By Dr. Louis Masur

Special to the Daily Journal

Now that many of us are wallowing in guilt over our failure to abide by our New Year's resolutions. I will suggest some principles of lifestyle and behavior change. Change is an important part of life. It is often illusive; it is often fleeting; and once achieved it is often not what we expected. The process of change can be foreboding, or it can be exciting and challenging.

1. Make sure your efforts to change are motivated for the right reasons. If you want to change to please someone else or to look better to someone else, reconsider. Change for someone else often produces anger and bitterness which often inhibits the change process.

2. Change is often costly, requiring some commitment. Make sure at the beginning that you are willing to pay the price. If you can not make the commitment, wait until you can, rather than making a halfhearted effort.

3. Make your goals realistic. If you keep reaching for the unreachable star, you will always be frustrated and the process of change for you will be punishing. If your goals are more realistic the process of change will be easier.

4. Divide the task up into small chunks such that accomplishing each small step is almost as important as accomplishing the entire goal. To walk a mile, you first have to take a step. Make the step just as important to you as walking the entire mile and the mile post will be reached more comfortably and more swiftly. Always being successful at small steps is much more conducive to change than constant failure.

5. Give yourself small gifts or rewards for reaching the smaller goals. Taking your own small steps for granted is one of the worst roadblocks for successful change. If your change process involves or creates an increase in the amount of money you have available for yourself, make sure that money is spent on you in a healthier manner. For example, if you reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, make sure you spend that money on yourself in some other fashion until the change is well entrenched.

6. Pace the change process well. Often rapid changes create less enduring changes. Slow progress toward the ultimate goal will have a greater chance of being maintained and intergraded into your lifestyle. This is especially true with weight loss.

7. Select methods which are based upon good science not the fad of the minute. Simply because a method or a pill is medically supervised does not mean it is the best method for achieving long-term behavioral change. Any commercial establishment or product has a primary purpose to make money. They may care about you but not as much as you care about you. Resist commercial enterprises which tend to advertise in an exploitive manner appealing to guilt or vanity.

8. Redefine failure to mean that you have learned something to further your goals for the future. If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again. Persistence is frequently rewarded.

Weight loss, exercise programs, stopping smoking, reducing or stopping drinking, spending more time with the family, working more are all good goals if the plan and approach is good.

For further information about change programs, contact Louis Masur III, Ph.D. at the Region III Mental Health Center, 844-1717.

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