New Year’s resolutions that really work: How do you do a “don’t?”

IMG_0835“How do you do a don’t?” asked a young friend of mine. 

Great question.

Often when you want to change a behavior, you identify what you don’t want to do, and that’s a good starting point. However, though it is important to recognize what you don’t want to do, it is vital to know what you really do want to do instead. 

At this time of year people often review their bad habits and create new goals. One of the ways to commit to positive habit change is to cultivate awareness of your goal and continue to raise awareness on a daily basis.

Look at how you’re responding to everyday challenges that cause you stress. If, for example, you want to stop smoking cigarettes, you’ll need to have a lot of awareness around each and every choice you make, especially in the beginning. Cultivating a list of “dos” instead of one big “don’t” is important.

I’ve often heard it said that when you try and quit smoking and tell yourself, “Don’t smoke,” the brain actually registers the “smoke” part more than the “don’t” part. That resonates with my experience.

If you want to quit something, like smoking, and yet you begin smoking (drinking, shopping, compulsive eating, etc.) from time-to-time as a reaction to the stressors in your life, it might be very helpful to create a viable list of things to do. For example:

Breathe more slowly. – Breathe more deeply. – Drink more water. – Make a cup of coffee or tea. – Chew on vegetable sticks. – Slow down and take time to chew your food. – Seek out positive friends. – Spend quality time with family members. – Laugh more. – Listen to music. – Sing in the shower. – Join a drumming circle. – Take dance classes. – Do yoga. – Go for a walk.

Ask yourself: “What ‘dos’ do I want to do?” Start off the new year right. Make your list and post it somewhere visible. It’ll help you cultivate and keep your awareness around what you want to change.

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