San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) December 23, 2013
It’s the time of the year again for that age-old process of making New Year’s Resolutions. Resolutions are typically goals about giving up a problematic behavior or implementing a new healthy behavior.
Millions take part in this tradition--but what’s often missing from people’s plans is awareness of the unconscious mind’s resistance to change, and plans to cope with emerging uncomfortable feelings. By being cognizant of the unconscious mind and keeping resolutions within some practical guidelines, success is within reach.
It’s important to recognize the unconscious reasons that people sabotage their New Year’s resolutions--problematic behaviors are often solutions to other problems. For example, problematic behaviors may play a role in meeting unfulfilled emotional needs or numbing painful feelings. When a person stops the behavior, those emotional needs may become conscious and painful feelings may emerge.
“Take the popular New Year’s resolution of losing weight--overeating may play a role in satisfying a person’s unmet emotional needs. For example, if a person’s relationship lacks affection or physical intimacy, eating may serve as a substitute for physical contact. Eating can also numb uncomfortable feelings like resentments, grief, and anger. People suffering from depression may try to relieve their symptoms with food. Thus, eating can function as an unconscious defense mechanism to avoid painful and uncomfortable feelings,” says San Francisco psychotherapist Michael Halyard.
The good news is that there are ways to cope with the difficult feelings that come up. If a person is beginning a diet, Halyard recommends that she looks at the ways she might be eating to avoid uncomfortable feelings. Journal writing can help a person get in touch with those feelings. Often people have unresolved grief, resentments, or anger that they have been afraid to explore. Taking away a source of comfort could bring forth difficult emotions people are ill-equipped to confront.
“Getting emotional support from friends, family, partners, and a therapist can help a person cope with uncomfortable feelings. It’s also important to use self-soothing behaviors like going to the park, a museum or a movie, or doing things at home like taking a hot bath, getting a massage, listening to music, drinking herbal tea, or even meditating. There are also 12-step groups that can provide support and tools for those trying to make major changes," adds Halyard.
Implementing a new behavior has its challenges as well. It’s important to anticipate the stress associated with beginning a new behavior. Adding time to implement a new healthy behavior may cause stress because it could reduce a person’s leisure time. For example, if exercising at the gym is a goal, one may have less time for socializing.
Thus it’s important to acknowledge this and figure out ways to mitigate it. For example, a person might get an exercise partner and find other ways to relax.
There are also some practical guidelines that can make it more likely that a person's New Year’s resolutions will be successful. It's important to clarify the reason why a person wants to change. For example, if a person wants to quit smoking--she should have a good reason, like improving her health and living a longer life. This will provide stronger and lasting motivation. In addition, a person should set realistic, specific, rewarding, time-limited and measurable goals, and break them down into smaller parts. Finally, the person should write down a detailed step by step action plan.
“If someone wants to lose weight, they should be realistic and determine the total amount of weight they want to lose--then they should divide that total amount into weeks. For example, if they would like to lose 30 lbs, they can make a commitment to lose one pound each week for 30 weeks," says Halyard.
Another suggestion is to record one's progress--whether it’s counting calories, a journal of completed exercises, or time spent de-cluttering--one should write down what he did every day, so he is accountable. It's also important to consider each day independently, so if one falls off the wagon, he can get back on. Also, people can always revise their resolutions. Finally, technology like apps and websites can also be helpful. For wanting to lose weight, a pedometer app and websites like myfitnesspal.com can be invaluable.
“One should surround oneself with consistent, positive reinforcement. One should tell supportive people what their New Year’s resolutions are, so she can get encouragement and accountability. If a person has a goal like quitting smoking or loosing weight, she can even consider doing it with a friend who has the same goal,” reveals Halyard.
“With careful planning, anyone can accomplish their goals. One doesn’t have to do this alone, people are there to help. A personal trainer can help with weight loss, a professional organizer can help de-clutter, a 12-step group can help with addiction, a physician can help with quitting smoking, and a therapist can help with those uncomfortable feelings,” adds Halyard.
Michael Halyard, MS, MFT is a San Francisco Marriage and Family Therapist and specializes in LGBT issues, depression, anxiety, addictions and couples counseling in his San Francisco private practice. He can be found on the websites http://www.sftherapy.com/ and http://www.sanfrancisco-psychotherapy.com.