Happy New Year!
Recently, my friends and I were sitting in front of the fireplace discussing past New Year’s resolutions abandoned three weeks into the new year. Having spent some time at the Benson-Henry Institute at Harvard Medical School a few years ago, discussing motivational interviewing and compassionate healthcare, I couldn’t resist asking my friends what got in the way of committing to their New Year’s resolutions. We determined that to keep our resolutions, we needed to:
Set goals with intention.
Focus on the process rather than the end result.
Be kind to ourselves when we get derailed.
Surround ourselves with support.
We tend to reflect on the past year in regret or feel ashamed of what we haven’t accomplished rather than focusing on the positive changes that we did make. New Year’s resolutions are easy to make and hard to keep. We make commitments that we are unable to fulfill and are left feeling disappointed in ourselves. With disappointment, we often lose track of our goals rather than reflecting on what prevented us from achieving our goals in the first place. We have firm expectations of specific outcomes, but we are still human, prone to slip ups and mistakes. We live in a constantly changing environment, which can derail even the most tenacious among us. I think the problem with resolutions is that they put us in a “good-or-bad” or “success-or-failure” mode. We start obsessing with outcomes rather than focusing on enjoying the process that we have committed to. I have learned that we must discover OUR OWN PERSONAL obstacles that prevent us from achieving our goals.
Right after I graduated from medical school, I spent time at Harvard where we reviewed the most cutting edge research on stress management and mindfulness and the role they play in dedication, staying committed to lifestyle changes and remaining resilient when facing adversity. All of it was mind blowing! After reviewing the research, I couldn’t help but make stress management an important part of my practice with my patients and in my own life! I like to share my expertise in health in order to focus on empowering patients to make the lifestyle changes they desire! I partner with my patients in goal setting, recognizing the obstacles that can be removed, and providing the support my patients need on their journey toward health. Two modalities that I use with my patients are biofeedback and mind-body medicine. Research has shown that stress management and behavioral changes go hand in hand. Have you ever noticed that you make different and more impulsive decisions when you are under stress? Well, this is where mindfulness and stress reduction become so important when we are trying to make lifestyle changes in the New Year! Through biofeedback and mind-body medicine you get to create more awareness of what YOUR stress response is: how you’re behaving in the presence of your stressors/triggers. The first step is awareness and insight into the physical and mental/emotional responses in the presence of stress and the desired changes follow with the tailored treatment plans.
This new year, I encourage you to take these steps to set yourself up for an enjoyable journey toward attaining your resolutions.
1. Setting intentions/goals:
Sometimes we set goals that are set on a specific outcome. For example, we say, “I want to lose a certain amount of weight”. It’s important to reflect and know why this is your intention this year. Honoring the personal meaning behind an action helps us maintain our commitments. This helps us slow down and evaluate our actions when we want to return to old habits. It also helps us get back on track after getting derailed for a day or week. We have to constantly remember to focus our attention on making our next decision an aligned on, rather than focusing on yesterday’s slip up.
2. The process vs. end result:
When we set intentions and don’t have a road map of how we want to achieve them, it is very difficult to visualize getting there. We’ll constantly worry about slipping off our plan because we can’t see the bigger picture and the process becomes a punishment. When I am helping patients set a plan to achieve goals, we get very specific about the process of achieving the goal. We discuss fun ways to get to this goal, because the truth is, we can’t live for the future. How can we make each moment be as pleasant as possible? Honoring the intention that we set becomes easier when we have an enjoyable journey each day.
No matter what intentions we set for ourselves or others, there are days that we don’t live up to our expectations. A fundamental lesson I have learned through my mindfulness practice is creating awareness without any judgement. We learn that we are constantly beginning again with each breath. When we sit down to meditate, we start with a moment of awareness, then our mind wanders off to feeding the pets, picking up the kids and that dress that’s in our shopping cart online. When we become aware of the wandering mind, we can bring our attention back to our breath. We don’t beat ourselves up for the wandering mind. We just use it as a cue to refocus our attention. So how can we apply this to every day intentions and resolutions? We must practice self-acceptance rather than judgement, so we can be bring our focus back to the present and learn to treat each moment as a fresh start. It’s the decisions we make in the moments of insight that make all the difference.
From a young age, we’re told that we need to be independent or else we look weak to others. I couldn’t disagree more. During periods of transition in life, we need support, which can come from friends, family, or medical professionals.
I would be honored to help you achieve your New Year’s resolutions and make 2019 your healthiest year yet! During the months of January and February, mention this blog and receive $50 off a one hour session.