Make positive changes this new year, and stick with them
With 2013 nearly in the books, 2014 provides people with the opportunity to make resolutions they can keep.

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany (Dec. 31, 2013) -- Making New Year's resolutions is an easy task; keeping them on the other hand, can be tough.

But the new year isn't meant for reinvention, but rather reflection. Glancing into the rear-view mirror of the past year can serve as a catalyst to make positive changes in health and lifestyle for the future.

And according to the American Psychological Association, or APA, not keeping those resolutions is all in our head.

The APA offered five easy steps for making changes, and sticking with them. Follow these steps and your 2014 resolutions can become more reality than fantasy.

Start small: Make resolutions that you think you can keep. If, for example, your aim is to exercise more frequently, schedule three or four days a week at the gym instead of seven. If you would like to eat healthier, try replacing dessert with something else you enjoy, like fruit or yogurt, instead of seeing your diet as a form of punishment.

Change one behavior at a time: Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time. Thus, replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time. Don't get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life.

Instead, work toward changing one thing at a time.

Talk about it: Share your experiences with family, friends, or your family readiness group. Consider joining or starting support group to reach your goals, such as a class at the fitness center or a group of co-workers who aim to quit smoking.

Having someone to share your struggles and successes with makes your journey to a healthier lifestyle that much easier and less intimidating.

Don't beat yourself up: Perfection is unattainable. Remember that minor missteps when reaching your goals are completely normal.

Don't give up completely because you ate a brownie and broke your diet, or skipped the gym for a week because you were busy. Everyone has ups and downs; resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track.

Ask for support: Everyone needs a cheerleader from time to time. Accepting help from those who care about you and will listen strengthens your resilience and ability to manage stress caused by your resolution.

If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking professional help.

Psychologists are uniquely trained to understand the connection between the mind and body. They can offer strategies as to how to adjust your goals so that they are attainable, as well as help you change unhealthy behaviors and address emotional issues.

Page last updated Fri January 3rd, 2014 at 05:10