Did you nix New Year’s resolutions this year?

What's your thing - nix the new year resolutionsA message from Laurie Ledford to all those folks looking to set a health challenge for themselves, but not taking the New Year resolutions path. 

Many people see the New Year as a chance for a fresh start, a time to make big changes in their lives. Some people will make resolutions, vowing to become better versions of themselves. Knowing that most New Year’s resolutions fail, and realizing lifestyle makeovers are difficult, other people won’t bother setting a goal for the year.

If you are the type of person who enjoys a challenge, and you can set a goal that is enjoyably difficult but not impossible, then go for it! Just be sure to make a plan – your roadmap – so you don’t get lost along the way. You can use the advice below to help you stick to your plan.

For you non-resolvers out there, let’s find an alternative way to improve yourself without all that stress. Instead of a resolution, just create “Your Thing.” (If you prefer, you can call it your mission, objective, intention, ideal or purpose.) Make it fairly specific, so that it gives you direction for making the right choices. Here are some examples.

  • You want to get eight hours of sleep every night. When the television tries to keep you watching past your ideal bedtime, you say, “Sorry TV, that’s not my thing.”
  • You want to reduce your sugar intake, and someone offers you a soda. You could tell them, “Thanks, but soda’s not my thing.”
  • You want to eat more vegetables. When a waiter asks, “Would you like fries with that?” You reply, “Actually, veggies are more my thing. I’ll have a side salad instead.”

“Your Thing” needs to be about something you want to change. It may not be what your doctor, your family, your friends or strangers online think you should change. The desire to change must resonate inside of you, and you must have a clear idea of why you want to change. That reason will help provide motivation to, for example, choose the after-dinner walk instead of the after-dinner ice cream.

“Your Thing” is not one big transformation; it is instead a continuous process and an ongoing learning opportunity. It isn’t a single decision; it is lots of choices, made moment by moment. In this approach, you break down the overall improvement into small steps, and you take one step at a time.If you have a slip-up along the way, you forgive yourself and move on. However, you can learn from each little slip-up. Ask yourself what you could do to help yourself make a different (better) decision next time.

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Often making the right decision comes down to choosing one behavior over another. For “Your Thing,” it means choosing to do what’s right, not what’s easy. It’s easy to fall into old habits. Therefore, you need to become aware of what you are doing day to day. Notice which behaviors or habits support “Your Thing” and which ones do not. Then get curious about what drives those behaviors. Here are some common triggers.

  • your location or surroundings
  • the time of day
  • other people
  • your emotional state
  • some other associated behavior

Now make a plan. Decide what you are going to do differently when the trigger activates your behavior. Ideally, it will be something that provides the same good feeling while still supporting “Your Thing.” Your plan may not be an instant success. You may have to try several different tactics to stick with “Your Thing” And you may find that what you thought was a trigger actually wasn’t. This is why changing habits is an ongoing process of learning. It takes time to figure out your behavior.

No matter how vigilant you are, there will be times when it is simply too much work to make the right choice. Sometimes you are so exhausted or stressed that you feel unable to resist the old habit, and so you give in. Guess what? It’s OK. Nobody’s perfect, so forgive yourself, move on, and vow to do better next time.

Laurie Ledford RDLaurie Ledford is a registered dietitian from Atlanta, Georgia, the land of grits, collard greens and super-sweet iced tea. She now works as a registered dietitian  in the Tucson Medical Center Wellness Department. She enjoys helping people improve their health through sustainable dietary changes while still relishing occasional indulgences. In her off hours, Laurie engages in foodie pursuits such as sampling unusual flavor combinations (olive oil and basil ice cream was a good one) as well as hiking and cycling.

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