I’ve been struggling with the concept of the New Year’s resolution lately. It’s haunting me. This, in itself, clearly says something to me. The tradition is to work toward self-improvement at the beginning of every year. To improve the quality of life should mean a good thing, shouldn’t it? Therefore, it should instill a feeling of anticipation and enthusiasm, not anxiety. Yet that’s exactly how I’m feeling about it. And it doesn’t help that I’m a Type-A over-achiever.
In order to work through my unfortunate disquietude, my logical Capricornian personae kicked in. I did the obvious. I Googled it…well actually I Bing’ed it. Let’s start off at the beginning. First of all, where did the concept and tradition of self-imposing a difficult challenge to start the year off begin? Apparently, it started way back with the Babylonians around 4000 B.C. According to my research however, their most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment. Wait, wait, WHAT?! I’d say that’s just slightly easier than our modern day popular resolutions of losing weight and quitting smoking. Geez, all the Babylonians had to do was grab that plow out of the barn, walk it over to the neighbor’s…and DONE! It seems like life was simple in every way back in the day.
So what happened between then and now that humanity decided it was a better idea to try to change our most ingrained habits from one day to the next? Grant it, I know we’ve evolved into more intelligent beings. We’ve come a long way from inventing the wheel. We’ve also gone from competing with each other for land, water and food to competing with ourselves to do more, make more and be more. But still it seems crazy to go from simple to virtually impossible. There lies the nearly inevitable: defeat. Let’s be honest. How many of you have had the same New Year’s resolution year after year? That can mean only one thing…you didn’t succeed the previous time. Hey, I feel ya. I’m included in that group.
For you die hard resolutionists, I beg your forgiveness. I’m not in any way trying to dissuade you from attempting to become a better you. Au contraire! I’m trying to help you by giving you a dose of reality plus a few tips as given in the articles I read regarding how will power works and doesn’t. In order to succeed one must be realistic and well informed. Here’s the bad news aka reality check. According to a research study, despite the fact that over 50% the of people who were endeavoring in a new year’s resolution were confident that they’d succeed, only approximately 10% actually did. Oooh not liking those odds are we?
Hold on a minute before you throw in the proverbial towel. I told you I was going to help. Let’s bring it down to basics. For argument’s sake I’ll be referring to the above mentioned popular resolutions, which is in the realm of physical “aspirations” not something like volunteering more often. Changing one’s behavior; what does it all boil down to? Essentially, brains over will power. “The mind is willing but the flesh is weak” is how the saying goes. No, not so when it comes to changing a habit. Unfortunately, in this case both the mind and flesh are weak. By the same token though, it’s very helpful to be aware of your weaknesses. That’s actually step one. Know what you’re working against.
Not feeling better about it? Here comes the good news. The brain can be tricked! Who knows that better than us lesbians/queers who, during the first few months or weeks even of dating someone, fall prey to our endorphins and the smell of her skin and see someone through rose-colored glasses ignoring the blatant red flags. Ah but I digress. OK so the trick is to trick the brain. How to accomplish this? The brain is organic which means it needs the basics to survive and perform well. These are water, sustenance, oxygen, and sleep. Pull out the highlighter and take note. The most important thing before doing anything else is to make sure your brain is getting enough of these, especially food and rest. I don’t need to tell you how difficult it is to accomplish anything when you’re tired and hungry.
The part of your brain that controls will power is also in charge of focusing. Apparently, it’s not a part that’s good at multi-tasking and can’t handle too many things at a time. Once your brain is well rested, fed and happy, the trick is to focus on things other than that which is tempting you, like food or cigs. Easier said than done, I know. That’s not all though.
Another result of the latest research shows that taking baby steps over the course of the year instead of complete withdrawal overnight is the way to go. That means, gurls and bois, instead of going from pizza and beer to celery sticks and water or from a pack a day to none at all, you gotta ease into it. Cut down on things gradually. Nothing new but somehow the tradition to go cold turkey or from one extreme to the other for the New Year persists.
One more tip from those scientists. I’ll be honest. I don’t know how I feel about this one. Us female-identified get an added 10% leg up if we tell our family, friends and coworkers about our goals and get their support. I’m not discrediting it. Getting support for anything from people always helps. My problem is 2-fold. One is that I know in the back of my mind I’d be fearful of failing and consequently feeling mortified in front of people. That’s my own issue. The other is that although my friends are amazingly supportive there are a few well-meaning ones that go about it the wrong way. You know what I’m talking about. The ones that are completely oblivious to their insensitivity or feel they’re doing you a favor by doing something drastic like throwing your pack of cigarettes in the lake. I guess the solutions to my issues are think positive and be selective in whom I ask for support.
For those of you bois more in touch with your masculine side, you do better if you set measurable goals like cutting down 3 cigarettes a week. Actually that sounds like it would also work for those of us more left-brained gurls.
To recap here’s what we’ve got: Be aware of your weaknesses. Feed and rest your brain. Focus on something else. Do a little at a time. Post it as your status and get your support system.
Add to that my 2 cents or make it 3:
Be compassionate with yourself. Don’t kick yourself in the behind every time you give in to a French fry or a drag off a friends smoke. Give yourself credit for taking on something that’s not easy and do your best.
Use common sense. If your weakness is pastries, hey stay out of the bakery. If you know you’re gonna be hanging out with all your smoking buddies, give them a heads up and take a pack of gum or a toothpick (I was told that works for some people).
Give it a minute before succumbing to your temptation. Take a couple of deep breaths, count to ten and think about it before you eat it, drink it, smoke it or whatever it may be.
They say if you’re feeling angry or anxious about something write about it. It’ll make you feel better. You know what? I do. I’m not feeling so anxious about my resolution to eat better and consequently get down to a healthier weight. (Notice how I didn’t use the 4-lettered “d” word) Getting rid of my anxiety is a great beginning. I can do this. But one word of warning to all you well-meaning folks, if you try to take that slice of pizza outta my hand and throw it in the lake, I WILL rip your hand off. Just sayin….
Hey if you wanna read more about it, start off with this article that gave me the most interesting info.
Finally, if you want to add me to your list of supporters write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org Good luck!
Disclaimer: Information and statistics were taken from articles referencing research studies which may or may not be completely accurate nor hold true for everyone.
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A Chicago original of Mexican decent, Alma has been part of the Chicago’s LGBTQ community longer than she’d like to admit. She’s been maneuvering through its diverse social circles, networking relentlessly in an attempt to satisfy her need to understand and get to know the people that make up our amazing and unique community. Her path began as a social butterfly whose interests were solely to meet and entertain friends. Now her desire is to channel her strengths, talents and passion into ways she can be of service for the Chicago LGBTQ community that she so loves and respects.