Regardless of what percentage of New Year's resolutions stick, at least they get us thinking. Sometimes they even get us talking and doing new things that can lead to healthier and happier habits. Thinking in terms of habits can dramatically improve your chances of achieving results.
At our home, "We believe that clear thinking leads to good decisions, that good decisions lead to the right habits, that the right habits lead to character, and that character becomes destiny." A quote by Lord Acton, which I learned about in grad school.
When the purpose of the goal is clear, good decisions are made, and long term patterns of behaviors are achieved - this is when you will see results.
Previously, I've work on kicking bad habits. In particular...diet soda. I tried unmercifully for years (yes, years!) to kick this particularly detrimental behavior. It wasn't until I could clearly think about and understand the reason or purpose of the goal that I was able to commit to removing diet sodas from my diet.
The best thing I did was ask myself, "Why is this so hard?"
At first, I would just contribute the challenge to how "addicting" diet sodas were said to be. While I did apply some of the rules of addiction therapy, it still wasn't enough. Finally, I realized that the actual, physical prevalence of sodas and their coinciding advertising were the things that fed my behavior the most. I mean, there is a Coke on the end of every grocery store isle, at every check out (even at Marshall's for crying out loud), and you can even order cases on Amazon Prime. Don't forget about commercials, billboards and friends' habits. I literally could not get away from the one thing I didn't want.
This was it for me...the "ah ha!" I was being manipulated by these large soda companies to not only consume their products, but to consume more and more of them by thinking that the products were "a part of my life."
Once I understood this, I was able to look at my habit from a whole new perspective. I could say "no" to these big corporations. My experience reminds me often of the anti-tobacco commercials, where cigarettes dominate the main protagonists' lives. Of course, I also applied other behaviors that I would naturally recommend as part of nutrition counseling for my own clients (e.g., replacing soda with an alternative).
In my case, when the purpose of the goal was clear, decisions to remove barriers were made, and long term patterns of behaviors were achieved - this is when I saw results.
At first, I counted each day a success, then months and now years. This is what healthy living is about - making positive changes that last a lifetime. Just thinking about new, healthier goals is good. Start somewhere!
What's on my New Year's list for this year? I'll keep you posted.
Cheyenne is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist located in the Charleston, SC area.