What Are You Thinking? Tips for Sticking To Your New Year’s Resolutions

Fireworks

Happy 2016, from the staff of Medac!

Something about turning a calendar page on a new year causes us to see—and seize—the opportunities for positive changes in our lives. Whether you’re vowing to watch your diet, increase your exercise routine, save more money, or do something completely original, we’re here to offer you encouragement and a few tips on achieving success.

The Brain Game

According to Harvard Medical School instructor of psychiatry Joseph Shrand, M.D., pleasure-seeking urges are more primitive than the more recently evolved trait of self-restraint. When we give in to something we want—a triple chocolate sundae, for example—our brain releases an intoxicating rush of dopamine that feels good in the moment, even when our rational brain warns us that we will quickly regret it.

So, how do we overcome biology? Understanding how the brain works can help you outsmart your impulsive instincts.

Seven Steps to Success

  1. Build up your self-control muscles. The more you work at willpower, the stronger it becomes. Give it extra effort.
  2. Have a one-track mind on resolutions. Try tackling one change at a time so you don’t overtax your willpower. Narrow your focus.
  3. Nurture a good mood. Studies show that happiness leads to more self-control.
  4. Don’t make it all or nothing. Completely stopping an unhealthy habit like smoking is one thing, but vowing to give up all sweets or never use your credit card can backfire on you. Set limits instead of making an absolute declaration.
  5. Brag on yourself, to yourself. Make a list of things you’ve accomplished, from simply getting up on mornings you’d rather stay in bed, to successfully saving money, to getting good feedback at work. It will remind you of how much willpower you actually have.
  6. Envision your goal—literally. You probably already know that cravings are often visually cued, so put a picture of yourself at your goal weight on the refrigerator, or an image of why you’re saving next to your credit cards.
  7. Put it in writing. You’re more likely to stick to your goals if you take the time to record them. Mental vows feel much less real. Even better, post the goal where you can’t avoid it, and tell friends and family who are most likely to encourage you along the way.

As with most changes we make in life, modifying our behavior involves being intentional and following through. As the saying goes:

If you want something to change, you have to change something.

***

We wish you health and happiness for 2016, and in the years to come. Should you or your family need us, however, Medac provides excellent medical care without an appointment at four convenient locations. Our Military Cutoff, Porters Neck and Monkey Junction locations are open 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., and the Shipyard Boulevard location is the area’s only urgent care that is open until 11 p.m.