Going against the grain of trying to change too many things at once, how about doing things differently this year and picking one thing about yourself to work on. I can hear the groans already—only one?…but I have so many…one won’t make a difference… etc. The problem with making a number of changes at once is that it can spread your energy too thin. Moreover, overdoing often contributes to an all-or-nothing mentality. You know, you have to change everything, but if you can’t, you won’t change anything.
This year pick one behavior to work on. Maybe not even an action, but a particular thought which prevents you from getting healthy around food—or getting healthy period. We only change when we do the new behavior (thinking is a behavior) more than the old one and when that happens often enough, we create new neurobiological pathways which causes us to act differently. Remember, anything we do often enough becomes habit automatically whether it is good for us or not.
Consider what you want to change. Don’t pick something nearly impossible or overwhelming, say, winning a gold Olympic medal or an Oscar. When it comes to goals, try to be realistic. Any behavior will do and you don’t have to choose one that’s related to eating or weight. Here are ideas: increase the time you spend brushing your teeth to three minutes, sit down for five minutes in a comfy chair and relax every night when you get home, make an appointment for a health test like a mammogram or colonoscopy, smile at your family members every day when you say “good morning,” buy an item of clothing that you believe “isn’t you,” call an old friend, pick one food to make peace with, drop an activity if you’re always busy, add an activity if you’re bored or stuck in routine, practice speaking to and thinking kindly about yourself, read a self-help book, check out the local adult education classes, go to sleep one-half hour earlier.
I could go on and on with small changes, but have confidence that you’ll come up with something that’ll do the trick. Spend a while considering your choice and, when you’ve made it, notice how you feel—nervous, excited, mixed. Pay attention to judgments about your choice being dumb, getting you nowhere, being too insignificant to make a difference, being too hard. What do these judgments mean—are you trying to undermine yourself before you start, afraid of failing, unsure you have the commitment?
Imagine yourself doing this new behavior. Smile or pat yourself on the back. Imagine it again and do some more patting and smiling. You’re on your way. Happy New Year!