Helping resolutions stick

As a family caregiver, you may have made some resolutions for the New Year. And like many people, you may have lost your momentum. All those good intentions…

– Call or visit once a week
– Fuss less over details
– Make time to exercise
– Practice gratitude

Stop beating yourself up for “lack of willpower.” Willpower is overrated! It turns out that cues in the environment trigger habits without even involving the decision-making part of your brain.

See what you can do to support your goal by addressing the initial trigger. For instance:

  • Avoid temptation. Successful habit-changers outsmart themselves. It’s not that they are better at resisting a candy bar. They simply avoid situations where candy will be present. So if you know you tend to lose your cool when Mom starts praising your sister, excuse yourself (“Whoops! Nature calls!”) and end the visit or phone call.
  • Set reminders. Most people who have been unable to keep a resolution say that they simply forgot. To start a new habit, put a physical reminder in plain sight. For example, keep walking shoes at the door. Or tape a cue word such as “calm” beside your toothbrush.
  • Put it on the calendar. If you really want to do something, schedule it. For instance, make an appointment with yourself to call your relative. Put it on your calendar or in your phone for an automatic reminder.
  • Create a “space.” People who want to exercise often find that going to a gym removes distractions and sets them up to focus. You might create a cozy corner for writing in a gratitude journal. Or choose only upbeat CDs for the drive to your Dad’s.

If you have stumbled with your New Year’s resolution, it’s not too late. Try again, but this time focus on the cues to support your success.