Are New Year's resolutions friend or foe?

Column by Elena Davis

By Elena Davis, Turning Points at Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network
Posted

Some folks view New Year's resolutions as a fabulous opportunity to build fresh patterns and habits for fulfilling their healthier, happier life potential - while others see the concept of "resolutions" as yet another self-destructive medium for berating oneself with guilt-ridden failure of those tasks not achieved. The "should haves" and "could haves" in life. Regardless of which view you hold, New Year's is indeed a time when many of us become introspective, taking stock of the past year and thinking about what the coming year will bring.

If you're like the majority of the population, at some time or another you've ushered in the new year with a drunken resolution to cut back on your drinking, or enjoyed that last holiday buffet with a whispered pledge to eat right and lose weight. Or perhaps you've joined a gym in anticipation of regular exercise, or bought the latest parenting book with the goal of reducing the amount of time spent yelling at the kids. Maybe you've vowed to reduce your road rage during commutes, go to church regularly, learn to meditate, take up classical guitar, or otherwise made a promise to be a better person.

The question becomes: How do we set up intentions that will actually help us on our path to self-development, growth and contentment? I believe the answer lies in a few simple steps:

Frame your intention in the positive. Rather than saying what you DON'T want to happen, set your intention on what you DO want to happen. For instance, aim for "I will drive my car with patience and courtesy for my fellow human beings;" instead of "I will stop getting so angry at all those terrible drivers out there."

Be specific. While it can feel scary to say exactly what we want, setting a specific intention is key for being able to achieve our goals. Being vague or general is a way to give up your power to affect change in your life. Decide what you want and don't be afraid to yell it from the rooftops!

Start small and be realistic. Tackle your goal in small, manageable steps. Rather than to go to the gym and work out for an hour every day, add in a 15-minute walk to your lunch break three days a week. Once you've accomplished that goal, there will be room to add in additional ideas for increased wellness.

Commit. If you decide you're going to do it, make a commitment to yourself to do it. Write it down and post it on your mirror so you will see it every morning when you wake up. Schedule the steps that will help you toward your goal every week in your daily planner and make it happen.

Reward yourself. Pick out a reward for achieving the goal - something to help motivate you. Small rewards along the way can boost your morale to continue your journey.

Enlist a buddy. Research shows that if you attempt a goal with someone else, your likelihood of achieving it increases. Go ahead, ask a friend or co-worker to be your wellness accomplice. You'll be helping each other and likely enjoying some good social time as well!

Be kind to yourself. If you fall off the wagon or get off track with your goals, don't criticize yourself or lose focus, giving up on your goal altogether. Simply acknowledge that you fell off track, identify and assess what is getting in your way, and come back with a renewed plan for achieving your goal.

Setting and achieving a personal goal is tremendously satisfying. In addition, achieving a goal can boost self-esteem, increase feelings of empowerment and life-mastery, and often leads to further growth in other aspects of your life. Take some time today to think about one simple but satisfying goal that you would like to achieve in the coming year. Then set your intention and put it into action. Remember, even the journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.

Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network is a private, nonprofit 501 (c) (3) corporation providing professional, comprehensive health care that specializes in mental health primarily, but not exclusively, serving the communities of Arapahoe and Douglas Counties. We offer programs for adults, seniors, families, couples and children. These services include counseling, psychiatry, crisis services, case management, substance abuse treatment, victim services, an adult acute treatment unit, adult supported and residential housing, services to the criminal justice system, vocational and social rehabilitation, a day treatment therapeutic school and school-based services. Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network has an on-site pharmacy. We offer community education, wellness programs and a Speakers Bureau. Visit us at www.admhn.org.