This blog is written by our wonderful trauma and addictions specialist Annie Jacobs.
Now that the hype of the New Year has calmed down, how are you feeling about your New Year’s Resolutions? Have you perhaps set an intention to start your recovery, or do more in your recovery? Do you find yourself already lagging behind your recovery goals and continuing to put them off saying to yourself that you will get to them ‘tomorrow’? Are you beating yourself up because you missed a day of your workout routine already or ate that one food you swore you would avoid this year? Are you looking into the rest of the year with despair or are you still riding your momentum and determination to achieve your goals? Perhaps you decided to avoid setting a goal for a New Year’s Resolution.
The great thing about New Year’s Recovery Resolutions is you can set the restart button every day if necessary. Give yourself permission to start over instead of swimming in shame at not starting yesterday.
Here are 3 effective ways you can manage, and ultimately accomplish, those seemingly pesky "New Year’s Recovery Resolutions"!
1- First and foremost, have fun with the goals you’ve set! Believe it or not, with recovery goals you CAN have fun. But be open! Perhaps a recovery goal is to go to one Refuge Recovery meeting per week for an hour. See if your curious observer part can go to these meetings and connect with someone. OR, perhaps you decide as part of your recovery that you are going to join a meditation community online (we love insight timer!), or listen to Sarah Blondin's podcast once a week (she's amazing!). These can be fun and inspiring goals.
If you’re not having fun or enjoying yourself on your journey to accomplish your goals, your likelihood of actually accomplishing them is slim. Very slim! Do you have a goal that isn’t much fun to work on, but you want the end results? Make sure to set a goal you enjoy accomplishing along-side the goals that are harder and more challenging. The more fun you have, the more likely you are to continue working towards them and the more likely you are to accomplish them.
2-Second, make sure your goals are realistic. Have a major goal you want to achieve, but are intimidated to start because of how big it is? Break it down into smaller goals. For example, if you want to have one solid year of recovery it's important to set a goal to to achieve daily recovery in some way. Focusing on 365 days in one sitting can be overwhelming!
A great way to analyze if your goal is realistic or not is to make a list of every single baby-step you have to take to accomplish this goal.
Now, ask yourself these questions for each baby-step:
- What do I need to accomplish this step?
- How long is it going to take me to accomplish this step?
- Can I still accomplish my entire goal by my end date?
Sound like a lot of work for just one goal? Perhaps, but keep in mind all of the benefits of making this list. You now know every little detail of what accomplishing your goal entails. Remember, you don’t want to go into those big goals blindly. Going into a big goal blindly can lead to unexpected set backs and being unprepared, which can ultimately lead to you not accomplishing your goal at all. Still sound very overwhelming and feeling like backing out? Start out small. Break your big goal down into more manageable goals. So, that 365 days of recovery? Set a goal to achieve 1 to 3 to 5 days at a time and slowly build up to that!
3-Thirdly, be kind and flexible with yourself. It’s important to keep both of these in mind at the same time. Already missed that day of getting to a refuge recovery meeting? That is ok, commit to going to another one! Or ask an accountability buddy, your therapist, your group members for support. Missed working out because you were too tired, sore, had no motivation, the kids were throwing a tantrum, or you had to stay late at work to finish a project? Take a moment to reevaluate your goal. Maybe your workout routine was too intense to start off with and running a mile by on the second week was incredibly difficult. Or maybe you’re not a morning person and waking up at 6:00 a.m. was too difficult for you? You may have thoughts of already failing, such as ‘I’m a worthless lump because I can’t even jog for one minute!’, or ‘I’m so incredibly useless because I can never wake up one time!’ Be kind and flexible enough to tell yourself ‘okay, I need to adjust my goal’. Listen to what your body, mind, and spirit are telling you. Give yourself permission to adjust your goal to being more manageable.
Some people may find that they hate making New Year’s Resolutions because they never accomplish them and feel like a failure (I’m guilty of this). Instead, make a New Year’s Resolution that is easily achievable, but ultimately can never fully be achieved. Sound counterproductive, right?
One common piece of information I like to draw attention to is how long it takes for something to become a habit. Doing a simple google search on the question ‘how long does it take to create a habit’ will automatically pop up with the answer: 21 days. This is actually very misleading. When it comes down to measuring how long something takes for it to become a habit, it depends on how difficult the task is. If you want to drink a glass of water with lunch every day, it will probably only take you a couple of weeks for that to become a habit. However, if you’re trying to change your entire lifestyle... it’s going to take you longer than 21 days, more like 8 months to 2 years.. Here is a really good article on this topic https://jamesclear.com/new-habit. I encourage you to give this a read. The point I want to make with this goes back to being kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to take time getting used to your new lifestyle changes.
Remember, be open, flexible and let yourself have fun (yes fun) with your recovery goals. Don’t let them stress you out or take the joy out of your day. Be kind to yourself. Be patient. Be flexible. And keep in mind, you don’t have to wait until New Year’s to start a new goal. Thought of something you want to do, but find yourself in the middle of the year? Give yourself permission to start now.
Annie Jacobs, LACMHC
Namasté Trauma and Addictions Therapist