As we head into another New Year and talk turns to Resolutions, we need to be realistic about our goals and how we can set ourselves up for success. One thing many of us do is “get rid of” bad habits. We say no more sugar, no more white bread, no more alcohol, no more yelling, no more mindless spending, etc. Eventually, we are back to our old ways and feeling worse for it. But why?
For one, it is not a good idea to deprive oneself. Enjoying life and being happy is very important. It’s a part of a self-love, self-compassion, and a self-care routine. For most of us, there is nothing wrong with an occaisional glass of wine (unless you are an alcoholic) or the infrequent meltdown. We’re human, we are not perfect. These habits are only a problem when they interfere with our health, our well-being, our relationships, our responsibilties, our ability to function.
Second, when we remove something from our lives we are left with a vacancy…just like with ANY loss. Unless we are prepared to handle that loss, we will fall back into old habits. Instead, think “replace”. It is far more effective to replace something bad with something better…it doesn’t even have to be the best, just better for now. Accomplish baby steps until you reach your goal.
For instance, it’s a known fact that sodas (like other sugary beverages) are terrible for your health and for many it may have some addictive qualities. It is also common knowledge that water is the best thing to drink for your body but many just don’t like it or are not used to it. How can someone make this switch?
Start by replacing one or two sodas with water or a fruit-infused water. If I have a soda with my lunch 5 days a week, I might start by replacing those sodas with water first for a few weeks. In reality it may take many weeks to successfully replace these sodas. The first couple weeks, I might give in a couple days to my sweet tooth. This doesn’t mean I failed. It means I tried and I learned something.
A better way to start might be to replace soda with water for 1 lunch/week first then gradually increase the number of sodas I replace with water. Also, because there is a sweet component to the soda, I might want to add in a piece of fruit to replace the sugar I miss. Some nice plump raspberries or blackberries…something that feels like a treat and is enjoyable to you. Even replacing one soda with water is better than none.
This process of replacing can be applied to almost anything but a little creativity might be helpful. For example, you can replace instant reactionary yelling with a deep breathe or a count to 10 before responding. You can replace impulsive overspending by giving yourself an allowance for such flexible spending.
Little changes do add up. Remember, you are still making progress. Slowly, you will start to feel better and have more confidence in your ability to make more positive changes.
So what am I giving up for New Years? Nothing…but hopefully I will be able to replace some bad habits with some good ones or at least start on the process. If I don’t, I know that I will have learned something about myself and I can make necessary adjustments.
Goodbye to 2016 and those destructive habits.
Hello to 2017 and the opportunity to feel better, be more positive, and be more productive.