New year, new you

By on January 8, 2014

Local experts discuss turning resolutions into lasting solutions

The holiday season is officially over and many people are finding themselves embarking on a year full of new possibilities and for some, changes they want to make in their lives.

This converted pavilion was a great place to get warm and grab something good to eat at the annual Akron New Year’s Eve “Shoe-In.” (Photo by Stan Hall)

This converted pavilion was a great place to get warm and grab
something good to eat at the annual Akron New Year’s Eve “Shoe-In.” (Photo by Stan Hall)

One can find them at the local gyms, smoking cessation classes, or weight and lifestyle management programs or workshops. Anything that is health-related and life changing, the masses will be there. This is not a bad thing. Americans have been facing the battle of the bulge and other health related issues in increasing numbers over the years and many people are ready to do something about it. But how does one take those resolutions of a healthier lifestyle to the next level after the momentum of the holiday season has ended and those resolutions are now slowly falling by the wayside?

Experts say it all starts with how one thinks about the things they want to change about themselves. Whether it is health, job, finances, or even relationships, it all boils down to the thoughts behind that issue or problem to be finally resolved. Sounds easy to do, but as many can contest, it is not. Local experts on many of these subjects were interviewed recently to gain insight on establishing those resolutions into actual goals that will set someone up for success as opposed to repeating the same resolutions next year. So why don’t they usually work long-term?

“I think that New Year’s resolutions fail more often than they succeed simply because they are not taken as seriously as self-improvement plans that are initiated as a result of clear awareness of a need for change and the motivation that comes from that,” said Alexis Lake, a licensed social worker, with a private practice in Lititz. “The idea that a date on the calendar can provide the motivation to change too often only results in another failure that reinforces one’s being unable to change.”

She went on to say that when changes do finally work, it is usually due to an, “unexpected event that provides an undeniable sense of the need for change accompanied by a new or greater understanding of internal reasons for previous failed attempts.”

But what if someone is really serious about their resolutions once and for all? What is the next step to initiate the changes that will last in someone’s life? Sharon Czabafy, a tobacco cessation counselor at Ephrata Community Hospital, says there is a whole process within the process of change. There are actual stages: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and relapse.

“If a person goes from contemplation to action, it is usually only for a short time and then they relapse,” Sharon said. “They were not fully prepared to incorporate the new way into their life. New behaviors that support a lifestyle change require a change in thinking, a change in attitude as part of the preparation.” That is the essence to these changes. Changing the mind really can change someone’s life.

Suzanne Accardo, life coach and owner of The Yoga Place in Ephrata has found, through coaching people, that there is a whole list of things that prevent people from achieving their resolutions but the main one is mindfulness. Mindfulness is really about being aware of what one is thinking or doing at any given time. It’s being fully present at that moment especially when reaching for those leftover Christmas cookies or credit card. It takes practice, and daily meditation in one’s life can establish a grounding effect and centeredness in someone enabling them to do this. Another main component Accardo shared for successful change, is having an environment that supports someone in their change. She pointed out a good example for single people who want to meet someone.

“Are they going where single people go? Are they doing what single people do? Are they surrounding themselves with other single people and activities?” she said.

Sitting at home every Saturday night watching a movie by oneself or spending all of one’s time with married couples, are examples of how one’s environment is not supporting them with their want for change to meet someone. Also, having a supportive environment will keep someone motivated to keep going through their stages of change.

Making resolutions is not so easy after all, especially making them “built to last.” As with anything new, small, baby steps is key in the approach to making a change. Also, making one change at a time can reduce frustration and feelings of self-defeat for most people. The ability to focus one’s energy on just one thing and doing it well can move a person onto the next goal and then the next. Suddenly, those baby steps will become leaps and bounds made towards those goals. Lifestyle changes are meant to last a lifetime. It’s a new style of living one’s life.

As the experts said, if there is pressure or stress felt meeting a certain deadline date, taking a step back and re-evaluating why the change is needed can keep a person present to their need for change. Keeping a realistic expectation and realizing that there is no race, helps a person to keep things in a balanced perspective.

It is about the journey and what has been learned reaching that “finish line” over a lifetime.

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