It is the new year again, and you have resolved to make some healthful changes: lose weight, eat healthier, or quit smoking. However, those New Year's resolutions seldom become lifelong changes. How can we make new habits become permanent? The trick is to make a commitment instead of a resolution. We easily lose our resolve, but there is less inclination to break a commitment because a commitment is something we really believe in. Here are some ideas:
• Decide what you want most and, more importantly, why you want it. If you are doing something because you should, but not because you really want to, then it will never stick. For example: You want to drink more water because you have heard you should. Knowing that many health concerns such as constipation, headaches, and even heart disease are associated with insufficient water may tempt you to develop the habit. You notice that you feel better, and feeling better becomes the motivator for continuing the habit.
• Decide what exactly you are willing and able to do. This may mean making smaller steps than you originally planned. One person decided to start running for exercise, but on her first day could only run 20 steps. Eventually she worked up to five miles per day - her commitment to better health helped her to not give up in spite of her slow start.
• Be realistic about your expectations. Think positive, and have a backup plan (or two) just in case. For example: You have decided to quit smoking, but in spite of your best efforts to stop cold turkey, you just can't do it. Focusing on the failure, you might not try again - but knowing there are different ways, you will look for a better one. It is also helpful to know that it takes the average person seven tries before to quit tobacco - you may not be able to do it cold turkey, but you can do it some other way.
• Engage your heart into the change you wish to make. You must truly desire the change you wish. This brings in the creative side of your personality, which is one of the most powerful forces within us. For example, you want to eat more vegetables, but don't like many. Find different ways to make them that will taste good to you: sauté garlic with your greens, sprinkle Parmesan cheese on your broccoli, or seek out the ones you might like even a little.
• Bring your friends and family into your commitment; ask them to support you in making the changes you wish to see. Get a friend to walk with you regularly, have your kids help think up new recipes, or ask your spouse to keep his or her sweets in a locked drawer out of the kitchen.
• Get information about how to make the needed change: Ask your doctor, read books or magazines, consult selected internet sites - this will open your horizons to different ways to accomplish your goal.
• Be open to trying new things at least three times. For example, you want to replace cow's milk with soy milk but don't care for soy milk as much. Try it three times in a row - your taste buds are surprisingly adaptable if you give them a chance.
Good luck with your new commitments! Here's a toast to becoming the healthier, more vital person you always wanted to be in the new year - one step at a time.
Dr. Deborah Angersbach is a naturopathic physician at Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic. She can be reached at 259-5096. Send naturopathic health questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.