December 24, 1998

Making New Year's Resolutions You Can Stick With

When the clock strikes 12 a.m. on Jan. 1, your life will change. You'll make resolutions to kiss those bad habits goodbye forever, and a new you will take on the New Year. You'll slim down, pump up, control your temper, save money, watch less TV, quit smoking and read more. Of course, these are the same resolutions we all made last year and the year before.

According to Philip Botkiss, M.D., a psychiatrist with Charter Behavioral Health System, our resolutions fail because we don't think them through. "We can't merely make a resolution. We need to have a clear, step-by-step plan in order to carry it out," he said.

"It also helps to turn the negative into a positive. Instead of looking at your resolution as depriving yourself of something, think about how good you'll feel about the behaviors that will replace it," Dr. Botkiss said. For example, if you resolve to watch less television, think about what activities you will substitute instead, such as walking the dog, signing up for art classes or reading.

"Try to think of resolutions as goals," he said. "Setting goals, and reaching them, is important for our self esteem and gives us a sense of progress. Without them, we tend to feel helpless, hopeless and worthless."

Dr. Botkiss offered the following tips to help make our resolutions work:

"First of all, define your goals," he said. "They must be realistic and measurable. Break the big goals down into smaller steps —by day, week, or month— that will be easier to achieve.

"Secondly, develop a positive attitude. Forget about past failures, if indeed, they were failures. Don't sabotage yourself with defeat before you start."

Dr. Botkiss also suggested looking for new ways to solve old problems. "If you've had trouble reaching a goal before, perhaps it's because you use the same old techniques that haven't worked in the past," he said.

"Whatever your goal or resolution you will need a timeline. Write the end result on your calendar on the projected date and jot down the smaller, measurable steps each month or week," Dr. Botkiss recommended. "Or, make a chart and put it on the refrigerator, closet door or bathroom mirror where you can see it each day."

Dr. Botkiss said resolutions and goals are easier to reach when we enlist the aid of others. "The buddy system works best. Get a friend, family member or support group to help you. If the problem is severe, make a resolution to get professional help," he said.

"Finally, be good to yourself," Dr. Botkiss said. "Reward yourself in a tangible way when you have some measurable success at meeting your goals.

Succeeding with a resolution is extremely satisfying. It makes us feel in control of our lives — and that's well worth the effort."

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