With 2016 coming to a close, you’re probably headed into 2016 with a resolution—fitness, quitting smoking or eating healthy—on the brain. Congratulations, that’s no easy task! But the reality is, it’s likely that most of us will break our resolutions after the first month, and that isn’t because we’re weak, it’s because we aren’t approaching this seasonal renaissance positioned for success.
We spoke with Jesse Hanson, the clinical director at Helix Healthcare Group in Toronto, to figure out why we get it wrong year after year and what we can do to ensure we get it right for once. Hanson holds a Master’s degree in clinical psychology and he’s a doctoral candidate for the same, so basically, he’s a good person to talk to about starting your year (or day or week) off on the right foot.
Q: Why do we always fail? We’re so geared up to work out on New Year’s Day but have trouble committing for the long haul. Where does the fire go two, three, four weeks after the ball drops?
“When we’re on holiday break and have time to recover from our busy schedules, our stress levels are lower than usual. We make plans to take our new energy high into January and set big goals. In reality, as soon as we get back into our regular routine, our old responsibilities start to accumulate again and our focus returns to our day to day tasks. It’s important to set up the necessary tools and support structure to deal with our stress, before we start working on new goals.”
Q: Is quitting smoking a good new year’s resolution? Or are we doomed to fail?
“As with any addiction or destructive habit, we need to look at the underlying causes of why we smoke and may have had trouble quitting in the past. For the most part, people start smoking in response to anxiety—the root cause of our anxiety is where we are different. No matter what time of the year, the best way to quit smoking for good is to work with a professional to look at the underlying causes.”
Q: Seeing as a year is 365 days long, should we stagger our resolutions? When is the best time to start a new goal?
“Rather than staggering resolutions, creating realistic goals that won’t overwhelm or discourage you throughout the year is a more reasonable strategy. Record your progress and create weekly or monthly checkpoints to maintain accountability.”
Q: How many resolutions are too many?
“If struggling to meet your goals is causing you to feel overwhelmed or anxious, you have set too many. Don’t be discouraged if you have to go back to the drawing board to set more realistic goals, ones that you can meet and cross off your list. You can make new resolutions any month of the year!”
Q: What is a foolproof strategy for making a resolution stick?
“Set a realistic goal to build your confidence, cross that one off, and then move to the next one. Alternatively, set stages within goals—often people set goals that are too big and forget to reward their small steps and hard work along the way. Remember, it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters most.”
Q: What happens if we fail using that strategy? Are we doing it wrong?
“If you have set realistic goals and are still finding it challenging to meet them, consider treating yourself to psychotherapy. This will help you to gain a better understanding of the underlying causes and obstacles, whether it is complacency towards your weekly fitness routine, an unhealthy eating pattern or negative self-talk. Neuroscience has shown that a brain can indeed be rewired and retrained, and therapy can be as important as a workout in giving you the strength and confidence you need to reach your goals.”
Q: What is the most absurdly unrealistic resolution you’ve ever heard?
“There is no such thing as an absurdly unrealistic resolution! Any goal can be broken down into achievable steps. A therapist can help you work to determine what timeline is realistic for you.”
Q: What is a good, reasonable resolution that most people can stick with?
“Resolutions are often about an external goal, but we like to encourage readers to start from the inside. This can mean focusing on being kind to yourself, positive self-talk or setting healthy boundaries. For example, the end goal might be to achieve greater success in your career, but adopting habits such as mindfulness, practices such as meditation or using support tools like psychotherapy, will help you to balance stress and get you that promotion.”
Q: What is your new year’s resolution?
“I prefer setting intentions rather than resolutions, and I invite readers to try the change of language around this yearly tradition. In 2014, we brought a holistic style to Toronto with the launch of Helix Healthcare Group. In 2015, we continued to help others find their own unique path to a healthier, happier and more balanced life.”