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Editor's Note:  "Borderlines," BAMHS' periodic column, provides ideas and suggestions for healthy living, better family life and successful strategies for coping with life's challenges. Our newsletter is updated frequently! Check back often.
Positive resolutions work best
Posted: February 9, 2011
Last Updated: February 9, 2011

Donít let your New Yearís Resolution fallen by the wayside this year. Over 43 percent of people drop their New Years Resolution within first two months of the new year, according to a study conducted by the University of Washington.


The same university reported that the most common New Yearís Resolutions are health-related, and with 60 percent of Americans dieing from illnesses connected to behaviors like overeating, lack of exercise and smoking, these are the resolutions that need to be kept to insure a healthy future.


Studies show that when people attempt life-altering changes, like New Year Resolutions, only 40 percent succeeded on the first attempt. That means a majority of us need to keep trying to reach our goals whether it is to lose those 20-pounds or to buy that dream car, this year.


One way to change old habits is to form a new behavior that takes the place of the bad habit until the new behavior becomes less unpleasant and more attractive, according to behavioral psychologists. This is called implementation intentions; itís a very important part of modifying behaviors. 


Offer a more desirable option to be placed directly before you to help ease you from those bad habits you are trying to break. If you are taking up an exercise program, but have trouble fitting it into your schedule, you might consider designating a hour a day for exercise, even on days you donít exercise keep that hour for yourself as a reward for sticking to your new routine. If you want to cut down sugary snacks, you might make a plate of vegetables to keep handy to curb your tendency to snack on high-calorie food.


Make a plan that works within your limits is also important. A chocoholic canít kick the cocoa-habit any easier than a smoker could kick nicotine. Make a plan to change your life style a little bit at a time; donít expect to stick with a drastic change overnight. Cutting down on a bad habit can be the first step in a long lasting life style change and lead the way for next yearís resolution.


Build a little leeway into your new effort to self regulate, too. You might not reach your goal this week, but how far have you come since last week? If your resolution was to exercise 5 times a week and you were able to exercise three times; you still accomplished more than you did before. That kind of change needs to be viewed in a positive light of completing three workouts, not the negative light of missing two workouts, this week. Focus on the positive changes you have accomplished, not the barriers still to be overcome.


Increasing a positive behavior is more likely to occur than decreasing a negative behavior, according to studies. So try to word your resolution with positive language and resolve to increase positive habits, instead of negative outlooks at current behaviors. Instead of resolving to sit in front of the computer less, try resolving to get out more or take up an exercise routine before logging on the computer. The little extra reward of playing on the computer after completing your new behavior of exercising is an example of positive reinforcement and implementation intentionsómaking the new behavior more desirable and rewarding.


If all else fails and you donít succeed, try again after analyzing what barriers held you back and how to overcome them. Donít abandon your good intentions to better yourself before the year is done. An effort to keep your resolution can be started in January or June; it doesnít matter. All that matters is your commitment to yourself! Even if you donít succeed this year, it will place you on a better path for further success in the coming years.


If you need help keeping your New Yearís call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649; in Luna County, call 546-2174.  For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.

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© 2008 by Border Area Mental Health Services and Putting the Web to Work. Front-page photo copyright by Bob Pelham, Pinos Altos Cabins, and used by permission. All rights reserved. For the privacy and comfort of our clients and staff, the photographs used in this site are representative and do not show specific individuals associated with BAMHS.