BY DR. GINA FIDLER, DNP, FNP-C
Now that 2023 is a wrap, the new year feels like a fresh start or blank canvas, inviting us to create something new in our lives.
But did you know that over 90% of resolutions are abandoned within just a few months? The reason for this is complex, but the general themes are: misaligned values, negative self-stories, unrealistic goals, forgetting, difficulty navigating setbacks, lack of accountability and an unsupportive environment.
Let’s take a new approach to our resolutions this year, shall we? We will discuss some proven strategies to help reframe our mindset to support the sustainable change that we all strive for but often eludes us.
First, reflect on last year.
In 2023, what worked well in your life? What didn’t work? What no longer serves you and you would benefit from letting go? Do you feel that you showed up the way you wanted, most of the time? Think about a goal or resolution that you DID keep.. what worked?
What do you want?
It’s not just arguably the most famous line from the movie The Notebook, it applies here too. Have you ever talked to yourself in “shoulds”— “I should volunteer more” or “I should lose weight” or “I should stop spending so much money.” Yes? Good, then we know you’re human. The problem lies when we allow these “shoulds” to become our New Year’s resolutions. We wind up attaching the belief that if we do these things, it will make us a better, healthier or a more liked person. This year, let’s flip the script and start with asking ourselves: what do you want? Not just what you think you want, what society wants or what other’s want. Will your resolution of traveling to six countries this year bring about the happiness you want or is it an easier goal than confronting your anxiety?
Take a look at your self-stories.
Self-stories are simply how we see ourselves. If we think of ourselves as lazy and accept a nickname, such as “Big Rick,” for example – we may see why Rick finds it very difficult to lose weight. Alternatively, a self-story that we are capable and athletic greatly increases our chances of finishing that triathlon. Write out your story, paying attention to anything that goes against the new story that you want to create. Now re-write your story, shifting to stories that serve you and affirm your resolution. You may find that this deep work is helpful with the support of a therapist or coach.
Create a sound resolution.
Choose a specific and measurable resolution that involves the action you are looking to create, like “I will run for 30 minutes twice a week.” Play out your resolution to see what else it impacts and if the ripple effects are sustainable. If your resolution to save money means you regularly miss out on connection with your coworkers at Starbucks, you may want to adjust your game plan.
Try “habit stacking.”
One of the best ways to form a new habit is to identify a habit you regularly engage in already and then stack your new behavior on top. The new habit will be “cued” by your existing habit. This method is highly effective because it builds off existing neural networks in our brain, increasing the odds that we will repeat the routine. Say you have a habit of bingeing Netflix. Don’t we all? If your resolution involves increasing your exercise, you could create a new routine for yourself that whenever you choose to watch Netflix, you will do so while riding your Peloton bike.
Swap your lofty resolution with a timeline.
If you tend to create lofty goals that you never seem to live up to, try creating a timeline for yourself that breaks your goal into smaller, more manageable milestones. Decide ahead of time how you want to reward yourself along the way. And don’t skip out on celebrating these small victories because our brains are hardwired to react positively to reward by engaging the feel-good dopamine feedback loop. Now, voila! Every time you perform that behavior, your brain associates it with positive feelings.
Expect obstacles and plan for them.
Life is full of setbacks, stumbling blocks and failures. Your New Year’s resolution is no different. Don’t let a mistake derail your efforts; simply start again. When you are trying to implement a new habit, you are going to slip up at times. Be nice to yourself, and use them as learning opportunities. Make a list of the possible obstacles you may face and create a contingency plan for each of them.
Tell someone you trust, who is supportive and who you don’t want to let down about your goal. You can also join an accountability group, hire a coach or make a public announcement. Eeek! While this is uncomfortable for nearly everyone, it’s highly effective in sticking to your resolution. You can do it!
Set yourself up for success.
Your environment can be stronger than your willpower. Ensure it’s conducive to the goals you are trying to accomplish and refrain from putting yourself in tempting or distracting situations. Also, make it easy for yourself for at least the first week until behavior change takes hold; like having your smoothie ingredients prepped and ready to pop into the blender first thing in the morning.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Behavior change is hard. It will take planning, commitment and sacrifice. But isn’t anything worth accomplishing always hard? Know that there’s no cookie-cuter approach to master New Year’s resolutions and what works for someone else may not work for you. Take what resonates with you and leave the rest. This year, I invite you to craft your resolution from a place of self-love, abundance, positive expectation and a willingness to put in the work, because you’re worth it! Then go after your resolution with commitment, passion and resilience. You got this. Cheers to an incredible New Year!
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
Dr. Gina Fidler (formerly, Dr. Gina Caprara) is a doctorally-prepared and board-certified advanced practice family nurse practitioner with over eighteen years of experience in healthcare and also a proud resident of Wash Park. She has extensive experience and training in integrative and functional medicine and she is thrilled to bring concierge primary care and wellness services to the iconic Wash Park neighborhood and surrounding areas. Our office is located in the heart of Wash Park on South Gaylord Street. Check out our website, www.washparkhealth.com or call our office for more information 303-923-2344.