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On Groundhog Day, Don’t Be Afraid of the Shadow of Failed Resolutions

by Military Health System on February 1, 2015

Just like Phil Connors, the weatherman in the movie “Groundhog Day,” who’s trapped in the same repeating day until he gets his life right, you may notice the same New Year’s resolutions showing up, year after year. Midwinter can be a prime time to evaluate your resolutions and break free from old habits and attitudes to make real, lasting changes.

“A good strategy for changing behavior is self-monitoring,” said Jill Carty, a clinical psychologist and manager of the Defense Health Agency’s psychological health promotion office. “Adopt an attitude of observation, check your progress, but back off from judging yourself. Once you commit to monitoring, all kinds of things can happen.”

She suggests keeping a close eye on your number one resolution for a week. As an example, if you pledged to exercise 40 minutes a day, track your progress on a calendar and add comments about what worked and what didn’t. You may need to change the time of day you exercise, or maybe it isn’t realistic at this point in time, and you can scale back a bit.

“Small changes over time are what you need to look for and build on; huge changes are overrated,” Carty said. “The process you follow can be more important than the outcome. You need to engage fully in the process to incorporate the change into your life.”

Forming a new habit can take between three to six weeks, so allow enough time to make the change. “It’s normal not to be able to do things you set out to do the first time around. But we often beat ourselves up if we fail. Instead of calling it a failure, decide to evaluate it,” Carty said.

Military OneSource

You don’t have to go it alone. Partnering with another person can help in the change process, said U.S. Public Health Service Cmdr. William Anthony Satterfield, a clinical psychologist who manages the Defense Health Agency’s deployment psychological health office.

If you’re struggling with making a change, Military OneSource offers a range of resources to military members and their families. Counseling can help people make behavioral and lifestyle changes more effectively, including those not directly associated with typical resolutions, such as diet and exercise. Face-to-face, online and telephone counseling are available to active duty service members, National Guard, reserve members, and their families to help them through everyday home and work life issues. Check Military OneSource or call 800-342-9647 for information on how the Joint Family Support Program Service Providers can help with non-medical assistance in the areas of:

Military and family life
Child and youth behavior
Personal financial counseling
Resources through local, state and federal programs

Another option is to speak with an integrated behavioral health consultant during visits to primary health clinics.

Don’t hesitate to start a change in behavior at any point in time, not just at the first of the year, Satterfield advises. “Every day presents a new opportunity to make a change.”

A proponent of keeping things simple, Carty thinks a lot of energy can be wasted by investing in start-up activities leading to the change, such as buying the right workout clothes and running shoes or the latest high-tech bike. “Ultimately, what really matters is the behavior itself you’ve chosen to change and what’s happening with it.”

Don’t let the shadow of a failed resolution make you retreat from your goals for another six weeks or more.

“Think about what adjustments you can make to increase your chances of success this time,” said Carty.


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