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Many of us start the New Year with a resolution to stop a particular behavior that hasn’t served our highest good. By the time January 1st comes around, many people feel financially, emotionally, and energetically depleted. While it might be fun to eat, drink, shop, and be merry, there’s a price to pay for overdoing it. So, on New Year’s Day, we decide to reign ourselves in and stop doing something that has troubled us for a long time. But we all know that very few resolutions are kept. As the days tick on, our old habits ease their way back into our thoughts, and before we know it, we’re right back to the very thing we swore off.

This year, rather than beat yourself up, New Year’s Day can be a new beginning and a time for a new approach. While pain can be a great motivator, it doesn’t last. Once the pain wears off, the old ways return. The only way to eliminate unwanted behavior is to replace it with a lasting good feeling about yourself instead of something that makes you feel good for the moment.

If you want to keep a commitment, guilt won’t work. Instead, try a new approach that inspires you to be your best and will keep you on the beam of success. If you really want to keep a New Year’s resolution, here are a few tips on how to make it last.

#1 – Make a list of things you want to achieve to become the “New You.” Don’t hold back. Write them down, whether losing weight, improving relationships, saving money, a new career, or anything else you want to achieve. Next, turn those images into a vision board. Cut out pictures from magazines and paste them on a poster board. Keep adding whenever you think of something you want to be changed. Your board can have pics of the new you, wealth, what happiness looks like, hobbies, interests, goals, and wishes. You can even have a New Year’s Day Vision Board Party and share the experience with others. Put the vision board someplace where you’ll see it regularly.

#2 – Remove the barriers that prevent your success and replace them with good habits.  Make a list of your behaviors that cause you problems. If it’s an addiction, go to 12-step or Smart Recovery meetings (all free), or see a therapist specializing in mental health and addiction. Then replace those unhealthy behaviors with healthier ones – like on your vision board. For example, suppose you want to stop spending. In that case, you have the goal on your vision board – a pile of money that you’ve saved with a particular portion going for a purchase like a vacation or a personal item, and the rest left to grow in a savings or investment account that you refuse to use; if you want to stop eating food that causes weight gain – a picture of someone you’d like to resemble in fitness and energy. Suppose you’re going to stop smoking – a photo of healthy lungs and a stack of cash that formerly went to cigarettes. If you’re in a bad relationship, an image of someone with whom you have a happy, loving relationship.

#3 – Get out of the box. To cope with feeling empty and lonely, we’ve become accustomed to doing things that make us feel more desolate and depressed. Many people fear letting go and think they’re more comfortable rather than facing the unknown. Many of these things make us physically and emotionally sick. Doing the same thing and suffering the consequences only drains you. You’ll likely remain stuck until you move out of your comfort zone and replace unhealthy behavior with fun and stimulating activities.

Make sure that whatever you give up on January 1st, you promptly replace it with something healthy and enjoyable. Then you can break up with the uncomfortable habit like any other bad relationship and forget all about it. Then, instead of the bad habit draining you, you will replace it with new exhilarating feelings.

#4 Choose love over fear. Struggling with anger, guilt, and depression can be debilitating. Further, these states are useless and only keep you stuck. Commit to healing your pain and changing your perception from negative to positive. It seems hard to change when we’re hooked on something or have a particular way of thinking. When we tried before, it was too uncomfortable, and we reverted to our old familiar ways. This is the way of fear.

Changing a behavior can be scary. Some people think, “You don’t understand; I can’t live without ______ or ______.” Really? You can’t live without something stealing your self-esteem, livelihood, health, and loved ones? If we choose to love, we won’t want to harm ourselves anymore. We will only select self-love behaviors and won’t miss our old ways. As we begin to feel better about ourselves, fear will be the last thing on our minds because we’ll be too busy enjoying our lives. When you love yourself, being a slave to something no longer has any appeal.

Instead of new behavior for a short while this New Year’s, you could choose to be a new you for the rest of your life. Then you could live without the guilt and fear of something you want to give up and replace it with the joy of loving yourself. It’s easier than you think. You deserve to be the real you.

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Dr. Donna Marks has been an author, consultant, public speaker, and psychotherapist for over thirty years. She was licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in 1987 and then certified in Addiction, Gestalt Therapy, Hypnosis, Sex Therapy, and Psychoanalysis. She currently has a concierge psychotherapy practice in Palm Beach, Florida.
She has appeared on numerous podcasts and local television. She is the author of two books, Learn Grow Forgive – A Path to Spiritual Success, and Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Solution (revised), and winner of multiple book awards. Her next book, The Healing Moment: Seven Keys to Turn Messes into Miracles, will be released in 2023.

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