Keeping your New Year’s Resolutions

New Year's Eve has always been a time for reflecting on the past and more importantly looking forward to the future. It’s a time where people assess the changes they want (or need) to make for the coming year. However people tend to overestimate their ability to resist temptations and create new patterns of behavior. One way to fail proof your resolutions for a new and improved you, is to understand and learn from past mistakes. Understanding why you didn't succeed at your goal can be just as important as understanding what made you successful in other endeavors. In DBT we analyze problematic behaviors through the use of a chain analysis, with the intention of seeing the links in the chain where one can intervene with a new coping skills instead of relying on old ineffective habits that we want to change. The purpose of the chain is to see what thoughts, feelings, behaviors and events are related to our target behavior. This can be very specific to the individual.
For example: If the target (problematic) behavior is overeating it is useful to know what kinds of prompting events (triggers) set one up to overeat. These promoting events can be internal (thoughts and feelings) or external. If we know that overeating is a way to temporary find self soothing then it would be important to develop new ways to self soothe (i.e taking a warm bath, listening to music, talking to a friend). If we find that overeating is a response to skipping meals then reduces our vulnerability would consist of making a plan to eat smaller meals though out the day.
Although it is true that our habits and specific patterns of behavior are quite individual, some common universal mistakes can be made when trying to implement behavioral change.
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Suggestions on how to keep your goals:

It’s a new year and you're eager to kick some ass! Yet you don’t want to set yourself up for failure. How to avoid launching into a marathon only to collapse in the first mile is to break goals down into small achievable steps. Set realistic expectations. Choose a plan of action that doesn’t require a lifestyle 180.

Write your goals down.

Keep track of your progress and set daily reminders. We humans are forgetful creatures. Put your resolutions in a place where you will be able to see them frequently.

Visualise yourself doing whatever it takes to achieve you resolution as this will help you believe you can do it and see it through.

Reward yourself for successes.

Acknowledged that changing patterns of behavior is challenging, don’t let set backs discourage you from continuing working toward your goals. Be persistent. Don't give up!

Have support and stated your intentions to others. Accountability can be highly motivating.

Articles on New Year’s Resolutions and resources:

“Blame it on the Brain” The latest neuroscience research suggests spreading resolutions out over time is the best approach.

Common sense strategies for weight loss

Quiting smoking

8 personal finance resolutions

Sticking with your exercise program

Myths about Anger

Anger Myths

Myth #1: Women are less likely to express anger than men. “Explanations for these theories come from the popular held beliefs ‘Anger is not a socially desirable quality in women’ and ‘Boys are encouraged to be aggressive while girls are encouraged to be non-aggressive’” (Mayne & Ambrose, 1999, p. 356). Empirical studies have not supported this hypothesis; in fact they have shown both women and men get angry with about the same intensity and frequency (Mayne & Ambrose, 1999; Averill, 1983).

This is not to say that sex differences do not exist. Averill’s research (1983) showed that the major consistent difference between men and women was in how they expressed anger. Women reported crying roughly four times more often when angry than men (Averill). Other researchers found men are more likely to express their anger through verbal and physical assault than women (Archer, 2004; Buss, 1966; Mayne & Ambrose, 1999). Buss and Perry’s (1992) aggression questionnaire also supports this finding, demonstrating that men score higher on both physical and verbal aggression than women. Overall, women are just as sensitive as men to unfair treatment, lack of respect or consideration on the part of others, and threats to their self-esteem (Averill, 1983).

Myth #2: Depression in women is anger turned inward. Depression and anger have long been hypothesized to be associated and have a causal link (Riley, Treiber, & Woods, 1989). Mayne and Ambrose (1999) discussed the misperception that depression in women is due to anger turned inward. Empirical studies have failed to support this myth. In fact, clinically depressed women have higher levels of anger than non-depressed women and strong expressions of anger are actually associated with an increase in depressive symptoms (Mayne & Ambrose, 1999).

Myth #3: “Get it out of your system.” Another pervasive myth regards anger as pent up pressure that needs to be released. Therapy supporting catharsis of angry feelings gained popularity during the 1960s and 70s (Tavris, 1982). Those therapies were called into question after many psychologists and researchers showed that expressing anger generally intensifies feelings of anger (Bushman, Baumeister, & Phillips, 2001; Lewis & Bucher, 1992). In some cases ‘venting’ actually increases anger intensity and expression by reinforcing negative thinking (Lewis & Bucher, 1992). Tavris (1982) discussed several studies in which talking about an anger-provoking event made individuals angrier. As these individuals recited their grievances their anger became reactivated (Tavris).

References

Archer, J. (2004). Sex differences in aggression in real-world settings: A meta-analytic review. Review of General Psychology, 8(4), 291–322.

Averill, J. R. (1983). Studies on anger and aggression: Implications for theories of emotion. American Psychologist, 38, 1145-1160.

Bushman, B. J., Baumeister, R. F., & Phillips, C. M. (2001). Do people aggress to improve their mood? Catharsis beliefs, affect regulation opportunity, and aggressive responding. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(1), 17-32.

Buss, A. H. (1966). Instrumentality of aggression, feedback, and frustration as determinants of physical aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3(2), 153-162.

Buss, A. H., & Perry, M. (1992). The aggression questionnaire. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(3), 452-459.

Lewis, W. A., & Bucher, A. M. (1992). Anger, catharsis, the reformulated frustration-aggression hypothesis, and health consequences. Psychotherapy, 29(3), 385-392.

Mayne, T. J., & Ambrose, T. K. (1999). Research review on anger in psychotherapy. Journal of Clinical Psychology/In Session, 55, 353-363.

Riley, W. T., Treiber, F. A., & Woods, M. G. (1989). Anger and hostility in depression. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 177(11), 668-674.

Tavris, C. (1982). Anger: The misunderstood emotion. New York: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster.