January 1, 2010

USA: Keeping New Year's Resolutions Can Prove Difficult

. TYLER, Texas / Tyler Paper.com / News / January 1, 2010 By Dayna Worchel, Staff Writer The talk this time of year often turns to resolutions -- and for many of us, the next question to ask is: How long can I keep them? The prospect of making a big change in your life sometimes can be overwhelming -- whether your goal is to lose weight, quit smoking, get better organized, or get your financial house in order for the coming year. Several local experts say the key is not to look at the change as one enormous project but to break it down into smaller and more manageable pieces. Losing weight, quitting smoking and eating healthier can be daunting, but a local physician said they are attainable. Getting Healthier "The best thing to do is set a goal, and then pat yourself on the back when you achieve it," said Dr. Barbara Allen, family practitioner and Chief of Primary Care at Trinity Mother Frances Hospital. She said it is common for someone wanting to lose weight to look in the mirror, note the need to lose about 25 pounds, then get discouraged when it doesn't happen right away. It is more reasonable, Dr. Allen said, to decide to lose two pounds per week. "Once you lose the two pounds, you can then move on the next two pounds, and so on," she said. Soon, the 25 pounds will have been lost. With exercise, she said it is important to choose something enjoyable. If someone likes to dance, for example, do so for 15 minutes twice a day, with the goal of getting 20 to 30 minutes of exercise each day. Dr. Allen said she tells her patients that a fun and easy way to get in some activity each day is to exercise during the commercial breaks of their favorite hour long TV show -- which usually adds up to about 18 to 20 minutes. If quitting smoking tops one's resolution list, there are several different ways to attack it. Medication can be effective, but it is important to discuss possible side effects with your physician, Dr. Allen said. One of the most important points to remember is that becoming a nonsmoker is a mindset, she said. Again, break it down into small steps, and taper off slowly. "If you smoke one pack a day, or 20 cigarettes, reduce that number by one to 19 a day for the next week." The method is good because it weans your body off of the nicotine slowly, Dr. Allen said. It is also important to find something to do with the hand that used to hold the cigarette, such as replacing the cigarette with a pen. If eating healthier in the New Year is a resolution, Dr. Allen said, it is important to remember that your body responds to what you do 95 percent of the time. "It doesn't hurt to have a treat once a week or to celebrate with small things," she said. Dr. Allen tells her patients that they need to make it easier to do the right thing, and if they want to treat themselves to something special, to go out and do it, rather than have snacks sitting in their homes. "Don't put a bowl of M&M's out there and try not to eat it." Financial Health Getting one's financial house in order is not unlike getting physically healthy. It is necessary to break the process down into manageable pieces. Jason Henderson, a financial advisor with Edward Jones in Mineola, suggests setting goals with a deadline and with a specific number. "In my experience, that keeps you accountable," he said. But then you also have to follow through, he added. If the New Year brings a desire to own a home or a car, then one needs to set a savings goal to have a certain amount saved by a certain date. "If someone wants to have $10,000 saved by October of 2010, then they need to tell themselves that they will accomplish this saving $1,000 a month," Henderson said. The same strategy applies with saving for retirement, setting and maintaining a budget, or paying down credit card debt. "Set a budget, decide how much to spend, then set that deadline and be disciplined," he said. Getting Organized The key to becoming more organized at home or in the office is to focus on one thing at a time, said Lorrie Gazette, who is a Certified Professional Organizer and founder of Creative Order and Design in Tyler. Her philosophy when helping clients to organize living or work space is called STAKS, which stands for sorting, toss out, assign a home, keep it up and simplify. Ms. Gazette said the main question she asks is, "Do you love this item, and if so, where does it fit in your life today?" Many times, especially when working with the elderly who may have been raised during the Depression, Ms. Gazette encounters situations in which people are hesitant to part with items because they think they may need them later. "I tell them to keep a memorabilia bin where they can place the item and look at it when they feel the need," she said. If someone is short on space, Ms. Gazette suggests taking a picture of the item and placing it in a photo album where he or she can look at it frequently. [rc] ©2009 TylerPaper.com/Tyler Morning Telegraph