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Mastering Your Resolutions

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or is it?

As the New Year has blown in, it brought with it a blast of cold air threatening even the heartiest of resolution makers. There will be frigid temperatures and long winter nights. The most sobering reality, however, is the fact that a new year does not necessarily mean a new you.

Despite our good intentions and the blast of enthusiasm that accompanies the turn of the calendar, many of us are already losing steam on our resolutions before we even get started. The reason for this is that resolutions – to put it simply – are hard to keep.

Old Habits and Crippling Resolutions

It’s almost fun to fantasize about shedding extra pounds, finding a soul mate, and saving more money. But then old habits creep in. We’re lured into restful winter nights sitting on the couch watching TV. Dating becomes more of an effort than an enjoyment. And even if you’re able to pass on the after Christmas sales, by the time the spring fashions arrive – it’s very difficult to resist.

Making a New Year’s pledge for sobriety is just as challenging if not more. January 1st is a very appealing date for many addicts. Approximately 23.5 million Americans suffer from addictions and many will seek to start fresh in January – after one last splurge on New Year’s Eve.

Enticing as this might sound, resolutions to be sober, initiate change, and make a fresh start can be fraught with anxiety – and for good reason.

Studies have shown, unfortunately, that out of the more than 50 percent of Americans who set annual goals, only 8 percent will achieve them. In fact, most people will falter on their resolutions within the first month of the New Year.

Changing Your Resolution Focus

Making resolutions work involves changing behaviors and, in order to change a behavior, you have to change your thinking. Habitual behaviors are created by thinking patterns that create neural pathways and memories, which become the default basis for your behaviors when faced with a choice or decision. Change requires creating new neural pathways from new thinking.

Habitual behaviors are created by thinking patterns that create neural pathways and memories, which become the default basis for your behaviors when faced with a choice or decision.-Helen FarrellOld habits are hard to break; they’re even harder for the addict. Failed resolutions are just as much due to unrealistic expectations as they are due to the loss of stamina and will power.

There are many reasons that resolutions do not stick. Some people lack the self-discipline it takes to follow-through on their resolutions. Others aren’t really ready to change their habits, particularly addictions. Some people set unrealistic goals and expectations.

In order to help those of you so inclined to give up addictions, I propose that, rather than focusing on sobriety – which, for many, might seem like an insurmountable goal – focus instead on making positive changes.

Here are a few tangible goals to focus on that will, in turn, help to curb your vices:

Goal #1   Laugh!

Laughter can heal and renew with its physical, mental and social benefits. It is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. A hearty chuckle from time to time can have lasting effects and relax tense muscles. This alleviates stress and even boosts the immune system – thereby improving the body’s resistance to disease. Mental health is also improved by the release of endorphins (feel good chemicals) that accompany a good giggle.

Goal #2  Get Outside!

Many people tend to hibernate in the winter – and understandably with all the cold, dark days. This season often brings about the “winter blues.” Getting outdoors, even for a short period of time – and even when it’s overcast outside – can be very helpful in warding off a low mood. Depression and addiction are often co-morbid and eliminating one is vital to eliminating the other.

Goal #3  Give Thanks!

Count your blessings this year and put it in writing. Keeping a gratitude journal will not only make you feel happier, it will also translate into physical gains and increased longevity. People who give thanks to others ironically experience a boost in self-esteem. All of these benefits will pay dividends to the addicts who make themselves more aware of the positives in their lives.

Goal #4  Enhance Support!

Connect to others. Building bridges of support is key to sustaining a resolution. Meeting new people and adding them to your network is a great strategy, but I also recommend reconnecting with long-lost friends and family. Time is a significant barrier to connecting with those we once counted on in the past. The more distance we have between someone makes that reunion via a phone call or letter quite awkward. My advice, if you’re missing an old mate, is to simply get in touch. And reach out now. It won’t be any easier to do it next year or the year after that. Once you’ve made the connection, share your goals to help hold yourself accountable.

Turning Your Goals into Actions

Changing your thinking and your behavior about an addictive substance can be daunting. And for some, it might seem unattainable…but it is possible to reach that lofty goal of sobriety.

A few more useful and actionable tips include the following:

  • Call it a one-month resolution and then take it from there. One month is far less intimidating than one year. And for those of who fear committing to one-month of sobriety, I recommend taking it one-day at a time. A day can become two, then three, and before you know it – you’ve made significant positive change!
  • Stay focused on progress made rather than focusing on derailments to your plan. When it comes to sobriety, you’re not simply going from point A to point B. There will be many twists and turns along the way – learn from all the detours and give yourself credit when you reach milestones.
  • Remember that it’s great to make a New Year’s resolution, but that’s not the only day you can make a new start. The perfect day to make a resolution is the day that you’re ready to commit to making positive change!

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