Resolutions can enrich rather than restrict your life

MARIETTA – Typical New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, stop smoking, or get out of debt, are often broken within a few short weeks of Jan. 1.

But many are turning toward a whole new kind of resolution that can add to someone’s life rather than take something from it. That can include everything from learning a new skill, making new friends or trying a new food every week.

“It may sound funny, but I’d really like to learn how to knit. It seems like it would be relaxing and it’s something you can do while watching television or just having a conversation,” said Lauren Malia, 22, a student at the Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre outside Parkersburg.

Toby Moore, 38, of Marietta, had a more adventurous idea.

“Snowboarding – I’ve never done it, but it does look like a lot of fun,” he said. “I’ve been skiing, but snowboarding is different and something I’ve always wanted to try.”

Experts say Malia and Moore are far more likely to accomplish those goals because it’s something positive they have a desire to do, instead of setting restrictive goals like spending or eating less.

“The trap is that we can easily talk ourselves out of doing something if we’re not really committed. I encourage people to focus on things they want to do, not on what they don’t,” said David Schaffer, a clinical social worker and psychotherapist from Parkersburg.

He advises clients to refrain from setting “dead men’s goals.”

“That’s anything a dead man can do better than you,” Schaffer said. “A dead man can stop smoking better than you, for example.”

But a dead man can’t balance a checkbook, learn how to swim or take dancing lessons.

“We want people to focus on something they value and care about,” Schaffer added. “If you really care and can give a reason why you want to accomplish something or make a change in your life, that will help see you through the difficulty of making that change.”

Like many people, Little Hocking resident Larry Richards, 68, said he’s made New Year’s resolutions in the past, but after a short time the resolutions often turn to resignations.

“I’ve said I’m going to go on a diet, but after a while I gave in. I like food,” he said. “But I did start on a Weight Watchers diet once and stayed with it for some time. It was sort of like a challenge, and once I began achieving some goals I wanted to keep it up.”

Richards said he was walking four miles a day and lost several pounds, but then winter set in and he quit counting calories and eventually gave up on the program.

“Staying healthy is a challenge,” he said, noting that he did accomplish one resolution by quitting smoking several years ago.

Teresa Porter, licensed professional clinical counselor and owner of Horizons of Marietta, said it’s easy to break most traditional resolutions.

“Resolutions are often broken due to unhealthy thinking habits, like ‘I just blew my diet because I ate an ice cream sundae today,'” she said.

She said negative thinking has a definite impact on whether people choose to continue working toward their resolution goals or simply decide to quit.

“A very effective treatment to overcome that negative thinking is called ‘mindfulness,’ being aware of the thoughts and feelings that motivate us,” Porter said. “Am I really hungry, or just mindlessly eating because I’m bored? And can I do something positive instead, like take a walk or call a friend?”

“It’s really addressing mindlessness versus mindfulness,” she said. “And this is all part of personal transformation.”

But mindfulness doesn’t just apply to overeating, Porter said, noting the process is also effective for those resolving to stay on a budget, clean house regularly, or any other resolution.

“Boredom is often a big trap for many of us, especially during the winter when it takes some creative thinking to overcome mindlessness,” she said. “And people are often held back from trying something new by their negative thoughts.”

Making a commitment to do something positive, like learning to cook, reading a new book every week, or taking dance lessons can help.

Bill Held and Sue Montera teach a weekly ballroom dancing class at the Betsey Mills Club in Marietta.

“A lot of people who call to sign up for the classes say they’ve always wanted to do this,” Montera said. “We start the classes in September to follow the school year, but a lot of people start in January, which tells me this is something they’re doing for the new year.”

Levi Morrow, local agricultural and natural resources educator for the Ohio State University Extension Service, said many folks start the new year off by taking gardening or other classes offered by the agency.

“We have many people signing up for the master gardener class already,” he said. “It’s an in-depth program for volunteers who help me educate local gardeners about horticulture and gardening. But we’ll also be teaching 15 to 20 other classes on various topics this winter.”