By- Dr. David Prescott
Making Changes with a Long Term Impact: Take a moment and check in with how your New Year's resolution, if you made one, is coming along. If you are like many Americans, things have not gone exactly according to plan.
Most of us are interested in making lifestyle changes that have a long term impact. Whether it is improving our overall health and wellness, or coping better with a problem like excessive anxiety or overuse of substances (alcohol, nicotine), we want to make the change last more than a few weeks. This is often easier said than done. Following these tips can help you develop new habits that become a regular part of your day.
How Many People Are Able to Stick with New Habits? If you are having trouble developing a new positive habit, you are not alone. Surveys suggest that about 60% of people who set a personal goal to make a positive change in their life have given up 6 months later. So, take a bit of comfort that making lifestyle changes doesn't happen automatically.
Increasing Your Odds of Success: These 5 strategies can help make a new habit or routine a permanent part of your life:
1. Change one behavior at a time. Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time, so replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time. Many people run into problems when they try to change too much too fast. To improve your success, focus on one goal or change at a time. As new healthy behaviors become a habit, try to add another goal that works toward the overall change you're striving for.
2. Start small. After you've identified realistic short-term and long-term goals, break down your goals into small, manageable steps. It may sound overly simple, but change leads to more change. If you would like to eat healthier, consider as a goal for the week replacing dessert with a healthier option, like fruit or yogurt. At the end of the week, you'll feel successful knowing you met your goal.
3. Make a plan that will stick. Your plan is a map that will guide you on this journey of change. You can even think of it as an adventure. When making your plan, be specific. Want to exercise more? Detail the time of day when you can take walks and how long you'll walk. Write everything down, and ask yourself if you're confident that these activities and goals are realistic for you. If not, start with smaller steps. Post your plan where you'll most often see it as a reminder. Don't underestimate the impact of simply putting your plan on a piece of paper where you see it several times a day.
4. Involve a buddy. Whether it be a friend, co-worker or family member, someone else on your journey will keep you motivated and accountable. Perhaps it can be someone who will go to the gym with you or someone who is also trying to stop smoking. Talk about what you are doing. Consider joining a support group. Having someone with whom to share your struggles and successes makes the work easier and the mission less intimidating.
5. Ask for support. Accepting help from those who care about you and will listen strengthens your resilience and commitment. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking help from a psychologist. Psychologists are uniquely trained to understand the connection between the mind and body, as well as the factors that promote behavior change. Asking for help doesn't mean a lifetime of therapy; even just a few sessions can help you examine and set attainable goals or address the emotional issues that may be getting in your way.
Thanks to the American Psychological Association for help with this feature. For more information, go to www.apa.org/helpcenter
Or visit Acadia Hospital's website at www.acadiahospital.org
Making Lifestyle Changes that Last
By- Dr. David Prescott
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