Friday, January 11, 2013

Some tips for our resolutions for 2013

Here we are again. I know, some of you are saying "Already?" The holidays are over and it's time for resolutions for the New Year!

A U.S. study (University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology) reports that nearly half of all Americans (45%) made a resolution this year... but more than half will break them in the coming months. Indeed, only about 8% ever reach their goals. But why is it so difficult to keep our resolutions?

Here are a few tips to help you make 2013 a year in which you succeed in making and keeping them!

  • Don't try to change more than one behaviour at a time (and a maximum of 2-3 during a year);
  • Take time and carefully choose a "real" resolution;
  • If you really want to change a behaviour, stop and think about HOW to do it: what do you have to focus on to achieve your goals?
  • Our objectives should be "SMART":
    1. Specific (loose how many pounds/kilograms; take what specific course, etc.).
    2. Measurable (eat five servings of vegetables every day, or take a 15 minute walk, three nights/week, etc.).
    3. Attainable (stop overnight or gradually?)
    4. Realistic (lose 10 lbs in a week? Really?)
    5. Timely (reachable by June 1, 2013, for example)

Change, when it occurs is usually accompanied by a process of mourning for what had been (I can no longer eat chocolate while watching a movie, for example). Denial, or resistance, is the first stage of change. The greater the resistance, the more individuals may rebel or abandon (or become demotivated or discouraged). Our challenge is a mental one: to move from “change" to "continuous adaptation" (for example, a strict diet versus adopting a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating habits).

According to Prochaska and Di Clemente (1999), change is a cyclical process. Thus, the cycle of Prochaska outlines six stages of change:

  1. Pre-plan (pre-contemplation): The person does not intend to change his/her behaviour in the coming months. The reasons vary: lack of information, lack of confidence, past failures, fear of consequences, focus on other priorities, etc.
  2. Intention (contemplation): The person is considering modifying his/her behaviour in the relatively near future. He/she weighs the pros and cons.
  3. Preparation: The decision is made and the individual is ready to change. He/she asks for advice, researches information, looks into how he/she will take it on, etc... — often, it is here that the necessary reflection is missing when it comes time to actually making a resolution.
  4. Action: It's the first of January and it's a go! This is the period during which the person changes his/her habits. And more energy and attention is required on a daily basis.
  5. Maintenance: The change is in place. Now, how to avoid returning to what was before? The individual has more confidence in his/her abilities so the effort is less intense. While relapse is still a possibility, it is only one part of the last step toward change (relapse should be considered as an integral part of the process but not as a lack of success).
  6. Resolution: The temptation toward past behaviour has disappeared, including potentially dangerous situations of stress, anxiety, anger or depression. The individual is completely satisfied with the change and no longer relapses (healthy habits are now part of our daily lives and do not require extra effort). It should be pointed out that not everyone reaches this final stage. Some remain in the "maintenance" mode forever.

It should also be noted that that the stages can be gone through at various paces, depending on the motivation of the individual and the support he/she gets. In addition, strategies for success are contingent on individual reasoning. There is no "miracle" or universal strategy, only one that is unique to each situation.

On that note, I wish you a wonderful year filled with challenges to match your expectations!

Dr Yannick Mailloux, Ph.D.
Psychologist
Y2 Consulting Psychologists

If you have any questions and/or comments, don't hesitate. Thank you!

No comments :