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New Year's Resolutions and You

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? There’s a lot of optimism at the start of January as people consider how to make positive changes in their lives, but what happens as the year progresses? For many, they experience difficulty maintaining their resolutions. They may feel like “failures” and end up giving up because their resolutions are just “too hard”. In fact, only 39% of people in their 20s achieve their new year resolutions, while only 14% of people over age 50 are successful (http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/). There are several reasons individuals fail to achieve their resolutions:

  • 1.The Avalanchers: These people create too many resolutions. They try to tackle everything they can at the start of the year, or try to establish resolutions for every area of their life. Their lists might include: losing weight, earning a Master’s degree, learning a new language, enjoying more time with friends, being more patient. In the end, there are too many resolutions to conquer and they end up quitting all of them.

  • 2.The Noncommitals: The resolutions for this individual are vague. He tends to select a resolution without defining what it means, or what steps need to be taken to accomplish the resolution. For example, he might decide that in 2015 he is going to “get in shape”, but never determines what that means for himself. Lose weight? If so, how much? And how would he go about doing so? Or does it mean lowering his body mass index? And, again, if so, by how much and through what strategies?

  • 3.The Wanderers: Wanderers don’t track their progress as they try to accomplish their resolutions. They head out, with or without a plan (see “Noncommitals” above), but don’t document what occurs as they move forward. If obvious or visible results aren’t obtained, these people cave into a sense of impending failure. They may also become discouraged when obstacles come in the way of their resolutions, or when they reach plateaus in their progress. Instead of pushing on, or reviewing their progress, the Wanderers quit.
  • 4.The Idealists: This is the “Noble prize winner” of the new year’s resolutioners. This person takes on a gigantic, and unrealistic, goal for the established timeframe. She might decide that by the end of 2015, she will meet her ideal partner and be pregnant with her first child. Or she may decide to begin and complete her doctoral degree in the next 12 months. The resolutions for this individual do not align with the established timeframe, setting her up for failure.

So how can cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) help you succeed in your new year resolutions? The first step is to avoid the use of the word “resolution”. It is a term that is associated with a specific time (namely, New Year’s Eve) and often is associated comically, and literally, with failure. Let’s reframe “resolution” to “goal”. This also alleviates any socially created pressure to accomplish your “resolution” within one year. Maybe your specific goal will take longer than a year, or maybe it can be accomplished in less time.

Next, a concrete, realistic goal must be selected and the goal must be broken down into measurable and manageable action steps. So if your goal is to learn Italian, your action steps might include:
  • •Determining the best method to learn Italian: a college course, a self-directed course such as Rosetta Stone, hiring a tutor.

    • •Once a method is chosen, registering for the class, buying the software, or hiring the tutor.
    • •Establishing a schedule to study and practice: 15 minutes each day, 1 hour at lunch, over dinner each night.

    By taking these steps, you’ve avoided becoming an Avalancher, a Noncommital or an Idealist. But what about a Wanderer? One of the biggest mistakes people make in goal attainment is plowing ahead, without regularly “checking in” to see where they are in their process; they never stop to evaluate if they are still adhering to their schedules or doing their action steps. The act of reflection is an important step used within CBT as it allows you to consider what is working, what is not working, and what needs to change to get back on track. Instead of giving in to frustration and quitting, the use of reflection allows individuals time to reconsider the goal and the action steps, and make changes towards success. In next month’s issue, we’ll discuss the topic of goal setting and how to use another CBT concept, cognitive dissonance (often portrayed in the media as the angel and the devil sitting on your shoulders), to stick to your action steps.

    The Heart of the Matter

    By Dr. Hilary Trojano

    During the month of February, Americans see the human heart as the symbol of love. February is American Heart Month, a time to show yourself and the people around you love for healthy habits and lifestyles. Heart disease is not a major cause of death among children and teenagers, but it is the largest cause of death among adults in the United States. In fact, someone in America dies every 37 seconds from some form of cardiovascular disease.

    When we think of heart disease or other cardiovascular issues, children aren’t typically the first people that come to mind. There's a good reason for that: unless a child has a congenital heart defect or some other unusual condition, heart disease tends to develop later in life. And while genetics is certainly a factor for many adult heart disease patients, the simple fact is that most cases are related to a person's long-term diet and exercise habits.

    Children should come to mind when we hear or talk about "long-term habits." Research clearly shows that attitudes toward food and exercise form early in life, giving adults a better base for a healthier lifestyle and long term effectiveness. A child with a habit of grabbing an apple or carrot instead of chips or cupcakes will probably grow into an apple/carrot eating adult. The same will happen for the child who reaches for a glass of water instead of soda. Likewise, a child who engages regularly in vigorous, active play is less likely to be obese and has a good chance of maintaining good physical fitness throughout life.

    It is possible for adults to change their habits and people do make lifelong changes all the time. People also fail frequently in their efforts, because it really is difficult for adults to alter their eating and exercise habits once they are established. Young children, on the other hand, stand an excellent chance of developing good habits, or altering bad ones, as long as the adults in their lives provide appropriate guidance. Remember: children learn most habits by observing the actions of the adults around them. You can tell them to eat an apple all you want, but they will notice if you reach for a bag of chips at snack time. This is where leading or teaching by example is a good practice to have.

    Just like any other muscle in the body, the heart is subject to a "use it or lose it" system. Although the heart is one muscle that exercises itself, all day every day, it will never get any stronger if the rest of the body is just sitting there idly all day long. The heart needs a strong daily workout. For children, the daily "heart workout" should include a range of light, moderate, and vigorous activities. In other words, they don't have to be running at full speed in order to get the exercise they need. Such vigorous play is important, but walking, dancing, and many forms of indoor play provide necessary light to moderate activity.

    Heart health is important. We want our hearts to work for us and with us, to help us live a life that is long and enjoyable. By taking care of our children and guiding them down a path to a healthier lifestyle, we are not only helping them get fit and strong each and every day, but we are helping them build a better foundation for their future health.

    Issue #13 April 2012: Fundraiser Update for Muscular Dystrophy Bike Ride

    Issue #12 April 5th 2012: Does Mom Know Best? She Could! How To Raise A Healthy Child Workshop @Thrive in Exeter, NH

    Issue #11 March 8, 2012 from 7:30 PM to 8:30 PM EST: Waist-Reduction Detox @ Thrive in Exeter, NH

    Issue #10 February/March 2012: Office Closed 2/27-3/3

    Issue #9 February 2012: We're Off To a Great Start - 2012 Fundraiser for Muscular Dystrophy Bike Ride

    Issue #8 February 2012: Happy Valentine's Day from Starry Brook: free blood pressure checks & discounted massage gift certificates

    Issue #7 January 2012: Starry Brook Warns of Internet Blackout 1/18/12

    Issue #6 December 2011: Reminders: HSA, Walgreens, Last Minute Discounted Gift Certificates

    Issue #5 October 2011: Free Massage!

    Issue #4 September 2011: Do you have a warrior immune system?

    Issue #3 August 2011: WEATHER WARNING from Starry Brook Natural Medicine

    Issue #2 August 2011: Learn about hormonal links to Celiac Disorder

    Issue #1 August 2011: Natural Bioidentical Hormone Therapy