How to Create Positive Change: Find Support and Start Small

If you didn’t get around to making your New Year’s resolutions, don’t worry; you’re not too late. You’re probably better off, as early February (or any time later in the year) is a much better time to make changes. According to an ABC News report, about 45 percent of Americans choose to make a New Year’s resolution each January.

Eager “New Year, New You!” people go on diets, hit the gym, join abstinence programs, buy self-help books, and jump on the bandwagon for a happier and healthier year. But that same report indicates that over half of those resolutions will fail. Because of lack of discipline? Lack of willpower?

The problem may lie with the resolution itself or it might be a matter of timing. Use these three rules to set a new goal or adjust the resolution you’ve already made.

Start February 1 or Right Now

While the new year offers the appeal of a fresh start, it is also the time that new school semesters start, financial changes take place, families renew community commitments and a wide range of programs begin.

Choose Your Company

Who we hang out with has a measurable influence on a number of lifestyle factors including how happy we are, how fat we are and even how lonely we are. Behaviors, it seems, spread partly though subconscious social signals that we pick up from those around us.

Lean on your moai

Ask yourself if the people who surround you will support your efforts to make change.  Okinawans create groups called moais that meet regularly to share and support each other. Consider having your own moai in place before getting started with your resolution. This support team can also help keep you on track.

In Blue Zones, Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, Dr. Leslie Lytle, a University of Minnesota registered dietitian with a Ph.D in health behavior, suggests that you before you begin a program of change, enlist a friend or family member to hold each other accountable.

A Process, Not an Event

Research tells us that long-term behavioral change is the result of small victories and habit changes made over a long period of time.  In a research article for Monitor on Psychology, author Sadie Dingfelder examines research into effective behavioral change strategies.  She notes that University of Scranton psychology professor James Norcross, PhD, along with psychologists James Prochaska, PhD, and Carlo DiClemente, PhD,  “conceptualize habit breaking as a process rather than an event.”

Start Small, Think Long

The researchers recognize the importance of daily decisions as an integral part of behavioral change.  So, if now is not the time for a sweeping resolution, consider committing to a small change in your daily habits.  For example, if improved fitness is your goal, getting to the gym every day might be too much of a change if you’ve never gone before.  Instead, commit to taking the stairs instead of the elevator at your workplace.  Or schedule a ten-minute walk with friends after lunch each day.

A broad change which calls for significant adjustment may take months or even years to reach. Success with small steps will help to fuel your motivation for greater change in the future.

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