With the start of a new year, this is the time when people make resolutions for self-improvements. Goals are established, agendas are planned, and motivation is high. Yet, somewhere in February, most, if not all, of those early initiatives get lost in the shuffle of life.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t help your mental wellness when you set out to do something and fail to reach those goals. Self-criticisms add unnecessary burden to your mental health. And let’s face it, your mind and body go hand in hand. Whatever your mind experiences, your body feels; and vice versa. Thus, negative self-talk or blame will wreak havoc on both your mental and physical health.
To help you feel productively successful and foster your mental wellness, here are 4 strategies that will make it easier for you to stick to those resolutions throughout the year.
Break Mountainous Goals into Reachable Molehills
Many people know what they want to achieve, yet they have no plan of attack. If you want to accomplish a long-term goal, you must develop a realistic blueprint for each step of the journey. Let’s say your resolution is to get healthy and lose those extra 20 pounds of fat that your physician has been nagging you about. Simply signing up for a gym membership isn’t going to cut it. You must determine the frequency, duration, and type of exercise at the gym. You have to also establish the food categories, portion size, intake frequency, and total caloric consumption for your daily diet. Of course, there are many other factors that determine the likelihood of reaching your goal. Nevertheless, without this basic roadmap, you will likely get lost along the way and lose sight of the end objective.
Task Scheduling for Accountability
Now that you have a basic blueprint, the next step is to actually plan and schedule each agenda that will advance you toward the final destination – becoming healthier. When will you really go to the gym? How long will you train while there? What optimal times of the day will you consume your daily meals and snacks? Will you need to gather or prep your food beforehand? If so, when is a realistic time for that? Scheduling may initially seem tedious and like added work. However, with 1,440 minutes in a day and 168 hours in a week, there is just too much time to procrastinate while telling yourself, “It can wait” or “I’ll do it later.” Before you know it, a week has slipped by without progress toward your resolution. And as the weeks go by, you will be more inclined to jump off the wagon completely … Well, at least until it’s time for the next New Year resolution.
Identify Mental Thought Traps
If you find yourself making excuses for your lack of effort or beating yourself up for your lack of success, then you are only creating unnecessary anxiety and distress. Mental thought traps are basically negative self-talk that causes havoc to your emotional and physical health. It doesn’t help your motivation or drive to make such comments as, “I’m just too busy to exercise” or “I don’t have the willpower to eliminate unhealthy foods from my diet.” As Yoda once said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Thus, rather than setting yourself up for failure, make sure that your goals are realistic and easily achievable. Of course, having a roadmap and scheduling each agenda will basically help you in the process.
Take 10 – 15 minutes each morning to visualize your day’s agendas. See yourself engaging in each task, and especially, completing each molehill as you reach the final destination. Feel the sensation of success as you visualize accomplishing each goal. The feeling of achievement enhances an “I can” attitude that will increase your motivation and drive to actually carrying out each agenda. In fact, many athletes train through visualizations to improve their performances. And you can do the same to achieve your resolution of becoming healthier. When you visualize success, it becomes more attainable simply because your mind believes it. Essentially, this is your mental rehearsal at work.
Similar to any new skill, each of these strategies will only become innate through repeated practice. As you utilize each tactic, reward yourself with praises for sticking to your resolution. Give yourself credit for even the little things. Just as self-criticisms can damage your mental wellness, self-acknowledgments can go a long way for your mental health. As you reflect on your accomplishments, congratulate yourself for the improved, successful you.
Strategies derived from Dr. Yip’s new book:
“Productive, Successful You! End Procrastination by Making Anxiety Work for You Rather Than Against You.”
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