How are your New Year Resolutions panning out so far? You might feel like one of the millions of people who identify a New Year’s Resolution every year and then don’t follow through.
But what if you equipped yourself with some simple psychological tools to bolster your resolutions and keep these commitments to yourself?
If you want your resolutions to stick throughout 2022 and beyond, we can help you create awareness about how your thoughts, feelings, and behavior can move you towards the healthy change you seek.
1. Understanding How Thoughts Impact Behavior
Your thoughts alone are so powerful that they can then control your feelings and actual behaviors.
Think about the last time you read a book or watched a show that made you feel something. You were right there with the main character, perhaps feeling fear as he confronted the villain or experiencing joy as she finally wins the race. Why does this make you feel afraid or joyful when you are not actually within the story and simply sitting on your couch? Your thoughts are putting you in the story; you are empathizing with the characters and your imagination is then conjuring up true feelings of being in those scenarios.
A situation or experience does not make you feel something; how you perceive that situation or experience determines your feelings. These feelings can then influence your actions.
Tip: When it comes to resolutions, believe in yourself. Tell yourself you can do this, and believe it! Try to maintain a positive attitude, which will lead to more positive actions. How you perceive the challenges related to your resolutions will determine how successful you are in overcoming them.
2. Defeating Your Autopilot
Our thoughts can also go on autopilot, which is both good and bad. Automatic thoughts are good because they free up our brain to focus on other things. However, because they are not at the forefront of our awareness means we don’t consider whether they are accurate or healthy. We’re simply stuck in a routine.
How does automatic thinking affect your resolution to be a better version of you this year? Your autopilot thoughts affect your habitual behavior pattern. For example, instead of climbing out of bed for the 5:00AM workout you promised yourself, your thought pattern is “I just need to sleep in today; I’ll go tomorrow.” You might then turn off the alarm, go back to sleep, and later feel a profound sense of defeat that keeps you from working out tomorrow, too. This reinforces the old patterns of thinking and behaving.
Tip: Set small, realistic goals and celebrate those wins. Instead of a drastic change, start small and work your way towards the 5:00AM workout or your individual goal. As you slowly change these circumstances, your thoughts and feelings will reinforce the positive changes and help keep you motivated.
3. Replace Instead of Deprive
When resolving to not do something, your brain will often think you’re depriving yourself and will create an urge to get that something back. For example, if the goal is to restrict your coffee or sugar intake, cravings for those substances will intensify to the point that you may find yourself at the nearest Starbucks drinking the Venti White Chocolate Latte with 5 extra pumps of everything mocha.
Instead, by remembering that you are responsible for your behavior, you can plan for an alternative behavior that is also desirable but more fitting to the goal.
Tip: Instead of “less sugar and caffeine” find a new behavior that is similar but supports your goals. Perhaps replacing every other cup of coffee with a cup of hot herbal tea. If you’re trying to eat healthier, replace some of your snacks with healthier options. On some days, bring your lunch to work or visit a lunch spot with a healthier menu with fresher ingredients. As you create new routines (again, defeating your autopilot), these outlets can still be rewarding and may stimulate even more healthy behaviors.
Bonus Tip: Write Down Your Goals.
Never underestimate the power of a written goal. Putting your resolutions or other goals down on paper helps bring them to life. Take a moment and write your resolution(s) on a piece of paper and place them on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror. Not only will this hold you accountable, but you’ll be reminding yourself that you control your thoughts, feelings and behaviors about achieving these resolutions.
The longest journeys start with a single step, and we encourage you to make one healthy change that will help you embrace your resolutions. The pride you feel in making healthy choices will grow exponentially, driving you to achieve and maintain your resolution.
Want to discuss your resolution or any other issues with one of our licensed therapists? We’re always here to help. Contact us to schedule a session.