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Posted: Monday, January 4, 2016

Success in the New Year Takes Baby Steps

Well, here we are. Another New Year’s celebration has come and gone, and now we’re back to the day-to-day elements of “real life,” which means back to work, back to school and back to our normal lives. Of course, for many people, those lives are in need of some alterations, which is why we make New Year’s resolutions each year. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with trying to improve oneself or correct some bad habits, there are ways to go about it that can be more successful than others.

Psychiatrist Dr. Julia Wood from Blount Memorial Parkway Psychiatric Service says she strives to make a resolution each year. “I love this time of year as it gives me an opportunity to reflect on the past year, and to consider what goals I want to make for myself in the coming year,” she said. “I know many people who don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but for me it is important to continually push myself to change and grow. It’s easy to find ways in which we want to change, but the hard part is actually keeping our resolve in order to reach our goals. How can you best stick to your resolutions? It’s never easy, but there are some things you can try,” she said.

“First, I recommend choosing only one big goal per year,” Wood explained. “Most of us make resolutions to improve our health. Exercise, weight loss, quitting smoking or simplifying our lives and reducing stress through de-cluttering are all very common New Year’s resolutions. All of these causes are worthy, but all tend to be big goals. It’s hard to make major life overhauls, and more than one at a time is simply too much,” she said. “It’s better to start with one of these, and then reevaluate in three to six months before deciding to add another goal to the list,” she added.

“Second, be specific in your goals,” Wood said. “It is far easier to accomplish a concrete goal such as ‘run a 5k in the spring’ than it is to ‘exercise more.’ The best resolutions are goals that you can accomplish as this gives you a sense of mastery and can help motivate you to make new goals. If you simply tell yourself you’ll ‘exercise more’ or even ‘exercise three times per week,’ you don’t have a natural end point at which to give yourself a pat on the back and say, ‘I did it,’” she explained. “Third, write your goals down. This helps you keep yourself accountable. You can even write down why you want to reach this goal to help keep you motivated,” she added.

“Fourth, be sure to enlist other people’s help and support,” Wood continued. “Social media can be a great way to request support from others, so try sharing your goal and your progress. Studies show that receiving positive feedback helps people stay on track with their goals. It can also help inspire friends to make positive changes in their own lives,” she explained. “Finally, once you reach your goal, set another. For example, if your goal is to de-clutter your house, you may start with a few rooms. Once you finish those, set a goal for a few more, and then set a goal to keep things de-cluttered. Will power is a ‘muscle’ like any other. The more we use it, the stronger it becomes,” she said. “If you don’t reach your goal, reevaluate what went wrong, and break your goal in to smaller steps,” she added.

Wood sees patients at Parkway Psychiatric Service, located at 451 Blount Memorial Physician Office Building in Maryville. For more information or to schedule an initial appointment, call Parkway Psychiatric Service at 865-980-5377.

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