According to Forbes Magazine, just 8% of people who make a resolution keep it. Most, break their resolutions in the first two weeks of the New Year. Here is a list of the most popular resolutions for last year:
- Lose weight
- Get organized
- Spend less, save more
- Enjoy life to the fullest
- Stay fit and healthy
- Learn something exciting
- Quit smoking
- Help others achieve their dreams
- Fall in love
- Spend more time with family
Although these resolutions are based upon people in the general population, it is likely that many people in recovery share these goals.
So Why Do So Many People Fail?
The problem with these resolutions is they go to the end game without a strategy to get there. In other words you really need to have a plan, both short-term and long-term, to lose weight and keep it off, quit smoking or stay fit and healthy. Rather than have such broad and sweeping resolutions, what worked for me, and I think may work for you, is to have the long-term goal in mind, but break it down into manageable subgroups, and really focus on making progress, baby-step by baby-step. By focusing on the micro-level and succeeding, we are better able to gain the self-confidence necessary to ultimately achieve our desired end result. No coach goes into a game without a strategy and, given that your quality of life is at stake here, neither should you.
The list of last year’s top ten resolutions involve a lot of issues we address at Spiritual Adrenaline: lose weight; stay fit and healthy; quit smoking; etc. Rather than incredibly broad resolutions, I recommend breaking down your resolution into smaller, more realistic goals and doing everything possible to achieve this realistic resolution. Once you achieve it, you can set another and keep going.
For example, if you are looking to quit smoking you need to develop a plan to address “triggers” that lead you to smoke. For me, that was coming and going from buildings. When I was about to enter or leave a building, I would chew a nicotine lozenge to avoid lighting up. Once I broke the habit of smoking coming and going from buildings, then I addressed not smoking in my car, etc. It was the smaller victories along the way that ultimately enabled me to quit smoking. It all starts somewhere and the smaller victories along the way build the self-confidence needed to ultimately win the war.
In the movie “What About Bob,” Bill Murray repeated the mantra “baby steps” over and over. In early recovery, I adopted that mantra for most things. It was incredibly important for me to stop self-defeating and self-sabotage and instead focus on getting out of my own way and being my own best friend.
Here are some achievable resolutions that will enhance your recovery and can start you down the road toward major change. I picked one for each of the major areas we focus on here at Spiritual Adrenaline.
Replace processed sugar and sweeteners with a natural sweetener: Diabetes and hyperglycemia are a major issue for people in recovery. The percentage of people in recovery with these conditions is well above the general population; according to some studies, as high as 93%. These conditions often make it much more challenging to stay sober as fluctuation in blood sugar levels dramatically alters mood and energy levels. Moreover, many people in recovery, especially alcoholics, have compromised liver function. If this applies to you, your liver may not be able to break down high-fructose corn syrup and other processed sweeteners. High-fructose corn syrup is quite common, and often the main sweetener in candy, ice cream and many other products. Over time, high-fructose corn syrup builds up in the liver causing a whole set of other health-related problems. By replacing processed sweeteners with natural sweeteners, you take a major step forward in diet modification and a healthier you.
Walk At Least A Mile A Day: Move a muscle, change a thought. It is undisputed that cardiovascular exercise will help burn calories, help lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and enhance production of brain chemicals and hormones that lift your mood. A mile a day is not a long distance at all, and this resolution should be an easy lift for most folks. It can also be the first step towards incorporating exercise into your daily routine, which is a must if we seek to enhance our changes of long-term success in recovery. Once you get comfortable with the mile, you can always go a little further, and then a little further. However, we all must start somewhere.
You can measure your mile the old-fashioned way, by actually measuring the length to and from certain locations or by driving the route ahead of time. There are countless gadgets and apps that will do it for you. So there is no reason not to give it a try. For folks in recovery, this is a great time to meditate, go over a gratitude list in their head, call a loved one or just enjoy nature. If you tend to isolate yourself and have a history of doing so while you were using, invite someone to join you. Maybe you can walk to and from a meeting together.
For people trying to quit smoking, cardiovascular activity is of great importance. Most people who smoke tend to engage in limited activity. The longer you smoke, the less you tend to move, as even minimal movement can be challenging for a smoker, especially those with lung diseases or other smoking-related health issues. When you engage in cardio, you force your lungs to work. By doing this, you can feel the impact of smoking on your lungs and their ability to provide you with oxygen. I can tell you this first hand because this was true for me. After heavy cardio, I would have great difficulty breathing and my lungs hurt. It convinced me that it was a behavior that could not continue. By incorporating exercise and proper nutrition into your lifestyle along with like-minded people (i.e., non-smokers), smoking becomes less and less acceptable and appealing.
Inventory The Times You Smoke and Make At Least One Change To Your Routine: Sit down and figure out the times of day you smoke, and commit to erasing at least one. When I smoked, I was lighting up when I went in and out of buildings, hanging around the front of twelve-step meetings with the smoking crowd, in my car when I was driving, and in my apartment at night. When I committed to stop, I changed the ways I went to and from work to avoid places where smokers congregated and where I traditionally lit up a cigarette. I changed my meetings, went later and/or left early to avoid smokers, pulled over as opposed to permitting myself to smoke in my car, and left my cigarettes in the mailbox at night so I did not have them available to smoke in my apartment.
Breaking these types of habits and routines in the context of smoking is huge. The habits are what perpetuate the addiction. By changing them, you change the neurological associations and cravings in your brain, and take a huge leap towards kicking the habit. It all starts by inventorying your smoking and developing a battle plan. One victory and change in the routine will give you the confidence to keep going and not give up.
Recovery Vitamins, Minerals and Hormones:
Eat Something Green Every Day: It sounds so simple but you would be surprised how many people do not eat green vegetables on a daily basis. Green leafy veggies are our best friends for so many reasons. First, they are not carb-heavy vegetables, so if we are looking to lean down, they enhance that goal. Second, they do not contain substances that convert to sugar or glucose in the digestion process. This is incredibly important given the disproportionate number of people in recovery with diabetes and hyperglycemia. Third, leafy green vegetables pack the most nutrients per calorie than any other food group. Greens contain significant amounts of Vitamins A, C, E, K and several of the B vitamins. In addition, they are rich in calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. As people in recovery, our bodies are often used to calorie-rich, nutrient-deficient foods, chief among them candy and alcohol. The benefits of eating something green everyday will pay off exponentially as you will be restoring the building blocks necessary to meet your body’s needs and proper brain chemistry.
If you eat some greens every day, you won’t have to worry about the recommended servings per week, as you’ll easily exceed them. In case you were wondering, the USDA recommends three servings of leafy greens each week.
This is a tough category because the issue of “spirituality” is so subjective. So in this category I will give you three suggestions:
Establish A Morning Self-Care Practice: How we start the day sets the tone for the rest of the day. A morning self-care practice establishes you and your recovery as the priority and the absolute first thing that gets your attention in the morning. This need not be a lengthy, highly formal practice. Set aside 5 minutes every morning to reflect on gratitude, your goals for the day, or whatever else you would like to focus on. Use this time to reflect inward, towards your soul, and be driven by your needs. Not the needs of others, clients, significant others, family or any other person, place or thing. Enjoy your 5 minutes of solitude and stay in gratitude. A person who stays in gratitude will not drink or use drugs.
Journal About Your Feelings: Feelings are not facts and putting them down in black and white is an incredibly powerful experience in many ways. Oftentimes, when I write down how I am feeling, it makes it unmistakably clear that what is happening in my head is absolutely ridiculous. By writing down my feelings or, as I sometimes refer to them – the “chaos in my head,” I gain perspective. Journaling also grounds me in reality, makes me think about how my brain processes people, places and things, and makes it easier to share with a sponsor or friend at a later time. A journal need not be War and Peace, but rather a few sentences, at the beginning, during or end of the day.
Reach Out to Someone and Just Say Thanks or Hello: Once a week, biweekly or monthly, chose someone who is important in your life, someone you have not connected with for a while, and say thanks or hello. Let them know how and why they impacted your life and that you care about them. These types of random acts of kindness will lift your spirit as well as that of the person to whom you are reaching out. We are all so busy these days that often the only time we communicate with people we care about is when some terrible event happens, such as an unexpected death. Have no regrets, seize the day and reach out and say thanks.
We wish you and your loved ones a happy, healthy and sober 2017. We would love your feedback on this and other blogs. Send an email or short video to firstname.lastname@example.org.