(BPT) – It’s time again to make New Year’s resolutions. Whether or not you kept last year’s promise to exercise more, eat less, stop smoking or get your chronic disease under control, the new year is an opportunity to make new commitments that will stick. If you did not succeed at keeping last year’s resolutions, it’s easy for past failures to keep you from making progress. You may have failed to do better because of your lack of willpower or self-control, but there might be something deeper standing between you and your goals.
Behaviors are among the most important factors that determine whether people will live long, healthy lives. According to a recent analysis, human behavior accounts for almost 40 percent of the risk associated with preventable premature deaths in the United States. A new initiative funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) called the Science Of Behavior Change (SOBC) Program is bringing together scientists from around the country to develop methods that will reveal how and why people start and keep up healthy behaviors.
“Millions of people make resolutions every year, but very few are able to keep them. What most don’t understand is that behavior change is hard for everyone, and it’s nearly impossible if you don’t know the underlying processes that determine success,” says Donald Edmondson, PhD, MPH, director of the NIH SOBC Research Network Resource and Coordinating Center and Associate Professor of Behavioral Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. “Success is about understanding those underlying drivers of behavior change, and making them work for you.”
So, how will this help you stay on track with this year’s resolutions? Since the New Year is all about exchanging old habits for new, consider swapping some of your old habits for these new ones:
Mindfulness isn’t all yoga pants and “Ommmm.” It’s a different approach to your day to day. Practicing mindfulness allows you an opportunity to be more present in the moment and stop and think before you act. If your resolution involves getting your blood pressure under control, mindfulness could help. It can help you better assess the things that stress you out and decide how to respond (if at all) in a way that will help keep your pressure normal.
Would you rather have a cheeseburger or a salad for lunch today? Do you wish that you could go back in time and trade all the cheeseburgers you’ve already eaten for salads? Making unhealthy decisions today may stand in the way of good health in the future. Thinking about positive events in the future can help overcome the tendency to value smaller immediate rewards over larger future rewards. Evaluating your decisions in terms of their short- and long-term impact on health is a very powerful way to marry your actions today with your vision for your life tomorrow.
You can’t change what you don’t see! With today’s hustle and bustle, practicing self-monitoring can prevent you from going back to old unhealthy habits. Get an activity tracker to see if you really are doing the physical activity you promised yourself. If you have diabetes, check your blood sugar. When you miss your goal for a day, figure out ways to do better tomorrow. And when you achieve your goal for a day, celebrate!
Reacting to relationship stress
Sometimes challenges in our close relationships can interfere with our ability to make healthy choices. For example, after a fight with your spouse, an evening walk will bring your stress down just as well as a bottle of wine and a cigarette. You’ll thank yourself for it later!
Be aware of your stress
Face it, there’s just no way to avoid stress. And the more stressed you are, the harder it is to hold on to good habits. Do you have a hard time when you’re stressed? Or do you recover quickly and easily shake it off? Do you let things build up over time? Paying attention to your everyday stress responses and identifying triggers can help you navigate challenging situations to help stay focused on your goals.
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How many times have you made a New Year’s resolution only to give up just a few weeks later? Health expert Melissa will share 5 easy steps you can take to reach your ideal weight, eat for success, and create new food habits. You don’t have to make resolutions for 2016 – you can begin to change today!
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