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BellaOnline's Mental Health Editor

Keeping New Year's Resolutions

It is the time of year for New Year's resolutions, or is it? So many of us resolve to do this or that, then after a month of good intentions, we give up. For starters, do we have the right frame of mind to stick to our goals? Do we really want to give up this habit or do that exercise program?

Part of sticking to a goal is to first examine if the goal is achievable for us and if we really want it. For instance, do we really, really want to lose that 5 pounds or are we nonchalant about it deep down? If, in the long run, we don't really care, we will lose sight of that 5 pounds the first time we see a chocolate torte. (Hopefully, we won't see too many after Christmas.) Another reason goal-reaching is so difficult is that we make our initial goals too large. If we need to lose 20 pounds, just start with 5. When we lose that, it shows us that the goal might be in reach after all. Success breeds success. Our bodies are happier, but so are our minds.

Let's say we want to better coexist along with our co-workers. If we make a plan of things we will do to better get along with them and try to do everything on the list all at once, we will probably give up because it is too overwhelming. If we concentrate on one item on the list until it becomes a habit, we will soon find that it comes naturally; we don't even have to think about it. Then we concentrate on the next habit we want to change and so on.

This sort of habit-building or habit-breaking takes a lot of patience and perseverance, so maybe it would make more sense to work on these two before the other goals. We can work on patience and perseverance like any other goals, one step at a time. Each day, be patient or work on a relationship with one person, then after a week, add another person to have a better relationship with. Patience turns into perseverance.

It is also tough to keep a goal when others try our patience or try to talk us out of it. "Come on, one piece of pie won't hurt," they'll say. This is where resolve comes in. If they pressure us to have a dessert, we can have a lower calorie treat, like sherbert, or fruit. If a person tries our patience at work, we can try to grit our teeth, hear them out, and try to say something constructive or nice. Warning: This is harder than eating sherbert or fruit. People that try our patience are never easy to deal with, but we can try to change our reactions.

We can keep our resolutions if we really want them and persevere, one habit, one person, or one pound at a time. The important thing to remember is that it is okay to have a cookie, just not a whole box. It is okay to lose our patience occasionally; we are human. And... we cannot break or make new habits overnight. Just because we have a bad day, we can't lose sight of our goals; we just keep plugging, and sooner than later, we'll find that we have achieved the goal. We can start on another one. The old adage applies: "Persistance pays."

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