Many people make some new year’s resolutions every year. They start diets, join gyms, and throw away their cigarettes, promising themselves things will be different from now on. Unfortunately, new year’s resolutions rarely stick. Most people make it a couple of weeks and give up. It’s just too hard or there’s too much going on. Most of the time, this isn’t a big deal, but if you’re recovering from addiction or mental illness, your new year’s resolutions may have high stakes. You may have resolved to enter treatment or to make a lifestyle change that will greatly improve your recovery. If it’s really important for you to succeed with your new year’s resolutions, here are some ways to make them work better.
Understand your motivation.
Perhaps the most important thing is to understand why you want to make a change. This is deceptively difficult. Media fads tell us that we should drink more water or eat less carbs and for a few months those seem like worthy goals, but they may or may not have any relation to what’s really important to you. To succeed in changing your behavior, you have to have a clear understanding why you want to change. Do you want to quit drinking because you just sort of feel like you’ve been drinking too much lately, or have there been serious consequences from your drinking? Both may be true. When you sit down to think about it, you might realize drinking has cost you more than your realize. Maybe a friend made an offhand remark about how you need to slow down. Was it really a joke? An honest conversation may help you understand yourself better and uncover some powerful motivation to change.
Change one thing at a time.
Many people feel tempted to wipe the slate clean on January 1 and make several big changes at once–no more drinking, no more sweets, no more showing up late, and so on. The problem with this approach is that it usually fails. You have to juggle too many changes. It stretches your willpower too thin. What’s more, it feels very unstable, like the ground is shifting under your feet. Making one important change is hard enough. Often, these changes will be harder than you expect, with unforeseen complications. Pick the one thing that is the most important. If you want to quit drinking, focus 100 percent on that. The good news is that any significant change will often bring bonus changes automatically. For example, you may be entirely focused on quitting drinking, but as bonuses, you also lose a bit of weight and get to work on time.
Write down your goals.
When you’ve picked the one thing you want to change and have compelling reasons to follow through, it’s time to set some goals related to that change. You may have to break up a big goal into smaller goals and achieve those one at a time. Writing down goals makes them seem real and helps you feel more committed and focused. Make sure to set SMART goals. That means they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. So while “quit drinking” might be a good overall goal, the SMART subgoals might be things like “enter a quality treatment program by the end of the month” or “attend 90 meetings in 90 days.” These goals are specific, they have a time limit, and you know clearly when you have achieved them.
Use social pressure to your advantage.
Social pressure can work for you or against you. If you want to quit drinking, for example, and all your friends drink a lot, you’re going to have a hard time. Most of the time, your friends will be willing to support your efforts. You just have to tell them what you’re trying to do and why. This also adds a bit of accountability because you won’t want to tell your friends you decided to lose weight, then immediately eat a chocolate cake. If you can recruit other people to your cause, you will have even more incentive to succeed. For example, if you want to exercise more, joining an exercise class is an easy way to connect with other people with the same goals. You might even be able to talk a friend into joining you. This way, when one of you doesn’t feel like going, the other person can be a motivating factor. For people trying to quit drugs and alcohol, this kind of social support is absolutely essential.
Hold yourself accountable.
If you make a goal and don’t tell anyone about it, you can easily forget about it at the first sign of trouble. On the other hand, if you tell everyone about your big plans, you may start to feel like you’ve accomplished something when you haven’t. Once you’ve set some goals for yourself, tell the people who will best be able to hold you accountable. It might be a best friend, or a family member. Make sure someone knows you’ve set these goals for yourself and make sure that person is in a position to hold you accountable. It may be that you enlist help to achieve your goal, either in the form of social support or professional help. You can also layer your accountability. Maybe you make an appointment with a therapist and tell your best friend so she can make sure you go to the appointment. Of course, for mental illness or substance use, entering a treatment program is an excellent way to hold yourself accountable.
Plan for slip-ups.
Whenever you try to make a big change, it won’t always go to plan. When people slip up, they often react by thinking, “Well, I’ve already spoiled my resolution; I might as well go all the way.” This is irrational. Everyone stumbles from time to time. The important thing is to keep the damage to a minimum, learn what you can from your failure, and try again. It’s also important to go easy on yourself when you make mistakes. Beating yourself up will only make you feel discouraged.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.