New Year’s resolutions achieved in small steps

Most Vancouverites make New Year’s resolutions, even if they don’t like to admit it, but very few actually achieve them.
According to a survey commissioned this November by Weight Watchers Canada, two-thirds of Canadians make New Year’s resolutions but 41 per cent of them abandon their goals within the first month.
Dr. Randy Paterson, a psychologist who works with people experiencing anxiety and depression, said the failure rate for change in the New Year is so high because people are looking for a “revolution.”
“People think, starting Jan. 1, I am going to behave flawlessly. I’m not going to smoke, I’m not going to drink too much, I’m going to exercise.” Paterson said. “Revolutions tend not to work very well.”
“What tends to work better is small, achievable, immediate goals.”
Dr. Ellen Domm, a psychologist specializing in anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and eating disorders, encourages her clients to develop achievable, realistic goals using the S.M.A.R.T. method. She said goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable and time-framed.
Domm said people should not set a goal to “eat healthy,” they should set a goal to eat four servings of vegetables five out of seven days, for example.
Paterson said ultimate goals are big-picture goals that could be achieved eventually, such as learning Spanish. But he said creating a list of smaller, immediate goals — such as calling a local college to inquire about Spanish lessons — is essential to attaining the ultimate goal and providing direction and achievement along the way.
Suzanne Zilkowsky, a health coach, stressed the importance of building confidence while trying to develop a healthier lifestyle.
“They have to be confident with their actions so they’ll keep repeating them,” Zilkowsky said. “I can tell people what to do over and over again but unless they actually feel it and they gain that self confidence, the likelihood that they’re going to repeat it is not strong.”
Zilkowsky said many factors could impact a person’s health and ability to meet their goals. She asks her clients to consider who they spend time with, how much coffee they drink, how much sleep they get and what foods they eat.
“If more people were a little bit more gentle with their goals and looked at all areas of their health I think they would find results that are a lot more long-standing,” Zilkowsky said.
Domm said she encourages people to remove the words “I should” from their goal-setting vocabulary because it encourages self-sabotaging feelings of guilt. Instead she suggests people use “I can” or “I will” when forming their New Year’s resolutions.
“When you change the way to talk to yourself, you change your internal climate,” Domm said.
Paterson tells his clients not to think of unattained goals as failures because having a list of goals still provides guidance.
“Kill the revolution. The idea that your life in 2014 is going to be utterly different than your life in 2013 is false,” Paterson said.
“But are there some subtle, specific changes that you would like to make and can we start making them now?”

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