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You Say You Want A Resolution


New Year’s resolutions seem destined to be broken. Think back to years past, when you’ve resolved to lose weight, spend more time with family, or get out of debt. Chances are good that you gave up during the first few months, sliding back into the “old routine” and feeling guilty and unsuccessful to boot!

Why resolutions don’t work:
• Often punishment for bad holiday behavior.
• Are “all or nothing” propositions with lofty goals.
• Focus on the negative—to “stop eating sweets” or “lose weight.”
• They leave you alone to do the hard work.

What to do? Start a revolution!

Choose a behavior change you can live with year-round.
Visualize what your life would look like if you made the change (for example: to spend more time with your children) then choose one area of improvement to work on (like planning Saturday-morning outings), and count your successes at the end of each month. Working with the end in mind will help you to visualize what success will look like and then come up with reasonable ways to get there.

Set reasonable goals with incremental changes and rewards as you go. Going from zero to 60 in exercise or healthy eating is difficult to manage. Start each day with an attainable goal and increase it gradually over time. Keeping track on the calendar will help you assess progress. Remember to reward yourself when you’ve reached the next goal. Pausing and assessing progress doesn’t mean beating yourself up for not meeting the goal. Instead, it’s a reminder that developing healthy habits takes time.

Shift toward the positive “eat more vegetables” or “walk every day.”
By framing your new habit as an action rather than a sacrifice, you make it more desirable and less punishing. While most of our resolutions will have to do with removing a negative habit, unless you replace it with a positive habit, you may feel like all the fun is seeping out of your life. Positive resolutions bring more lasting change than focusing on what you’re going to stop doing.

Find a support system. The more supporters you have, the less you’ll feel like giving up. Buddy up with people who have common goals and make a plan to combat your standard excuses or pitfalls. Whether you’re recruiting an exercise partner or buying a treadmill, it won’t work if you avoid them—choose the plan that best fits your style and then make a commitment. Your support system should be a combination of other people (mentors, support groups, coaches, partners) and self-reliance (such as using books, videos or writing in a journal).

Consider these revolutionary resolutions:

Get out more. Starting a hobby or activity that requires physical exertion (playing tennis, jogging, walking the dog) helps take your mind off things you’re trying to avoid (like sweets or television) and gives you a sense of accomplishment. Joining a club, group, or support system opens the door to vital interdependence and will make you feel less alone in day-to-day challenges. Even joining friends and neighbors for regular social activities helps strike a necessary balance between work and play.

Neglect your TV.
Click off the television and use the time for family reading, telling stories or playing board games. Jeanna Bryner, writer for LiveScience.com, reports that “unhappy people watch 30 percent more television than happy people.” Bryner writes that the findings “come from a survey of nearly 30,000 American adults conducted between 1975 and 2006.” Although researchers are not sure whether unhappiness leads to more television watching or more TV time leads to less happiness, the correlation is undeniable.

Go natural. Begin the year mindful of how everyday decisions impact the planet. Choosing foods that look like something found in nature means they are minimally processed, have more nutrients and are better for the environment. Cleaning products that promise to clean with little or no effort are probably full of dangerous chemicals that can have harmful effects on your family and the earth. Try cleaning with baking soda, white vinegar and borax for safe and effective cleaners that cost pennies to use. Clothing made from sustainable textiles (organic cotton, hemp, wool, bamboo and recycled fibers) are comfortable for the body and don’t exhaust irreplaceable resources.

Choose healthy snacks.
Since overindulgence in food inspires many resolutions, nutrition expert Molly Morgan of Vestal offers two simple points to consider about snacking. “Make vegetables and fruits your snacking habit,” says Morgan, author of Choose Right Supermarket Shopping Guide (CreateSpace; $12.99). “You take in fewer calories, feel satisfied, and you still get a serving of fresh produce.”

Morgan also recommends a tip for controlling portion size with snacks: serving snacks onto a small bowl or plate. “Snacking directly out of a bag or box can be one of the worst habits,” she says. “We can’t visualize what one serving looks like and don’t know when to stop.”

Simplify everything.
Clutter and overabundance are two major obstacles on the road to simplicity. Go room by room in your home, gathering things that can be given away. Remove rarely worn or ill-fitting clothing from your closet and take the items to your local thrift shop. The “less is more” philosophy makes your space easier to maintain.

The partner of simplifying is organizing. If organizing is not your bag, enlist the help of a friend for ideas. Remember to keep things as simple as possible and reduce steps, not add them. Keeping a family calendar on the refrigerator where everyone sees it will minimize last-minute panics and eliminate the worry of forgetting dates. Consider reducing the number of activities your children are committed to; try taking one extracurricular activity at a time to help them focus, learn how to delay gratification and slow down.

Will you remember things you resolved at the end of the year? Only you can decide which goal merits your full attention for 12 months instead of just one. But aiming to replace one negative thing in your life with one positive thing can be a trade-off that pays dividends.

Sami Arseculeratne Martinez, mother of two grown children, lives in Hamilton with her husband. Send your thoughts on this article to editorial@familytimes.biz.

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