to achieve.
Our age of instant gratification undermines yesterday’s resolutions and draws us to join jazzy new journeys. New, in our advertising-dominated world, is quickly associated with improved. Newfangled is often not better. When we resist the temptation of new paths, we learn what it feels like to stay and to be steadfast. We develop new habits that are available to us later in other situations requiring commitment, patience, integrity, and honesty.
For over four years I have held weekly 30-minute phone calls with a fellow coach. One week he coaches me and the next I coach him. We talk about anything that is an issue for us at the time of the call. Looking back, I see we have often talked about intentions as they relate to our health and relationships, as well as our work and volunteer activities.
Coaching, like the buddy system, keeps resolutions alive by clarifying intentions, making public commitments, reporting on success (or lack thereof), acknowledging success, and in general, keeping our personal-growth conversation alive. Through the process of talking with a life coach, people learn more about their inner workings, and after a period of time they are able to coach themselves.
Taking personal responsibility
I suspect we have all failed at the resolution game at least one time. There’s no sense in beating ourselves up and saying we can’t follow our resolutions. Rather, this is the time to look at why we did not keep our resolutions and to plan our next ones so that we do.
The first step in planning is to recognize why we did not keep our commitments. This step requires us to fully acknowledge that we are in the driver’s seat of our lives. What kept us from meeting our resolutions was the result of our own decisions and choices.
Strategies for success
Thanks to successful New Year’s resolutions, we can change our habits. The best goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based. Here are some tips to get you started:
Every New Year, we reflect on the year that was and make resolutions to improve ourselves and the world around us. In the spirit of betterment, six of our alive experts share their New Year’s resolutions:
» Natasha Turner, ND
» Elvis Ali, ND
» Allison Tannis, RHN
» Laina Shulman, DC
» Serenity Aberdour, ND
» Brad King, MFS