Keeping your New Year's resolution

Well the holiday dust has finally settled. The cupboards are empty of all those extra sweet treats, guests have gone home and we’ve returned to daily routines.

This week you may have a nagging memory of some New Year’s resolutions you made for 2013.

Whether you have begun in your efforts to keep your resolutions or you already feel hopelessly off track, I have a few tips today that may help you in your quest for success.

First of all, be sure to set realistic goals. You are not going to be able to completely transform your personality or appearance simply by willpower. While there are many things we can change, there are also some aspects of ourselves we have to learn to live with. Be honest with yourself about your goal’s achievability.

Break your goal into manageable parts and make a timeline for completing them. For example, a couple of very common resolutions are to lose weight or kick a bad habit like smoking. These are both very good goals and are achievable, but if you start by saying you want to lose 50 pounds or quit smoking completely when you currently smoke two packs a day, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment.

Make yourself a goal of losing five pounds a month or an average of a pound or two each week over the course of the year. This is a lot less daunting to think of and still results in a large amount of weight lost during the year. Cut down your smoking gradually and then quit completely and you will be more likely to succeed.

In some cases it is a good idea to take a complete break from a particular behaviour at least for a little while. If you are not an alcoholic but would like to cut down on your drinking, it might be helpful to abstain completely for a month before attempting moderate drinking. This period of abstinence from the behaviour can help to break the automatic nature of a habit. Also, if you are unable to abstain for one month, achieving successful moderation may not be realistic.

Make your plan specific and write it down. What steps are you going to take to successfully lose that pound a week? If it’s going to the gym or modifying your diet, make a specific schedule and plan about it. Include timelines and motivational reminders to keep you focused on your goal.

Reward yourself. When you reach small milestones along the way, be sure to reward your progress somehow. On a cautionary note though, make sure your reward doesn’t sabotage your efforts – ie: if you’ve been losing weight, don’t reward yourself with a whole bag of cookies.

If you fall off the wagon or don’t meet one of your specific goals, don’t use that as an excuse to give up altogether. Setbacks are a part of life – it is how we deal with them that determines our eventual success.

Finally, be sure to enlist some support. A spouse or trusted friend can be very helpful to keep you accountable in your goal as well as to encourage you along the way or bolster you when you feel like giving up.

On the other hand, friends who persist in a behaviour or lifestyle you are trying to change can have a negative effect on your progress. Whether conscious of it or not, we tend to imitate those we spend time with. It is wise to surround yourself with friends who can also be role models.

I wish you great success this year as you strive to fulfill your New Year’s resolutions. Don’t give up!

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About the Author

Paul Latimer has over 25 years experience in clinical practice, research, and administration.

After obtaining his medical degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, he did psychiatric training at Queen's, Oxford and Temple Universities. After his residency he did a doctorate in medical science at McMaster University where he was also a Medical Research Council of Canada Scholar.

Since 1983 he has been practicing psychiatry in Kelowna, BC, where he has held many administrative positions and conducted numerous clinical trials.

He has published many scientific papers and one book on the psychophysiology of the functional bowel disorders.

He is an avid photographer, skier and outdoorsman.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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