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The new year doesn’t have to be about giving something up. Instead, it’s better to reframe your thoughts into gaining something new. Giving up behavior that’s been around for a while can be painful and grueling. On the other hand, gaining something new is rewarding and uplifting. If you sincerely want to change something, here are a few tips to help.

#1 – Focus on Your Goal – If you want success, you must have a positive goal. It’s not enough to say you want to stop a particular behavior. You need to have a clear image of the outcome you want. Once I stop __________, I will like my physical self when I look in the mirror, I’ll feel good about myself, and I’ll feel victorious and happy. I won’t have depression or hangovers. I’ll have more energy and be more active. Self-loathing will be replaced with self-esteem, guilt, and depression with personal empowerment.

#2 – Be Specific – Say, for instance, you want to quit drinking; you must be specific. Beginning with a definite date, I will no longer use alcohol in any form. For smoking, I will no longer use nicotine in any form. For food, I will no longer eat sugar, wheat, or anything you need to stop. Sex addiction, no porn, or acting out with people I don’t care about.

#3 – Have a Plan & Stick to It – A plan means a start date without an end date. Success from any problem behavior means stopping that behavior every day, one day at a time. Sticking to a plan means you don’t waver. Otherwise, you’re guaranteed to return to the old behavior or worse. Instead, make sure the method you choose allows you to replace the old behavior with a new enjoyable one that makes you feel good about yourself.

#4 – Get Support & Accountability – Permanent success requires support. People who are stuck in unwanted behaviors often live in a box. If you stay in isolation, you’ll likely miss your old habit(s) and want to revert. On the flip side, you’ll share success with others and make new friends when you have a support system. Recovery support systems are successful because by checking in, helping someone else, and learning new choices, you also add a new spark to your life. Stick with people who support your goals and be honest about setbacks. Then instead of succumbing to failure, get right back on track.

#5 – Ignore the Trickster – Once addictive behavior finds a space to rent in your mind, it never leaves. It’s the thought that keeps giving advice. “You’ve been good. You can _______ just once,” “You deserve to ________, especially after the way you’ve been treated lately,” or “You were a lot happier before you stopped __________.” These are momentary, involuntary thoughts that try to trick you into going back to your old ways. These thoughts are always wrong and must always be replaced with something like, “I’d rather put in the work and feel good about myself than do ________ and regret it forever. That first drink, smoke, gambling bet, etc., is what sets you off course and makes it much harder to get back on track. Better to keep moving forward than gyrating to your destination. The former will facilitate reaching your goal, and the latter is exhausting and debilitating.

If you’re ready to change, do it with love, not fear. Loving yourself replaces the fear that makes you want to self-medicate. Love will fill the empty hole. You deserve to be the best you. The real you. Today is the best day to shed that monkey on your back and replace it with freedom from bondage. When you decide to love yourself, every challenge is easier than you think.

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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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