As the New Year approaches, many of us are caught up in the business of the holiday season. Family time, gift-giving, and social events are all making us busy. For some of us, the excitement is invigorating. For others, it’s a stressful time as our physical and social energy reserves get depleted, our time and our wallets get stretched, and we overindulge on food and beverages.
The stress of December and anticipation for the New Year often inspire us to make changes in our lives that are reflected in New Year’s resolutions. Only to find that our resolutions do not last. The motivation to change we had on January 1st is long gone by February.
So, how do we make sustainable changes?
First, appreciate the beauty of the human mind. Humans are resilient and able to adapt and make changes. However, we need to appreciate that our minds thrive best on gradual and intentional changes. Try some of these simple tips to reframe your thinking and ditch the all-or-nothing mindset we tend to try in resolutions.
Set Intentions, Not Just Goals
Tip: Align your goals with your deeper intentions.
How-To: For every goal, like losing weight, set an intention like “to live a healthier life or to feel better”
Example: When signing up for a fitness class, remind yourself, “This isn’t just about exercise; it’s about honoring my body and my commitment to my health.”
This works because your brain will be less resistant when you acknowledge the purpose of the activity is to honor your body and take care of yourself. The activities will feel more like a gift to yourself than a punishment for overindulging.
Let’s dive in a little deeper.
If you choose to decrease your negative thoughts and improve interactions with close family members, your intention can be “to focus on your beautiful life.”
Wondering how that plays into your goal?
Let’s break it down.
By choosing to treat yourself well, you increase positive cognitions, and your brain will respond more readily through your intention of treating others with kindness.
Here’s the practical application:
Practice gratitude. One practice I use with clients is called “Three Good Things”. Each day, make a list of three things that are good in your life. These things can be as simple as you have a bed to sleep in, food to eat, a significant other, etc. They can be more complex – this list is personal and tailor-made for you. Make it a habit to take note of three positive things a day and your endorphin levels will increase, your negative feelings decrease, and interactions become more positive.
Dedicate 30 seconds a day to focus on your intentions and you will rewire your brain to think differently when faced with stressful situations. By keeping these intentions front and center, you will be more likely to accomplish those New Year Resolutions.