January 7, 2009
If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution and are having problems sticking to it, there’s hope.
And if you’ve gotten away from even making resolutions because you break them quickly every year, maybe these tips from a Landstuhl psychologist will help.
Think in-depth about the behavior you want to change.Talk to others about your resolution.Track your progress.Set realistic goals.Establish short-term and long-term rewards along the way toward your goal.That’s the advice of Air Force Dr. (Maj.) David Reynolds, chief of health psychology services at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
Popular resolutions involve losing weight, quitting smoking or cutting down on drinking.
The No. 1 thing that predicts success for making a behavioral change is tracking something related to that change such as keeping a food diary, writing down where and when you smoke or where and when you drink excessively, Reynolds said.
Changing behaviors isn’t easy. On average, it takes people seven attempts to stop smoking, according to smoking cessation research.
"If somebody makes a resolution and hits an obstacle, don’t throw in the towel," Reynolds said. "Try it again. Take some time. Get with a friend or colleague. Get with a professional and say, ‘Here’s what I tried to do. Here’s how I tried to do it. Here’s what tripped me up. Where do we go from here?’ "
If you haven’t upheld your resolutions in the past, you’re not alone. Only about 3 percent of those who make a resolution will meet that goal, Reynolds said.
"My reason for saying 3 percent is that actually comes from the research on people who are trying to quit smoking, which has got to be up there with one of the top 10 most frequently made resolutions," he said.
Spc. Gregory Holloman of the 147th Postal Company has been able to meet most of the resolutions he’s set. This year, his resolution is to attain the rank of sergeant, which he hopes to do by March. His advice mirrors that of the expert.
"Set attainable goals — things that you know you can reach — and stay focused on those goals," Holloman said.
One of the worst things people can do when making a resolution is keep it to themselves, Reynolds said. By talking with others about your resolutions, you can gain support and encouragement. Web sites such as www.sparkpeople.com have online communities with users who are attempting to reach their New Year’s resolutions.
A common problem is that when people make New Year’s resolutions, they don’t think about what’s driving the behavior they want to change or their reasons for wanting to change it, Reynolds said.
Before setting a resolution, conduct some "pre-change analysis" such as examining the costs and benefits of both changing a behavior and not changing the behavior, Reynolds said.
"As an adult you can make the decision not to change," he said. "That’s your right. Just be aware of the reasons you’re doing it and the consequences and the benefits of doing it."
Another approach for sticking to your resolution is available at www.stickK.com. The Web site allows you to put money down on whether you will reach your goal. If you fulfill your resolution, you get the money back. If you don’t, the money is donated to charity.