Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Making Resolutions that Stick

by Tiffany Kingsfield, M.A., LAPC

When making a New Year’s resolution, the idealized life we want for ourselves seems within reach, and that feeling can be intoxicating. But statistics show that keeping one’s resolution is not easy. A recent article in USA today states that 50% will have already broken their resolution by the end of January (Neuharth, USA Today, 1/3/2013.) The excitement and hopefulness felt at the start can become disappointment and self-loathing. If we want to start 2013 on a new footing, how can we help ourselves be one of successful half who can make desired changes?

We can start by taking some time to explore why the resolutions are important to us in the first place. Ask questions like “Why is this goal important to me? How will keeping this resolution improve my life? What has been fueling my current, unhealthy behavior?” (Hint: Try to find the “reward” you get for indulging in the unhealthy behavior – you will need to find an alternate payoff for the new, healthier behavior.)

Experts recommend setting specific, measurable goals in order in increase odds of success. For example, instead of “I will start saving money,” a better option would be “I will save X amount per paycheck” or I will reduce my monthly expenditures by X dollars.” I will stick to 1,200 calories per day” is more measurable than “I will eat less junk and more fruits and vegetables.”

A study that compared those who stuck with their resolutions versus those who didn’t found that the successful rewarded themselves for the changes they were making. They also avoided situations associated with the problem behaviors, and kept reminders around urging them not to give in to old habits. The final predictor of success was practicing positive thinking about changing the behavior. Conversely, those that failed to keep resolutions spent more time thinking about how their problem behavior was hurting them, criticized and lectured themselves, and wished their problem would disappear (Norcross, Brykalo and Blagys, 2002). The same study found that those who were resolved to make changes nearly half were found to be successful six months later.

When attempting difficult changes, it helps to remember we are not alone. 1 Peter 5 reminds us to cast our worries, anxieties and concerns on God, for He cares for us affectionately and watchfully. We have reassurance that as we struggle to better ourselves, God will ground us, strengthen and settle us. The Lord tells us he calls blessed those that endure steadfastly, and He is full of compassion, tenderness and mercy toward us (James 5:11).

Instead of focusing on your shortcomings, focus on the strengths you possess that are going to help you reach your goal, the support you have in your life that will be a supportive source for you in times of weakness. If you find yourself getting stuck in some “stinking thinking” – meaning you are self-critical and overly focused on the problem rather than the solution, you may think about speaking a professional that can help you identify, challenge and replace distorted thinking.

A new year brings with it new challenges, experiences and possibilities. We can celebrate the fact that we are bringing to 2013 the wisdom we have accumulated in years past, while looking forward to growing in new ways, and living a more abundant life.

Norcross, J. D. (2002). Auld Lang Syne: Success Predictors, Change Processes, and Self-Reported Outcomes of New Year's Resolvers and Nonresolvers. Journal Of Clinical Psychology, 58(4), 397.

Newsweek. 12/24/2012, Vol. 160 Issue 25, p46-49.

Grief and Grace

Our nation is in mourning following last week’s murder of 20 schoolchildren, ages 6 and 7, along with 6 adults who tried to protect them. Authorities are still piecing together the details of this horrific event and the person who was behind them, while we are left with grief and unanswered questions: Are there no boundaries to the reach of evil in our lives?

“Connecticut massacre gunman described as awkward loner who felt no pain” (FoxNews.com, 12/16/12). We are now learning the story of a 20 year old man who was on the “outside” of his social group and whose extreme isolating behaviors had concerned the staff at his High School a few years before. He was also subject to the upheaval of his parents’ divorce in 2008, but what had driven him to bring fatal violence to the heart of his community, and to himself, at this time? There are unconfirmed reports that the gunman was to have been committed to a psychiatric institution by his mother, and that the killing spree was his reaction to the news.

Speaking at a memorial service for the victims, President Obama said that for these tragedies to end “we need to change.” According to the National Institute for Mental Health, approximately 26% of the U.S. adult population has a diagnosable mental health disorder. These numbers increase among low-income families, with studies showing 32% of individuals with low incomes report issues with depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is our culture itself, which facilitates – and sometimes celebrates – independence and isolation from one another and from our Creator.

The solution is found in deeply-seated spiritual and emotional healing. We are a disconnected people who have lost their way, personally and collectively. We run from our feelings of anxiety and inadequacy, lacking the courage to face them squarely, needing faith that God will help us to overcome our problems as we submit ourselves to his design for our lives. Our mission at Fountain Gate is to help people find rest from the conflicts they experience within themselves and with others, and, for those who desire it, to discover the love of God expressed through his son Jesus Christ.

In 2012 Fountain Gate has had the opportunity to provide 4500 sessions of counseling (a 42% increase over 2011) to 301 individuals, 100 couples, and 34 families. In addition, we provided 32 therapeutic and educational workshops for 180 participants. This year also saw the start of
Fountain Gate Gardens , a community project promoting healthy lifestyles, and offering opportunities for personal connection with others. In 2013 we anticipate continued growth in our counseling and gardening programs, while we also hope to branch out into new areas, such as services to veterans, and retreats on a variety of spiritual and mental health topics.

We are grateful for the opportunities we have had to serve the people who have come to us – from 9 counties in the metro Atlanta area – and we are grateful for the support and encouragement we have received from so many. Over forty leaders from churches, schools, businesses, and city, county, and state governments have visited our facilities this year, and have strongly endorsed our vision and our work. What a wonderful experience to connect with others who have a heart for the well-being of our community!

Please hold us in your thoughts and prayers as we walk with others in their journeys toward healing and wholeness. In our personal and societal brokenness, the prescription for many is a listening ear in a safe environment – it’s an introduction to unconditional love, made possible only by the grace of God.

May the peace of Christ and the comfort of God reign in our hearts during this time and season.

Craig Torell
Executive Director