By Megan Reece
With the arrival of 2009, perhaps you are sorting through the long list of typical New Year’s resolutions to try and decide which one you will tackle this year. Stop smoking? Start working out? Lay off the pie? Eliminating unhealthy habits is always a good idea, but the idea of New Year’s resolutions is not necessarily best.
Self-improvement is a constant process, and a new year is a good time to think about fresh starts and new beginnings. Unfortunately, the human psyche doesn’t operate well in this fashion. By trying to radically change your habits or your diet, you are setting yourself up to slip. Your mind will not tolerate an utter lack of sugar if you are used to dessert everyday, for example. You will start to feel deprived and, about two weeks into January, you will find yourself chin-deep in pudding or candy bars.
You also must be ready to make a change, and you might be ready at anytime. If you want to start working out in June, that is the best time to do it. Try not to fall into the new-year only trap.
Major changes are most successful when you take them in small increments, step-by-step. If you make changes in this manner, you will work them into your daily life and eventually achieve your big goal without any big upsets.
If you want to stop smoking, start by just cutting out one cigarette a day. It might take a while, but if you keep up with this the small reduction, it won’t be quite as noticeable. Talk to your pharmacist to learn about products that might make breaking the habit a bit easier.
To make yourself into a habitual exerciser, try adding a little bit of activity into your daily life. Make it deliberate; take the stairs for a few minutes at lunch, or go an extra five on your daily walk with your dog. You could also try finding a class for an activity you’ve always wanted to try. Find a yoga or Pilates class that you pay for ahead of time; with any luck, this will keep you going for long enough to form a habit.
To change your diet, think of one habit you could alter. “Not eating anything fattening” doesn’t count, either. Try adding in one extra serving of fruit a day to start off. Once you get used to this, try adding another vegetable. By adding nutrient-rich foods, you will naturally start to displace the less healthful fare in which you normally partake. If you go slowly, one day an apple might really start to seem more appealing than a cookie.
If you want to make a big personal change, all power to you. If you go about it in the right way – the slow way – you will be far more likely to make this change a part of you, and that is how you can truly enjoy success.