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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top Five Tips for Keeping Resolutions

Newswise — Each January 1, many of us resolve to alter ourselves in some way. We will give up smoking. We will eat healthier. We will be more patient. However by January 15, we've chucked it out the window. But all is not lost, says John O'Neill, LCSW, LCDC, CSAT, director of Addiction Services for The Menninger Clinic in Houston.

New Year's is the time we reflect on the past and prepare for the future, he said, but we can resolve to make positive changes at any time.

"This is the time we tend to generate new hope for the next year. As we reflect, we think about what needs to be different," O'Neill says. "The process of thinking about change is critical to developing actual change. It is a process that is helpful no matter what time of year."

Resolutions usually take the form of either starting something, e.g. start exercising, organizing, spending time with family; or stopping something, e.g. quit smoking, drinking, eating poorly. Before you commit to your resolution; however, first take a look at what is motivating you to change.

"Do you really want to make the change? We often resolve to change something that we truly have no intention of changing," says O'Neill. "This can serve to be counterproductive and provide us a sense of failure. It is important to consider what we need to do to change and evaluate how we will do it."

If you are ready to make the change devise a strategy that provides the best chance for success. O'Neill offers the following tips for setting and achieving resolutions:

1. When we resolve to change, it needs to come with a strategy to change. Simply saying you want to do something does not fuel the change. Consider the strategy and outline the process of change that is simple and realistic.

2. Keep resolutions to a minimum. Attempting to stop or start multiple things may serve to overwhelm you and prevent you from doing any of them. "It makes good sense to keep change simple and to tackle one major change at a time," O'Neill says. "Having multiple resolutions may be too much for the brain to process and may make change difficult."

3. Develop accountability partners. Lock in someone who will supports your change.

4. Appreciate the changes you are attempting and reward yourself throughout the process. If you are keeping goals simple, you can appreciate exercising more or better eating.

5. Attend to your stress. Many resolutions center around behaviors that are in place to cope with stress such as smoking, drinking or problematic eating. When we change the behaviors, we need a new plan to manage stress.

About The Menninger Clinic The Menninger Clinic is a nonprofit, international specialty psychiatric center, providing treatment, research and education. Founded in 1925 in Kansas, Menninger relocated to Houston in 2003 and is affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine. Since 1991, Menninger has been named among the top ten leading psychiatric hospitals in U.S.News & World Report's annual ranking of America's Best Hospitals. Menninger is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.


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