WYANET — Coming off the whirlwind of the holidays, filled with plenty of social events complete with eating and drinking, a lot of people turn their New Year’s resolution into an excuse to lose a few extra pounds, get into better shape or eat a healthier diet.
While the resolution opportunity comes with great intent, finding a way to avoid failure and sticking with it is what tends to be the issue a lot of people run into, when it comes to changing one’s lifestyle.
Local counselor Nancy Carper, who has an office in downtown Wyanet, admits to seeing the pattern all year round of people want to set a resolution to make a lifestyle improvement.
“I think what people get in trouble with mostly is they don’t set obtainable goals, or their goal plan is not in stair-step fashion where it’s one step to next when it comes to meeting that goal,” she said. “I tell clients if you walked up to a stairway and the first step was like 3-foot high, it’s a lot harder to get up that first step than if it’s 6 or 7 inches high.”
When people set unobtainable goals, many meet failure rather quickly, turning the “I can do this” into “I can’t do this” way too soon. Carper refers to reading an article where a low percentage of people polled actually stick with their New Year’s resolutions.
“The intent is there, but it means modifying behaviors and patterns that get in the way of most people,” Carper said. “People talk about it at the fitness centers in January; people are signing up, and the gym is packed. But at the end of January and mid-February, the numbers begin to drop off. So you know people don’t stick with it.”
So what’s the first bit of advice Carper gives to clients? To stay motivated and stick with the goals, clients are encouraged to prep and plan ahead for possible road blocks that could occur during the process.
“Think ahead and take a look at what’s gotten in the way before for you,” she said. “Looking at the situations that made you break those goals can help recognize what could go wrong.”
Whether the answer is “I ate healthy until the next social event,” or “I lacked the motivated to get off the couch and exercise,” coming up with a plan and prepping for what will get in the way could help give a heads up on sticking with the goal.
“A lot of times what I encourage people to do, especially if it’s a motivation issue ... you have to put what you’re bad feeling is for the moment aside and try to look at maybe ‘I’ll feel better if I go out and do it.’ If you wait to have the feeling to do it, it may never happen,” she said.
Another thing to remember, it takes roughly three weeks to form a new habit.
“That’s just forming the habit; it doesn’t mean you’re going to keep it,” Carper said. “But it might get you to start turning a corner, and if a person becomes unmotivated or sidetracked in those three weeks, it’s going to be very easy to just let the habit go and slide back into old behaviors.”
Lastly, people need to recognize and focus on the hidden payoff — even on negative behaviors.
“There’s got to be a payoff to everything, and you have to address what the payoff is,” Carper said. “Identify the hidden payoffs to avoid slidding back into old behaviors. It’s a lot easier to slide back than to determine what the new payoffs are going to be. You kind of know them, but you haven’t yet experienced them.”
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