By Wanda Sevey
Being a better person and losing weight are the top resolutions for 2018.  If you are among the nearly 50% of the population who makes New Year’s resolutions here are some tips for sticking with it.

  1. Create a concrete and specific goal. “Being a better person” is too vague.  Instead, identify the behavior you want to change.  Here’s a concrete example I’ve worked on myself:   “I want to stop reacting with anger when I get into the slow line at the grocery store.”
  2. Become consciously aware. We tend to think of behaviors as automatic.  We say “I can’t help it…it’s just the way I am.”  Behavior experts know that this is just not true.  Behaviors feel automatic but they are actually preceded by sensations, emotions and thoughts.  Becoming aware of these unconscious reactions is the first step toward changing them.  For example, I recognize that before I get angry, my jaw muscles tighten.  I also feel a tightness around my eyes.  Since I recognize these sensations as signs of impending anger I can now make a choice.  I can say to myself “Okay my jaw is getting tight.  I’m squinting a little.  I’m about to get angry because this grocery store line is taking too long.”
  3. Become consciously competent by practicing new ways of thinking, feeling and being. When I feel the anger approaching I take these steps:
  • I consciously let go of tension in my face.
  • I think a cooling thought. I say to myself “Am I a brain surgeon?  Am I on my way to saving someone’s life in surgery? Since this long wait in line is not a life or death situation I don’t have to be upset about it.
  • I distract myself. I listen to the music playing in the store or I get curious about the people around me.
  1. Practice, practice, practice.  It will get easier over time

Creating a concrete goal, becoming aware of what seems unconscious and practicing over and over can be applied to almost any New Year’s resolution or any old habit you want to change or new habit you want to establish.  Try it, it works!
Wanda Sevey is a Staff Therapist for Council for Relationships, which provides counselors and services through the New Directions Center.