Most people anticipate each new year with a determined resolve to be better than the year before in nearly every aspect of their lives. Usually, at the top of their list of priorities is losing weight, getting into better shape through more consistent exercise, replacing bad habits with good habits, and improving relationships with family, friends, and significant others. Also, there is often a determination to reduce stress and achieve more “balance” in their lives between career and family as well as making more time for themselves.
These are all worthy goals but not just for a new year but also for every day of one’s life! It’s always more realistic to take one day at a time toward becoming a “new you” and certainly more achievable in a shorter time span.
Research has shown that it takes about 6 - 8 weeks of consistently changing behavior to replace an old habit with a new one. This is the reason why fitness centers and sidewalks of folks walking/ jogging outside are packed in January but fall off dramatically by mid-February. What usually ensues are feelings of guilt, failure, lower self-esteem, and a hopelessness of ever achieving personal body- image goals, especially after the age of 30!
To avoid this often recurring syndrome, here are a few axioms to internalize before working on new resolutions: (1) external, media-driven, improvements in outward appearance do not equal “internal” improvements as a human being, (2) net worth is not a measure of one’s self worth, (3) authentic “empowerment” is not a CEO corner office in a Fortune 500 company but the ability to “choose” the definition of one’s authentic “self” based on faith, character, and personal dreams regardless of the opinions/approval of others.
Finally, preventing stress and depressed moods depend on consistent exercise, a daily sense of gratitude for one’s blessings, and sustaining a positive/optimistic attitude regardless of disappointments, unfairness, betrayals, or negative judgements of others. Each person is ultimately accountable for his/her own “happiness” in life while realizing that others can only bring joy, enrichment, compatibility, and meaningful intimacy. Remember, people can’t always control what happens to them in life but they can control their “reaction” to life’s changing circumstances. This realization is the key to a less stressful, more balanced life and prevents feelings of fear, anger, blame, guilt, resentment, and lower self-esteem.
In summary, focus on meaningful change “inside” and the rest of life will more likely bring the joy of contentment and genuine inner peace by keeping priorities in the order of faith, family, career/country.
The following is a guide to consider as the new year begins: “No one will ever get out of this world alive. Resolve therefore in the year to come to maintain a sense of values. Take care of yourself. Good health is everyone’s major source of wealth. Without it, happiness is almost impossible. Resolve to be cheerful and helpful. People will repay you in kind. Avoid angry, abrasive persons. They are generally vengeful. Avoid zealots. They are generally humorless. Resolve to listen more and talk less. No one ever learns anything by talking. Be chary of giving advice. Wise men don’t need it and fools won’t heed it.
“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the wrong. Sometime in life you will have been all of these. Do not equate money with success. There are many successful money-makers who are miserable failures as human beings. What counts most about success is how a man [woman] achieves it.
“Resolve to love next year someone you didn’t love this year. Love is the most enriching ingredient of life.” Credit: Walter Scott on the cover of “Parade Magazine,” 1973.
Dr. Anderson has been in private practice for over 25 years helping individuals, couples, and families and has been in Mebane for the last 16 years and can be reached at (919) 563-5050.
For more information on his books, practice, and guest-speaking engagements, visit his website at: www.AndersonFamilyTherapy.com