We look forward to the new year when we’ll lose those pounds we’ve gained since Thanksgiving. Or we’ll quit smoking cold turkey or begin using that exercise equipment we bought last year or five years ago. And it just doesn’t happen.
Change — how long does it take to change a behavior, even with deep commitment. Some theorists say 21 days; others say 66 days; most know it’s not that simple. We are all different as are the behaviors we want/need to change.
Addictions like drugs, alcohol, gambling, and nicotine are extremely complicated from physiological and psychological perspectives and often require medical assistance. Additionally, relapse is more common than we’d like to admit.
And if our list of behaviors we’d like to change is long, that’s a sure prescription for failure. It’s about changing one or two things at a time- and not a dozen.
Know, too, that there is nothing magic about January first. We can begin a process on any day, at any time.
What would you like to change, and what factors are motivating you? Appearance? Concern for health? Peer pressure? Fear? A spouse’s concern?
We also know that what is relatively easy and important for some is difficult for others no matter the ratio of cost to benefit in terms of time, money and effort.
An example for me is care of my teeth. That is a no-brainer even before I became aware of the relationship between heart health and clean teeth. So I floss daily, brush almost every time I eat anything, see my dentist twice a year for a thorough cleaning, and make an appointment immediately if a think I have a problem. I have a Waterpik at the ready if I sense my gum health is beginning to be compromised, and I would never even consider missing a dental appointment.
Annual mammograms are high on my list as well. Teeth and breasts? I’ve had issues in the past with both, so I’m driven to attend to them.
Your list will be different and for different reasons and might include a diabetes diagnosis. I’m smart enough to know that even if you are well aware of the serious complications and early death that can result from neglect of your diet, exercise, and medical regime, you may choose to ignore your physician’s recommendations.
What about sleep? The amount? The routine? The conditions?
Maybe you plan to write a novel in 2019. Some maintain that you can produce a rough draft of one in a month. November is the month and information on the group is available at https://nanowrimo.org/.
I used the work “group” when mentioning writing a novel. Having a partner or belonging to a group, either in person or online, is helpful to some.
AA, NA, OA, GA work well for some and not for others. Some use the programs in concert with other strategies.
Is your resolution to be kinder to family members or to spend more time with them? Devise a way to monitor your behavior. Some use a rubber band on the wrist and snap it when they are less than kind. Some calendar time with family members, and I maintain that that is as essential as anything you’ll ever do. You don’t want your adult children telling you that you were oblivious to them as they were growing up. You can never regain that time.
Work seems to gobble up more and more of our time, especially for those not punching a time clock. A high-level college administrator I know says that to avoid the days that go on for 12-plus hours, she doesn’t drive to work on some days and has her husband pick her up at a specific time on those days. A good solution.
We each must find our own solutions as prescriptions just don’t work unless we endorse and implement them. Ready to give it a try? What one or two things are important to you now, today. Not next month or next year.
In conclusion, my attendance at Al Anon meetings (a worldwide fellowship that offers a program of recovery for the family and friends of alcoholics) for six years saved, if not my life, certainly my ability to function. I use the Serenity Prayer when I am feeling overwhelmed by my need to control the lives of others:
“God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.”
Key words here are “serenity,” “courage,” and “wisdom.” Maybe this will work for you; maybe it won’t. We each must find our own way.
Dr. Blevins has taught undergraduate and graduate students as well as prison inmates, and now teachescommunication and American literature classes at Edison State Community College. Reach her at (937)778-3815 or [email protected]