Submitted in response to the Friday Gather Writing Essentials prompt by Nancy L. This is the New Year's column I wrote last year for my hometown newspaper. I'm happy to say, this resolution was one I actually kept :-)
Those Pesky New Year’s Resolutions: Making them Stick is the Hard Part
A new year is here and with it those pesky resolutions we make and never seem to keep for long. They’re easy to make, but making them stick in the hard part.
How many of you will have already “backslid” (a church term I often heard used by my grandfather who was a preacher) by the end of this first week?
You might find yourself eating chocolate, saying that swear word, or spending money when you promised yourself you wouldn’t? It’s hard, when trying to break those years of being bad, to stay on the straight and narrow road of good behavior.
I’m trying something new this year. Instead of making several resolutions which I never seem to keep, I decided to work on one at a time. I figured maybe if I worked on one thing until I got it right, that the change would be permanent.
My first resolution is two-fold. I’ve decided I wanted to not be so uptight about work and, to be a little more optimistic in my outlook. I’m a bit of a workaholic and often find myself feeling frazzled by those perky, upbeat people at work who see everything as fine and dandy all the time. They go around the office chatting everyone up and still manage to get their work done.
I have to be honest, their kind sometimes get on my nerves. I'd think to myself- How can they possibly get their work done when they do so much visiting and how can they be so upbeat and chipper all the time?
I’ve been doing a lot of reading the past year about how we define our world by our attitude. Several positive psychology studies articles I’ve read emphasized that a positive attitude, along with an optimistic outlook and positive thinking, can bring better health and greater happiness. A positive attitude, faith, and good relationships with others can make you healthier. No one's sure exactly how some of these factors contribute to good health, but study after study shows they do.
This wasn’t a new concept to me; I’d heard and read about it for years. But I, who tends to be a bit of cynic about things, had never tried to consciously apply it to my everyday life.
Several studies show that a positive attitude depends on many things: genetic influences, upbringing, health habits, social connections, emotional support, and spiritual involvement. You can't change some of these factors, but you can learn new ways of thinking and behavior to help maintain a positive mind-set—and live a healthier life.
It’s hard to change, but in the long run it’s often the best thing to do for your health. I have high blood pressure and must take medication for it. I realized change is what I and this resolution is a first step toward that change.
Studies show a positive change in attitude has important effect on your stress level. "Your beliefs about a particular situation are very important in terms of your immune system's response to stress," says Suzanne Segerstrom, Ph.D., a psychologist in Lexington, Ky. "While a stronger immune system doesn't necessarily mean you feel better, it does affect how easily you get sick, or how well you respond to or recover from illness or surgery."
So, I started trying out my new resolution at work this past week. It was a difficult time to do so, since we are very busy at the beginning of a new college semester. I’m extremely focused on getting the work done that I am responsible for, both personally and for my department, as well. I’ve even been called a bit of a perfectionist at times. Imagine that!
During this peak time I have many computer reports to review, documents to process, and correspondence and phone calls to answer. I tend to feel stressed when I think I’m getting behind, and don’t often take time for the daily office chit-chat until things slow down at end of the month.
But this week, I decided to make time for coworkers who wanted to chat. I have to admit, it was hard for me to let the stack of reports sit there on my desk while different people stopped by to ask about how my holidays were, what we did during our break, and how were things in Georgia.
But, I did it. I smiled and chatted, responded to their questions, and inquired about what was going on with them and their families.
And you know what? It felt good to ease into the workday by talking with others a bit before becoming immersed in piles of paperwork.
And, I still got my work done by the end of the week, almost every single bit of it. Not one task that I put off for a few minutes each day while talking with others was so important that it couldn’t wait to be done a little later.
So, maybe I’m on the right track. I’m going to work on making one change at a time and see if I can make it stick. It may take two or three months, but doing it this way and at that rate, I could get as many as four to six real resolutions accomplished.
I’ll let you know in July how I’m doing. Keep your fingers crossed I can make it stick.
Rose S. Williams