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So you want to make a New Year’s resolution. Well, some habits are easier to change than others.

If you’d like to make a change in a simple habit, it can be relatively easy unlike complex habits. A simple habit is not motivated or sustained because of an intense emotion.

Over-eating is often a common “complex habit” – one that is emotionally linked. You feel tired, bored, upset…and you start eating. (This could also be true of smoking or nail-biting as other examples.) The eating is not about a desire to feed the body or just because it is enjoyable. The eating occurs as a mechanism to minimize the unpleasant feelings being experienced. In a way, it’s the drug of choice in order to feel better.

Be absolutely committed to your success – no excuses. An excuse is a lie to your ultimate success. Be positive and relentless in achieving your goals.

Visualize yourself, step-by-step, overcoming every likely roadblock to your success. Plan as to how you will deal with roadblocks and difficulties that may arise.

Plan for what you will be doing one day in advance… then make it happen. Only YOU can. If you give in to temptation, immediately get back on track… NOW. As Nike says “Just do it!”

If you attempt to make a change but find yourself continually backsliding, look at which emotions are occurring at the time of the backsliding and you will find your culprit. Minimize the intensity, duration and frequency of the associated distressing emotion and making the desired change will become easier. (Self-help books or a therapist can assist in this area.)

Remember that when you are feeling happier, stronger and more in control, making a change becomes easier.

Here are a few tips for changing simple habits:

  1. Be 100 per cent committed to making the change. No exceptions. You will succeed! Magic seems to occur when there is a commitment.
  2. Make a change in your lifestyle that supports the change you wish to make (for example, don’t buy junk food to bring home if you wish to lose weight. Or park at the far end of the lot to increase your walking).
  3. Focus on the benefits. As an example: quitting smoking (save money, feel healthier, sleep better, longer life, smell better). Also think of the hassles of smoking (the cost, dirt, smell, rejection, illness). This can be applied to any habit.
  4. If you find that you are blocked in some fashion, find a solution – keep moving forward and do not give up.
  5. Confucius said, “A journey of a thousand leagues begins with a single step.” Take small steps. Start today. Then praise and reward yourself for each step along the way. Nothing succeeds like success, so celebrate each small success until complete success is obtained.
  6. Make sure that the change you wish to make is personal to you and then focus on the benefits you will receive in making the change. Enlist others to support you, to cheer you on in tough times. More than anything, be your own best cheerleader and coach.

 

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Daniel Rutley
Daniel Rutley, Psy.D. is a Clinical Psychotherapist in private practice in Mississauga. He is also the best-selling author of Escaping Emotional Entrapment: Freedom from negative thinking and unhealthy emotions. He specializes in depression, anxiety, anger, habit control and relationship issues.