We’ve gotten through some very festive times in December, and 2012 is now upon us. It’s a time when many people set goals – some realistic and others improbable or even impossible. Setting objectives is a laudable goal in itself, however in a moment let’s take a look at some goals that are achievable, important and will enhance your wellness.
Goals involve change – changing behaviour or initiating new behaviour. Change involves 3 steps:
- 1st Order Change: This is the jumping off point, the motivation, the desire to be doing something different. If you smoke, 1st Order Change could be the contemplation of quitting if you had not been thinking of smoking cessation before. So, this change aspect is perhaps the most basic – thinking about change!
- 2nd Order Change: This involves the actual change of a behaviour. Using the smoking analogy once more, this change is the cutting back (a very hard challenge) or the complete cessation of smoking. In a way, though perhaps difficult, 2nd Order Change is rather, well, exciting. It’s exciting because we have or may have told ourselves that there is a real and decided benefit to the change or changes we embark on. This could be quitting smoking, or it might be something as simple as getting more sleep, eating healthier foods, drinking green tea, making a commitment to call a family member on a Sunday, etc.
- 3rd Order Change: Without question, the most challenging of the change process is the sustainment of the change itself. For example, never smoking again, maintaining weight loss, staying connected to a family member when you may not wish to, getting sleep when the lure of a long night out with friends is as enticing as that chocolate ganache cake that isn’t on your new diet plan.
It’s helpful to realize – and as therapists working with human behaviour understand very clearly – that change may well be good; it might be indicated as “healthy” or may even be imperative, however if the change goal is unrealistic, too lofty or otherwise cannot be sustained, then it should inform the individual that perhaps the objective of the change needs to be de-constructed into smaller bits or approached in a pace that will ensure the greatest possibility for success.
Here are some activities or behaviours that may well be within reach of many:
Spending more time with family and with friends provides or can provide a sense of well-being, connection and contentment. In a world that has become very fast paced for many, committing to being involved in some capacity with family and/or friends can be important and satisfying to the spirit.
Regular exercise has been associated with more health benefits than anything else known. Studies consistently demonstrate it reduces the risk of some cancers, increases longevity, helps achieve and maintain weight loss, enhances mood, lowers blood pressure, and even improves arthritis. In short, exercise keeps you healthy and makes you look and feel better. As simple as committing to walking 30 minutes 5 days per week can have tremendous health benefits.
If you have resolved to make this the year that you stamp out your smoking habit, over-the-counter availability of nicotine replacement therapy now provides easier access to proven quit-smoking aids. Even if you’ve tried to quit before and failed, don’t let it get you down. On average, smokers try about four times before they quit for good. Start enjoying the rest of your smoke-free life! Here in British Columbia, our Medical Services Plan is helping smokers butt-out – please follow this link: http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2011/09/bc-rolls-out-program-to-help-smokers-quit.html
While many people use the New Year as an incentive to finally stop drinking, most are not equipped to make such a drastic lifestyle change all at once. Many heavy drinkers fail to quit cold turkey but do much better when they taper gradually, or even learn to moderate their drinking. If you have decided that you want to stop drinking, there is a world of help and support available. Here’s a link below: http://www.canadadrugrehab.ca/British-Columbia-Alcohol-Drug-Rehab-Programs.html
Was money a big source of stress in your life last year? Money or lack of money can be a significant stressor on families, couples or individuals. Living in Vancouver is costly and debt can quickly become seemingly insurmountable and affect not only our accounts, but also our emotional health. From the BC Bar Association, here is a link for information about how to manage debt: http://www.cba.org/BC/public_media/credit/253.aspx
Learning something new may be one of the easiest goals to achieve as we are often learning as we continue our life’s journey. Perhaps now is a good time to pick up the oboe or harmonica? Join a book-club? A new cuisine? Tackling bridge? Form a knitting group? How about re-learning your high-school Francais? Evidence points towards the importance of life-long learning as being very healthy for us cognitively, so make learning enjoyable and that provides the incentive to continue to acquire knowledge and greater understanding throughout our lives.
On just about every New Year resolution top ten list, organization can be a very reasonable goal. Whether you want your home organized enough that you can invite someone over on a whim, or your office organized enough that you can find the stapler when you need it, being organized also tends to de-clutter our heads. I notice that when my home is in disarray that I feel irritable, grouchy and still procrastinate about cleaning my bathtub. However, when it is all done at the end of the week, with gleaming tiles, papers stacked and organized on my desk, fresh laundry and no dust bunnies careening on the carpets I am cheerful, feel accomplished and ready for the week ahead. My goal would be to find a way to manage my home through the week – that’s the 3rd Order change – and as mentioned, can be a challenge.