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New Year, New Year’s Resolutions?

As the new year dawned earlier this week, many of us used it as a time to reflect on 2018 and make resolutions for what we want to change in the coming year. Maybe we want to lose some holiday weight, get a better grip on our finances, improve ourselves by learning something new, or change our career/life path. Admittedly, all admirable aspirations (as demonstrated by the fact that these are a few of the most common resolutions…year after year). However, as the shininess of the new year starts to wear off and the doldrums of February start to set in, we lose motivation and nearly 80% of us that made resolutions will have given up, according to U.S. News and World Reports. Yep, 80% will have thrown in the towel by Valentine’s Day! Then why do we keep making New Year’s resolutions year after year and how can we be part of the 20% that makes it past the middle of February?

The connotation of the word resolution is negative to a lot of people, something to be solved or fix. Thus, how many of us are looking at our resolutions as a way of fixing something that we perceive is broken about us? Instead of highlighting the potential for growth and positive change we are starting out focusing on the negatives that we see in ourselves. Whereas the word goal has a much more positive connotation, it’s defined by Oxford’s dictionary as an aim or an object of person’s ambition or effort. A goal is something that we work towards, we aim to achieve unlike a resolution that is putting an end to a problem. Funny how our minds can differentiate subconsciously, and our reactions are influenced by the distinction. How can we make goals that we can stick with for longer than six weeks? Breaking them down into smaller, more manageable goals that allow us to feel successful. That’s right, setting yourself up for success can be key to achieving your goals. Let’s break down one of the more common resolutions of “being healthier”.

Not too General- the goal needs to be specific, “being healthier” is rather vague and ambiguous. State your intent in more specific terms, “I want to be healthier by eating more vegetables.”

Objective- the goal needs to be measurable and trackable. In our example, the word “more” can be construed as subjective. More as compared to what exactly? We can refine the goal further to make it easier to quantify and measure, “5 servings of vegetables a day”.

Achievable- remember we are setting ourselves up for success with our goals, we want to meet them, so we must make sure we are setting reasonable expectations. What if you hate vegetables and never eat them outside of french fries? Is our goal of 5 servings of vegetables a day attainable? Maybe, maybe not. You can refine the goal even further to make it more manageable, “Eat 1 serving of vegetables with lunch and 2 servings with dinner.” Remember if you feel successful you are more likely to be motivated to continue expanding and working toward higher goals.

Lifetime/Lifestyle- is the goal something that you can continue doing indefinitely? Maybe for the rest of your life? Lasting change is about creating new processes of how we think, feel, and react to stimuli so if we have a “diet” mindset then we are constantly looking forward to being done with the “diet”.

By breaking down goals into manageable pieces we are telling ourselves that we want to be successful and that we can do the things that we set our minds to. Start 2019 by setting a goal to ditch the resolutions of the past and succeed in achieving your goals for the future. Happy goal setting!

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A Fresh Outlook in The New Year

Wasatch Family TherapyTo be honest, I’ve long abandoned the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. Being born with a brain that’s wired for a short attention span and lacking in organizational skills, I am challenged by simple tasks which I resolve to complete on a daily basis: being sure I arrive at appointments on time, having gas in my car, and did I remember to bring my iPad? Additionally, my brain is now deficit in attention and almost 50.   The determination, willpower and stamina involved (or so I would imagine)  in ‘sticking to’ resolutions made on January 1 come January 10th, or 20th or (wow! is it possible!) into February is mind boggling to me. Like space traveling; I know incredible human beings make it happen all the time; how they do so is a true wonderment to me.

For myself, and for some of the rest of us, I would like to propose a change in focus this year, and one that I have come to find very useful. Resolve to focus more on the present and live each day to the fullest.  I could resolve , on January 5th, to exercise for 40 minutes every morning; but how can I know how I’ll be feeling on the morning of January 6th or January 12th? Resolve to live each day in the moment.  Attempting to pre-determine your action/behavior on some future date can be limiting and is often a set-up for failure. I have come to learn that I don’t have to make grand statements or decisions about the future; I choose to focus on the present and live life as it occurring. Taking action based on the here and now, in the present, is empowering. It takes practice for sure and can be scary to think about, but that’s the beauty inherent in the approach. You don’t have to think about it!

Next, consider some of the values that are important to you and then ask yourself,  if someone were to spy on me for a few days, would they be able to identify them? For example, some potential areas might be: having a job and money; loving and being loved; making my own decisions; self-respect; freedom; having no legal problems; good health; religion & spirituality; family; good friends. Let’s say my top two are ‘good health’ and ‘family.’ The spy follows me for 3 days. What he observes is: I eat junk food, I lay on my couch, my mom calls me repeatedly and I refuse to pick up the phone. In this  case, clearly, while I am identifying good health and family as the two most important values in my life, my behavior clearly is NOT in line with what is most important to me.

So, why suggest this exercise?

When we act in ways that are contrary to our core beliefs or values, our emotional systems will often act up in one way or another.  We may begin to feel like something is ‘just not right’  though we’re not exactly sure why or what’s wrong.  At times. we lose sight of the things we truly value. Other demands, pressures, stress, or who knows what pulls us to act in ways contrary from the things that are truly important to us.  This simple exercise is a great little tool to use as a reminder. Use it as a self-check in;  am I using my time in ways that align with things that are truly important to me? If not, adjust accordingly.

 

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7 Ways To Beat Seasonal Depression

7 Ways To Beat Seasonal Depression

Does your mood take a nose dive during the winter months? In this new post for ShareCare I give a few ideas for beating seasonal depression. Here’s a preview…

“During the winter months, about 15% of Americans suffer from a mood disorder known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD symptoms are similar to those of depression—feelings of sadness, low energy, sleep problems, irritability, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, anxiety, social isolation and, in severe cases, suicidal thoughts. The difference between general depression and SAD is that sufferers generally gain weight and only experience depression symptoms during a specific and recurring time of the year.

Seasonal depression impacts significantly more women than men. Among people with SAD, 60 to 90% are women, and females between the ages of 15 and 55 are at highest risk.

In my clinical experience, most people with this problem wait too long before seeking help. If you have many of the symptoms above, or if you think you might have SAD, I encourage you to get a medical or mental health evaluation. If you are suffering from SAD there are treatments that can help you feel better.”

Read my 7 tips for tackling SAD on Sharecare

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