Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

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It doesn’t seem possible that we’re in a brand new year already. Where did 2018 go? Well, off with the old, and all that! The practice of making resolutions for the new year is a time honored tradition. It’s like we have a brand new slate to write on, and this time we’re going to do it right! The problem is that we usually end up making the same resolutions as we did last year. What can we do to make it work this year?


What if we look at the whole process with fresh eyes? Most of our resolutions have to do with some sort of self improvement, a behavior or habit we want to stop. Sometimes, it’s a whole set of habits. We think the beginning of the new year is a good time to “fix” all our flaws. Then our lives would be perfect, right? The problem with that view is that we aren’t machines, like automobiles. You can’t just replace some parts and expect to “run like a top”. Our attempts at fixing ourselves are hampered by various mortal weaknesses, like emotions, appetites for pleasure of one kind or another, or that old nemesis, laziness.


Say you’ve decided to “get in shape” for the new year. That’s a pretty broadly expressed resolution. Define “in shape”. Do you need to lose weight, ramp up the cardio activity, or what? I doubt that you’ll be ready to run the Boston Marathon anytime soon, especially if you haven’t even walked down the block for a paper in years. Your resolution should be specific and narrowly defined. Write it down, whether it be to lose 15 pounds, join an exercise class, or take a 20 minute walk every day. You can even have more than one, but be sure it’s specific and attainable.


Losing weight is a popular one. Sadly, it’s often the most easily discarded. If you sit around repeating to yourself, “I’m not going to eat any cake”, five will get you ten, you’ll eventually eat that cake. There are several ways to deal with this. You can have healthy snacks around to replace the cake. However, sometimes people end up eating the snacks and the cake, instead of eating the snacks instead of the cake. This is especially true in a work environment with vending machines available.


The trick is to get out of the habit of reaching for the snack. Replace that activity with another. If the temptation is strongest after lunch or dinner, use the time you would be eating to take a walk, ride a bike, or hit that downtown gym for a few minutes. The combination of moving and refraining from the snacks will boost your weight loss efforts. Eventually, you’ll be out of the habit of reaching for the snacks, and into the habit of walking biking, or whatever you choose to do.


Consider having a friend with similar goals join you when you walk or bike. We often behave better when someone is watching us. If you like competition, you could even turn it into a race, with the winner owing the loser a small gift of some kind. Once you’ve reached your goal, you’ll have more confidence, and can make further self-improvement resolutions.


Whatever your resolutions are, we wish all our friends in the Minneapolis area a Very Happy and Healthy New Year!