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Health goals and the benefits of positive thinking

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Mid January is a time when people start to forget their New Year’s resolutions. The enthusiasm involved in setting health goals for the next year are starting to give way to the reality that working on those goals is not fun and is a lot of work. Part of the problem with making changes is the way people talk about the changes.

The most common New Year’s resolutions regarding health involve some sort of negative concept. People resolve to lose weight, exercise more, stop eating sweets, stop smoking, stop or reduce drinking alcohol all of which are associated with hard work, disciple and the loss of something, usually the loss of something they enjoy. This type of negative connotation does not help encourage people to meet their goals. As a result, the effort to fulfill these goals becomes burdensome. The lack of immediate reward makes it difficult to stay engaged in the effort to improve the lifestyle and eventually the overall quality of life.

A better strategy is to shift the resolution to something positive. The best resolutions are positive and create a situation that naturally achieves the original negative goal. For example, the new resolution could be to train for a local summer fun run, with a goal of completing the race. A very positive goal. The result of a focus on training for that goal is exercise is increased, weight would be reduced, and there will probably be a reduction in stress. This type of goal is far more encouraging, and more likely to succeed than just getting to the gym on a regular basis.

Signing up for a class, or learning a new skill can be very useful in meeting lifestyle goals. Scheduling more social time with people who do not smoke can help reduce the desire to smoke. A dance class can encourage exercise, reduce stress, increase fun time with a spouse and introduce new social connections with people who are also trying to improve their lives and have fun doing it. Resolutions regarding eating less, can be flipped into a goal to eat more home cooked healthy meals, or a goal of trying a new healthy recipe every week. Healthy goals should not be about getting rid of the bad things that people love, but rather increasing the good things such that it makes it difficult to continue the old bad habits.

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