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REF NO.: 176

SUBJECT: January’s almost gone – has your New Year’s resolution gone with it?
DATE: Jan. 27, 2005

Ever wonder if New Year’s resolutions ever really last? Most of us are skeptical, but according to Dr. Jonathan McVicar of Memorial’s Counselling Centre, making a New Year’s resolution can be a very good idea. It is all about setting yourself up for change, he said referring to a recent study by renowned psychologist Dr. Jonathan Norcross to prove his point. In the study, people who made resolutions were compared against people who did not. After six months, 46 per cent of the people who made resolutions were still engaged in a positive change, while only four per cent of those who did not were.

“There are a number of things you can do to set yourself up for success,” Dr. McVicar suggests. “First and foremost you have to remove yourself from the atmosphere in which you engaged in the behavior you want to change. Therefore, if you are trying to stop smoking and you know that going to bars will make you want to smoke, you have to stay out of bars.”

Dr. McVicar also recommends setting a specific goal outlining the ways in which you are going to achieve that goal. “For instance, you say you are going to lose weight, well how much weight and how are you going to go about achieving that goal? Are you going to take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to work instead of driving?”

He says it’s about making a plan and then moving forward. One way to keep on top of the plan, he suggests, is to keep a journal and write down your goals.

“Writing in a journal helps keep your goal present in your consciousness. It also helps to keep you on track and in line with your goals. And while you are working on your goals and trying to keep in line with your resolutions, be kind and gentle to yourself.”

The worst thing you can do, according to Dr. McVicar, is be self-punishing. It is much more constructive to forgive yourself for lapses, he suggests, and get back on track as soon as possible.

“If you miss a yoga class or don’t make it to the gym one morning, know that it’s all right. Don’t berate yourself and think you’re a quitter. If you fall into this trap it minimizes the importance of your goal and the motivation is no longer there to change over the long term.”

Dr. McVicar suggests reminding yourself of why you made the resolution to change by attaching a personal goal to your desire to change. For instance, if you want to stop smoking because you want to be around to watch your kids grow up, then tape a photo of them inside the cigarette package. It is all about asking yourself why you want to change and reminding yourself of that each day, especially during the hard times.

“Even if you quit smoking for only two days, you are two days healthier than you were before you quit. Next time see if you can stop smoking for three days. Each small step is progress towards quitting for good.”

Peter Hynes, worklife programs coordinator at Memorial, knows that long term change is a slow process and he wants to make it a positive experience for employees.

“We all know that change is hard because we are not isolated from the outside world and therefore not immune to temptation and outside pressures,” Mr. Hynes said. “I recommend that people take stock of their life, decide what they want to change and lay out a plan to make that change. People need to realize that there is a time, energy and lifestyle commitment for every positive change, but it is worthwhile.”

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