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Turn Your New Year’s Resolution into a Lifestyle With These Expert Tips

Silver Hill Hospital

Most people make New Year’s Resolutions that are important to them.  But over time, resolve may weaken, or quite simply, life may get in the way. Ryan Flanagan, MD, Team Lead, Silver Hill Hospital Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Program, has some recommendations for stealing your resolve and increasing your chances of turning your resolution into a new lifestyle.

Dr. Flanagan’s recommendation? DBT, of course!

“Dialectical Behavior Therapy is, at its core, a ‘skills-based modality,” explains Dr. Flanagan. “In DBT, we learn skills that will help improve our lives. And the skills can be applied to most any situation — including New Year’s Resolutions.  One of the skills in DBT that may be most relevant for resolutions is called, ‘Coping Ahead.’ What this means is taking the time to anticipate potential obstacles that may derail your resolution, and developing strategies before the obstacle occurs.” To demonstrate how it works, Dr. Flanagan walked through the most frequent of resolutions, exercising more.  

“If your resolution is to go to the gym in the morning, think ahead about what might get in the way,” suggests Dr. Flanagan. “Put your gym clothes and sneakers next to your bed. Wake up to motivating, energetic music. If tiredness is an issue, focus on an earlier bedtime. The act of anticipating and addressing future obstacles enables you to be prepared if and when they do arise,” explains Flanagan.

In addition to “Coping Ahead,” Dr. Flanagan offers a few other words of advice. “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” says, Dr. Flanagan. “If you want to exercise for an hour but life interrupts, accept it and shorten your workout. Even three minutes running up and down the stairs in your house or apartment building will keep your momentum going, make you feel better, and have an impact.  Being flexible and realistic will allow you to reap the benefits of your resolution and stay on course.”

And last, but certainly not least, if mindfulness or meditation is on your list of intentions for 2024, Dr. Flanagan suggests that you consider moving it to the top.  “Mindfulness is one of the four main tenets of DBT,” says Dr. Flanagan, “and if you prioritize Mindfulness, a lot of other things will follow and fall into place.” Globally defined as the act of being present and in the moment, by intent, there is substantial evidence that mindfulness contributes to improved mental health and cognitive function as well as the reduction of perceived stress and emotional exhaustion.” Certainly worth a try!  “Start small,” says Flanagan. “The brain, just like your muscles,  needs to be trained. The more effort and intention you put into Mindfulness, the more you will ultimately get out of it.”