Dr. Timothy McManus
Updated: February 17, 2013 6:24AM
We all have the best of intentions this time of year. Maybe it’s to lose weight, quit smoking or exercise more.
Whatever the goal may be, our resolve is never stronger than it is on Jan. 1, when a new year offers the opportunity to create a new you.
The million-dollar question is … “Will you follow through?”
According to a Journal of Clinical Psychology study, about 20 percent of us succeed in achieving our new year’s resolutions. The other 80 percent ... not so much.
By mid-January, most of us have abandoned our new goals and reverted to old habits. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re struggling for inspiration or motivation, here are some tips to help you keep your 2013 resolutions.
1. Commit to your goal. The secret to your success starts with commitment.
Think of a new habit as a sapling tree. It’s small and fragile, and has to get rooted. Our old habits are firmly rooted. When the new year begins, we have to nurture the sapling. We do that by committing to the new behavior we want to make in our lives and stick with it.
2. Make reasonable resolutions.
Telling yourself you’ll lose 30 pounds in two months is a recipe for failure. But telling yourself you’ll lose five to 10 percent of your body weight in three months is more realistic. The same goes for exercise. If you’re a couch potato now, don’t commit to more than you can reasonably achieve. Start by walking 20 to 30 minutes a day.
3. Structure the desired behavior into your day.
Schedule your workout on your daily calendar — at the same time each day, if possible. When you make something part of your routine, you’re more likely to do it.
Keep in mind that creating a new habit takes about a month. So be patient with yourself. New behaviors don’t happen overnight.
4. Eliminate the excuses.
Going to the gym is a big commitment. If you allow yourself to skip your workout today because you’re tired or have a conflict, you might do the same tomorrow. And the next day.
We all lie to ourselves to a certain degree. Draw a line in the sand and don’t go past it. If you skip the gym today, make sure you go tomorrow.
5. Reward yourself along the way. If your goal is to lose weight, and one of your tactics is to eliminate your $3.50 daily mocha, take the money and put it into a kitty.
When you’ve lost 10 pounds, treat yourself to a new outfit. If you put positive reinforcement at the end, you’ll be much more motivated to get there.
6. If you fall off the wagon, hop right back on. It happens to all of us. You end up overeating at a party. You smoke a cigarette to deal with stress. Don’t abandon your resolve entirely just because you hit a bump in the road.
When you learned to ride a bike as a child, you likely fell many times before you succeeded. The same is true with adopting new behaviors and making positive changes.
Distractions will always be there. You just have to start again and refocus.
Remember to act on the things that will lead you to achieving your goal each and every day.
Lastly, don’t forget to toot your own horn when you’ve made progress.
Whether you’ve smoked your last cigarette or dropped 10 pounds, share it with someone. This keeps your motivation strong, may motivate the other person to do the same and helps keep you accountable to others.
And, if you happen to stumble once in a while, get some advice from someone you trust. Even if you know what you should do, sometimes just talking it over with someone else helps strengthen your resolve.
If your new year’s resolutions involve losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising more or just taking better care of your health, Ingalls can help. Call Ingalls Care Connection at (800) 221-2199 for more information on health and wellness programs or visit www.ingalls.org.
Dr. Timothy McManus is a neuropsychologist at Ingalls Memorial Hospital.