Broken your resolutions? You're not alone. Here are tips to help you recommit and meet your goals.
So, how’s it going with your New Year’s Resolutions? Did you “cheat” or “fall off the wagon?”
If so, you are not alone. According to U.S. News and World Report, about 80 percent of people fail at their resolutions by the middle of February.
That does not mean, however, that you are a failure.
“One of the beautiful things about being alive in this world is that every minute, hour and day brings the possibility to start over,” said Seattle life coach Lisa Levine, of Audacious Health and Wellness.
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Why did you want to make changes in the first place? Reexamine your motives and your goals.
If they are still valid and legitimate changes you want to make, then look at what went wrong.
Setbacks can be an important part of the change process, according to Carl Sheperis, the program dean for the College of Social Sciences at University of Phoenix.
“If you look at a setback as part of a learning process, then you can examine what went wrong and come up with some beneficial changes that will help you be successful on the next attempt,” Sheperis said. “If you look at a setback as failure, then you are reinforcing a negative thought process and will likely lose your motivation to change.”
Ask yourself what happened and what you were thinking when you slipped.
“If weight loss is your goal, and you got side tracked because you ended up going for tacos and beers with friends after work, what was your story?” Levine said.
Was it that you deserved a treat because you had a hard day? If so, then what is a different way you can “treat” yourself? Was it that you didn’t want to be seen as “not fun” so you decided to go along with the group?
Once you locate the story you are telling yourself, you can then choose to create a new story, Levine said.
Sheperis said that in most cases, slips are preceded by “a series of negative thoughts.” By understanding those negative thoughts and building a series of opposite positive self-statements, he said you will create a greater chance for future success.
Understand that change is complex and requires a multi-pronged approach.
If you are eliminating something from your life, according to Sheperis, then you have to find a suitable replacement. If you are adding something to your life, then you have to make adjustments for it to fit into your schedule. For example, if you committed to quit smoking, then you should also have a plan for addressing its absence. For some people, smoking is a trigger for relaxation. How will you relax once you eliminate smoking? Having a plan in place will make it less likely for you to need smoking for that effect.
Encourage success by planning ahead and preparing. If weight loss is your main thing, and you still want to go out to eat with friends or family, Levine recommends spending a few minutes looking at menus online and have some options in your pocket.
If you are not able to pick the restaurant, she advises asking your server for adjustments. It’s OK to ask for a burger without a bun or inquire if there’s sugar in the dressing, she said.
If meal planning feels like a big hurdle, Levine suggests trying Plan to Eat, an online meal planner that helps find recipes that work for your needs, gives you a shopping list, nutritional information and more. (They have a free 30-day trial so you can see if it works for you.)
If getting to the gym and working out is your “main thing,” Levine said, try scheduling your workouts and putting them in your calendar.
“Would you miss a doctor’s appointment? I don’t think so,” she said. “Treat your workouts like you would any other important appointment or meeting in your schedule.”
Line up some support.
If you haven’t yet tried getting yourself an accountability partner, now is the time, said Levine, and if you can’t find someone in your actual community, try looking in your virtual community. Even something as simple as a Facebook post asking friends how they are doing with their New Year’s resolutions can quickly lead to finding an online accountability buddy.
Be mindful and kind to yourself and know that setbacks can be part of permanent change.
Yelling at yourself and being generally unkind in your mind will never bring you the lasting results you want, Levine said.
As humans, we are subject to self-criticism, anger, and other emotional reactions, said Sheperis. “By practicing mindfulness, we become better at defending against the impact of the negative thoughts even though they are present. We become aware of the thoughts, examine them in a present context, and allow them to have a place in our consciousness.”
Nancy Goldov, clinical psychologist and public education coordinator for the Washington State Psychological Association, said that for most people a little bit of backsliding is normal.
“Relapse tends to be the rule when action is taken for most health behavior problems,” she said. “So if we wonder how long it is going to take to change we might as well be honest about it and gently remind ourselves that it is going to take the rest of our lives.”
And finally, get back on that horse!
It’s OK to decide that you don’t want to commit to making big change right now, said Levine, but if your reasons for your resolutions are valid, there’s no reason not to try again.
“Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and give yourself a virtual hug,” Levine said. “Then get back on your proverbial wagon — if you want to.”
The key ingredient is perseverance, Sheperis said.
“Regardless of how many times you have to restart your commitment to a change, the important part is learning from the journey and applying that learning to the next attempt. You should look at any setbacks as part of the rehearsal process for success.”