Now that we’re halfway into the month, let’s talk New Year’s resolutions! I asked you all about yours a while back, and never really followed up on that.
I’ve always found the NYE resolution to be an interesting beast. On the one hand, there is something that seems very natural about a season of excess followed by a period of restraint and sacrifice: it’s a pattern you see in too many cultures and religions to ignore. On the other hand, the way so many people do NYE resolutions seems set up to guarantee failure: black-and-white absolutes, with no room for the inevitable backsliding. By the second week in February, you’ve already missed your goal of getting to the gym four times a week, so you just quit entirely.
I was pondering what my own 2010 resolutions and goals should be, and then more or less got handed a new set by my doctors: quit drinking, and change my entire eating pattern. Which was a little more ambitious than anything I was planning to carve out for myself, I tell you what. Here’s what’s helped:
1. Not having a choice. I’ve never been a fan of the classic AA notion that one must “hit bottom” (is that still a going concern in AA, or have they more or less dropped that idea?) before making a change. Still, there’s something to be said for having one’s doctor say “Yes, there is a real problem, and you can and must stop this problem now.” (Funny, on the other blog we are discussing why people write in to advice columns, and one thing that a number of folks mentioned, that hadn’t really occurred to me, was that the columnist not only provides a reality check, but also a sort of kick in the butt, just as my doctor did for me. Having someone say not only, “Yes, you’re right, there is a problem,” but say “And you need to do something about it now.”)
2. Quick feedback. I think this is something that scuttles a lot of NYE resolutions — people simply don’t see results fast enough, so they get discouraged and quit. I was lucky, because I felt markedly better after only a few days of getting on the right meds and knocking off the booze and spice. But let’s face it, a lot of good habits actually make you feel worse when you start. Sure, going to the gym will give you more energy and a better mood … after a few weeks. Before that, it will make you tired and cranky. So if the behavioral change itself won’t give you immediate, positive feedback, figure out a way to implement some little reward system, so you’ll know you’re getting somewhere.
3. Taking positive action. It’s always easier to do something than to not do something. (As you read the rest of this post, do not think of a white bear. See?) I’ve decided to look at my new diet as a chance to explore new cooking techniques and ingredients, rather than as simply giving up X, Y, and Z. WES alluded to a similar idea:
I think I have stumbled on an epiphany for my new year’s resolutions. In the past those pesky resolutions were things I knew I **should** do even if I didn’t want to do them. However this year I am making my goals shorter and more in tune with what I want to do. And if I finish them before the year is up great, I might do new ones in July!
So rather than my resolution to go on a diet my resolution is to crochet more and learn a new technique. It is a calming activity, allows me to be creative, and while still a sedentary activity it has the added bonus of you really cannot eat/munch while crocheting. And snacking is a big weakness of mine so really it should be a win win.
4. Communication and support. The research on the extent to which social networks affect behavior is impressive and grows more every day. We need our friends to support the kinds of things we do, the kind of person we want to be. It’s been immensely good for me to be able to write about my health issues here, and feel that by doing so, I’ve opened up a forum for other people to share their own experiences. It’s also been good to have a couple of weeks of minimal socializing, so I can get my new habits well under control before having to attend a cocktail party. And Mr. Improbable and I have had a number of conversations about how his life (since I do the cooking) will and won’t change.
Some further thoughts on your comments …
TJ wrote, “I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions (those always seem a little overwhelming), but I (along with my family) make resolutions with a more limited time frame.” I like that; I like that a lot. Make goals for a month or so, not for the entire year. I wonder if that isn’t what people do anyway, really … there’s the New Year’s Eve goals, and then spring cleaning and getting in shape for summer, and then back-to-school season.
Anne with an E wrote, “I resolve to stop waiting until the time is right/we have the dough to throw a huge shindig before inviting people over. Pizza and game night for six is just as fun as a BBQ for thirty (with a lot less cleanup.)” YES! I figured this out about four or five years ago and it was quite a revelation. And with six or eight people, everyone can really get to know each other. (Note for Bostonians — Redbones BBQ delivers, and they are very good. They also have enough good sides that any vegetarians will be taken care of. Highly recommended for informal parties.)
Military Mom wrote:
My first resolution is to stop agreeing to do or help with activities without REALLY stopping to assess if I have time or want to do it. Up until now I’ve volunteered when other people need help and have almost always regretted it afterwards. My second is to try to lower my stress level. This will require the rest of my family to step up and help, but I think they are recognizing my stress is affecting my health…and therefore their lives too…
Good luck with those two, obviously related, resolutions. I’m sure it’s something many, many of us can relate to.
How about the rest of you? How are your resolutions working out?
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