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New Year, New You

Posted 12/26/2017 by UHBlog

Should old acquaintance be forgot? Maybe, but definitely your old bad habits should be. Contact us for help with ringing in a new year that starts with a healthier you.

Notebook with "This year, I will" list written

Late every December, many people begin to think about the New Year and the accompanying resolutions. But is it really the best time to make promises you may or may not be able to keep?

“New Year’s Eve can be a good time to decide to make changes in your life,” says family medicine specialist Meighan Patton, DO. “It's a symbolic time for some (people) to remember not to dwell on things that happened before and to focus on the present.”

For others, however, it's the beginning of a cycle that starts high before spiraling downward for the rest of the year. In either case, it's your reaction that matters, says Dr. Patton, adding that many of the reasons people feel the need to make resolutions – and why they don’t fulfill them – can be largely related to their response.

“Their regular habit may be one of negative self-talk,” she says. “They tell themselves they could have been better, or they should have made that goal. They are training their minds to think this way. One of the first resolutions you should make is to break this habit – and don’t punish yourself for not doing everything you intended.”

Although this isn't an easy transition to make at New Year's or any time of year, it's an important one. Dr. Patton’s suggestions for tackling negative self-talk are:

  • Regularly remind yourself that you are whole and have everything you need to effect change
  • Find purpose in things you do
  • Recognize your emotions
  • Practice emotional wellness

“These don’t come naturally to most people and it takes practice,” she says. “Start to practice appreciating other’s actions, liking who you are, and finding the value in taking time for yourself. Emotional wellness will trickle down and pull out the feelings you are lacking.”

In general, setting a broad goal on December 31 isn't a bad idea. Things like losing 30 pounds or getting off your diabetes medicine is a start. But as with many other things, the devil is in the details. After setting your goal, you'll need to write lists and decide on timeframes so you can measure your progress toward achieving it.

Some of Dr. Patton's tips include:

  • Be realistic. The surest way to fall short of your goal is to make it unattainable.
  • Plan ahead. Although you can start the resolution on New Year's Eve, you still have to get any needed resources together. If it's already too late for December 31, pick another meaningful date, such as your birthday.
  • Make it something you really want to do. This has to be personally important to be successful, so resolving to do a thing that others say you “should” isn't a good idea.
  • Outline your plan. Be specific so that “exercising more” becomes “working out at the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”
  • Don’t keep it a secret. Having someone else to hold you accountable - and hold your hand when needed - is a very powerful tool.
  • Track your progress. Keep track of even the small successes as you work toward your goal. Short-term goals are easier to fulfill and even small successes will help keep you motivated.
  • Stay with it. It can take 21 days for a new activity to become a habit and six months for it to become part of your personality.

“Use any straying from your goals not as a reason to quit, but rather one to redouble your efforts,” says Dr. Patton. “Stay away from the negative self-talk about how you failed again or how you aren't good with goals and the other negative feedback you give yourself.”

One of the long-term benefits of using New Year’s Eve as a catalyst is that eventually you may not need the holiday to make changes for the better. Dr. Patton doesn’t do resolutions personally, instead making corrections as needed throughout the year.

“Resolutions can be a good way to transition to ongoing improvement,” she says. “After you get a couple of successes under your belt, you can start to recognize when changes need to be made and that you can achieve them as easily in early July as late December.&rquo;

Meighan Patton, DO is a family medicine specialist at University Hospitals Twinsburg Family Medicine. You can request an appointment with Dr. Patton or any doctor online.

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