Happy New Year’s Resolution!

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January is the busiest month at the YMCA. That’s when the rush of people with New Year’s resolutions come in saying, “This is the year I finally get in shape.” By February, the crowd is thinning, and by March it’s back to normal. Most New Year’s resolutions don’t stick. But sometimes they do!

I think resolutions are worthwhile. They are like any behavior change plan. Some approaches help them work; others sabotage them. Here’s what I know about keeping resolutions, partly taken from this article.

Resolutions should be something you want to do, not something you think you “should” do, or that your spouse or doctor wants you to do. If you don’t want to start walking for exercise, say, don’t make walking a resolution. Can you find some activity you do want, and resolve to do that?

Resolutions should be something you reasonably CAN do. Don’t resolve to run five miles a day if you rarely even walk to the corner. Start slowly and build up. Pick a resolution you are very confident that you can do. You might want to assess your confidence level, or CL.

On a scale of 1–10, how confident are you that you can make this change? Your CL should be at least 7. If it’s lower, you should make the goal easier or make plans to overcome barriers that might get in your way.

Resolutions should be specific and measurable. My most successful resolutions have been simple things like “I will always buckle my seat belt.” More complicated or vaguer things are harder.

For example, “I will quit smoking” is not a good resolution. How will you do it? When? Where can you get help? Be specific. “I will stop smoking inside the house as of now. Within the next two weeks, I will talk to my doctor about what he can do to help me quit smoking, and I will join the SmokEnders group at work.”

It’s also good to remember that changes rarely go smoothly. There will be ups and downs, whether with weight, blood glucose, drinking, mood, or anything else. You might be able to accomplish a specific task in one month (“I will have all my thank you cards written by January 10.”) But behavior changes are for life, and we need to take a long-term view.

You can read a lot more about this topic in my book The Art of Getting Well. In fact, a good resolution might be to read my book. Just a hint…

My Resolution
So I want to apply these rules to my own resolution. I want to be happier from now on. Right away I can see this resolution has problems. How can I measure it? How will I know if I’ve accomplished it? Well, I could keep a log, rating my mood on a scale of 1–10 each day, or twice a day. Maybe that would work.

But be specific, David. How am I going to do this? I mean, most people would be happier if they could. Do I have some secret formula or something?

It just so happens that my Mom called me this morning and said, “Listen to this radio show! They’re talking about how to be happy.” So I did, and I wasn’t very happy with it. But they did have a few good ideas.

Doing things for others makes people happy. Slowing down and letting go of expectations makes people happy. You know; the same old things we already know. Live in the moment; don’t live for accomplishments or money.

Easier said than done. How to make this plan specific? Here’s a thought. I will not worry about things I can’t control until after lunch. Later on, I’ll try to push it to “after dinner,” but I’m starting slow. That means no looking at bad news on the Internet in the morning, either.

But that is focusing on the negative. Maybe I should also resolve something positive, to do one thing a day for someone else or some cause. That sounds promising. OK, I’ll do both.

But wait a minute. My confidence level that I can do both of these is 6. Actually, taken separately, my CL for each of them is six. Have to get that up. I’ll make the plan easier. Instead of saying “every day,” I’ll say “five days a week” for the changes. I’ll leave two days for backsliding; I’ll build up. That sounds much more doable. My CL of that is 8, so it’s a go.

To see if these changes are making me happy, I’ll keep a mood log on a scale of 1–100, because I want to get above 90. I’ll keep track of the things I let go of and things done for others on the log, too. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Meanwhile, what’s your resolution? I’m especially interested in health-related resolutions, but it could be anything. Let us know.

And may everyone who works on or reads Diabetes Self-Management have the best possible 2010!

Note: My partner Aisha and I have a new Web site for couples dealing with illness. You can find it at

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