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Changing bad habits isn’t easy. Of the 50% of adults who make New Year’s Resolutions, less than 10% manage to keep them for more than a few months. As our therapists know only too well, making lasting changes to our behavior requires either a radical event—a medical diagnosis, pregnancy, legal issues, etc.—or that we (gulp!) evolve our thinking.

The most common New Year’s Resolutions are admirable ones: to exercise more, eat a healthier diet, quit smoking or save money. The problem is that, many times, we aim too high, or expect results too quickly. Then, when we can’t adhere to the lofty standards we’ve set for ourselves, we give up. We relapse. We fall back into our old and less-than-productive patterns of behavior.

Our counselors would love to be able to say, ‘Just do this, this, and that…’ and, like magic, your New Year’s Resolutions will stick. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. However, our therapists have devised a few simple tips to increase your chances for success in 2018:

Start small: If your resolution is to exercise more often, setting a goal to hit the gym seven days a week might be, well, unrealistic. Shoot for three or four days, instead. Likewise, if a healthier diet is on the menu this year, don’t deprive yourself. Rather, replace your nightly dessert with fruit or yogurt—something you like! You’ll satisfy your sweet tooth, sans guilt.

One change at a time: Sometimes, when we set out to make an improvement to our lifestyle, we get overzealous and reassess all our habits instead of focusing on one, small, manageable change. Try to resist the urge to overhaul your diet, fitness regimen and spending habits all at once. Choose one area and direct your efforts there. 

Be SMART: That’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound. Setting a resolution to “cut down drinking” is not SMART. Setting a resolution to drink only one glass of wine every other night for two months, however, is. Setting specific goals is highly motivating—more so than general, immeasurable goals.

Verbalize your resolution: When you tell friends and family members about a resolution, or when you join a support group, your resolution becomes real and you become accountable. Furthermore, by becoming part of a running club or joining a support group to help you quit smoking you’ll surround yourself with people with whom you can share your struggles and successes. Changing your unhealthy habits is a lot easier (and less intimidating) when you’re doing it with a team!

Be easy on yourself: Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. If you miss a day at the gym, or buy a new pair of shoes that you didn’t need, acknowledge your misstep, forgive yourself, and try to get back on track. There’s no need to give up completely just because you slipped up once or twice (or three times…).

Ask for help: Counselors love suggesting that people ask for help, and that’s because there is psychology behind it. When you accept help from someone who cares about you, you become more resilient and able to manage the stress that your resolution is causing. And, of course, if you’re feeling too overwhelmed to meet your goals independently, seek professional help. Our counselors are highly skilled in helping patients change unhealthy behaviors and break down the barriers that stand between them and their goals.

Remember, studies have shown that people who make New Year’s Resolutions are 10x more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t. Set your mind to something, follow these simple pieces of advice, and start changing your life—one day at a time.

Contact Creative Counseling Center

Feeling overwhelmed by your goals? Afraid of failure? Not sure where to begin? Contact the therapists at Creative Counseling Center. We are happy to extend an offer for a free phone consultation to help you understand whether a therapist could help you reach your goals and change your life, for the better. Just complete the brief form below and a member of our counseling team will contact you shortly.

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