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Resolutions, Intentions, and Behavior Change


Did you know that you can change your life just by keeping track of your daily lifestyle intentions and then giving yourself feedback about those intentions? Sounds too easy, right? Just check on the “New Year’s Challenge Achievement Log.” This activity is the ACEC Life/Health Trust Designed Wellness Challenge for the first quarter of 2014. Below are some tips to get the most from this resource. You can do this kind of activity any time on your own.

The Basics: How it Works

Log in to your Healthyroads account and go to the Challenges page (located under the “My Programs” tab and then click “Challenges”). When you enroll in the New Year’s Challenge, it will ask you to give yourself a rating “A, B, or C” on how well you met your resolution for that day. Just login every day to give yourself feedback. If you cannot login every day, you can submit grades for previous days by clicking “edit” on the appropriate page. You have until March 2nd to enter all of your results.

A Better Way to Say it: What Exactly IS your Resolution?

With a resolution, you place a “flag in the sane” of your future healthy (or healthier) life. You are telling yourself that you will be making an active contribution to your personal growth, your health, and your well-being. You also need to be specific. Note the differences between these two example lists. List B is always a more specific and better way to state the resolution.

Resolutions Chart


Write Down Your Resolution

When you first begin the Challenge, please write down your intention. This is very important and we suggest you post that intention in a place that will provide you a daily reminder (examples: a post-it on your desk, reminder on your computer desktop, or smartphone calendar).

Be Active and Not Passive

You are not taking a passive attitude, like a “What can the world do for me this year?” mind-set. That won’t work. Instead, imagine that you are whispering into your own ear and having this dialogue:

You: “Listen, (you can use your first name when you are talking to yourself)…I know you may think that this resolution thing may be just another poor attempt at cookie control (or tobacco or exercise, etc.), but things are going to be different this time. Do you know why?”

Your Future Healthy (or Healthier) Self: “Really?! Things are going to be different. Pray tell!”

You: “Because we are going to monitor efforts daily! By ‘we” I mean you and me together!”

YFHS: “Makes sense. I read somewhere that follow-up and feedback is the key to goal achievement. Very practical. I like it.”

You: “That’s nice, but I need you cooperation. You know, I do consider you a real team player.”

YFHS: “How sweet of you to say! Ahhh! Well, what do I have to do?”

You: “Two very simple things. First, all we have to do is our best to meet the goal every day. We just have to do something, but ideally do exactly what we set out to do every day. Second, I need you to remind me to do the follow-up and feedback thing.”

YFHS: “Sign me up right now!”

Prompt Yourself

It helps to give yourself a reminder every day, preferably sometime in the late afternoon. This gives you a chance to look back at your day and see if you have met your commitment AND you still have time left to complete your commitment for that day. One possibility is setting up a reoccurring reminder on your smartphone.

Rate Yourself

The fundamental question that you ask yourself is this and only this: “Did I do my best today to actively work on my resolution?” Ultimately, your own conscience is the guide here and you “should” know the answer is either a simple YES or NO. In the Challenge, you do have another sort of mid-way response, which is worded like this: “You have worked toward your resolution a little, but maybe could have done more.” This is a rating of “B”. An “A” is “You made your best effort to work toward your resolution.” And a “C” means you did nothing.

Get Support

Here is the major tip: The goal of this Challenge is NOT to have all “A’s”. The goal is just to keep track of how you are doing. You may think that ideally, by the end of the Challenge you want to have ALL “A’s”…right? Actually, there is a neat thing about this feedback system of “You and Your Future Self Together at Last”. You both will know after a few days whether you are not getting any “A’s”. You will also know if you go through a slump where you get just “C’s”. The idea here is to use this feedback and get support. Which is ALWAYS available through the Healthyroads website. Remember, you can contact a health coach at any time.

Use “If-Then” Intentions

Here is another tip. Go back and look at the “Better Way to Say it” table. Another way to write your resolution down is an “If-Then” intention. Here, you would think ahead of those things you know might happy that will keep you from doing your resolution. This could be any of these:

“If by 3:00 in the afternoon I have not taken any time for relaxation…”Resolution Blurb

“If I grab a cigarette when I feel stressed because…”

“If I toss and turn at night and can’t go back to sleep…”

By creating these initial “IF” statements, you are preparing your mind ahead of time to come up with a way to manage things. The idea is that you can find ways to prevent yourself from slipping. Now, let’s look at the “THEN” part of each statement.

“If by 3:00 in the afternoon I have not taken any time for relaxation…THEN I will shut the door to my office (go outside and sit in the sun), move away from the computer, and sit with my eyes closed for five minutes of deep breathing.”

“If I grab a cigarette when I feel stressed because…THEN I will count slowly to 10 taking a deep breath each time and do one of the following activities for five minutes: draw, read, watch a brief fun video on YouTube, listen to a song that relaxes me, or talk to one of my non-smoking friends.”

“If I toss and turn at night and can’t go back to sleep…THEN I will count slowly to 10 taking a deep breath each time and then do one or more of the following in a relaxed way: pour a warm bath, put on a relaxation tape, drink chamomile tea, tell yourself that sleep will come when it is ready and relax into that thought, or visualize a pleasant and tranquil scene.”

Note on Behavior Change

Keep aware that even a small success is still a success and is AT LEAST worthy of a “B”. You may not have had a fruit and a vegetable on a given day. However, with your “IF-THEN” statement, you may notice that IF by 3:00 pm you have not had one, THEN you can always add one in for dinner. Just doing that moves you in a positive direction.

Healthy Regards,

Dr. Bennett

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