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15 Ways To Make Changes Stick

A New Year means a New You! No matter what your goals are for 2015, this year you can get a leg up on sticking to your resolutions for the long run with research-based tips and guidelines from psychology and mental health experts.

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1. Be afraid and do it anyway.

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People typically assume that being afraid means what they want to do is wrong. But often people are afraid because what they are attempting is unfamiliar, not wrong.

If you wait until you aren't afraid before taking a healthy risk, trying something new, or stepping out of your comfort zone, you may never do it. Fear doesn't have to be a stop sign. See it as a yield sign. Make sure you are safe and then step on the gas and go for it!

- Lisa Ferentz, LCSW-C, author of Letting Go of Self-Destructive Behaviors and Treating Self-Destructive Behaviors in Trauma Survivors

2. Don't beat yourself up

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It's easy to make changes in a highly self-critical way, and none of us need more of that in our lives! Try to focus on changes that treat you kindly, and put them in place gradually and flexibly. Don't beat yourself up if they don't work out. Even better, why not make your resolution simply to treat yourself more kindly? You'll be surprised how many other changes come so much more easily if you can manage that.

- Meg Barker, author of Rewriting the Rules

3. Plan small

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You likely think of resolutions in terms of a larger goal, such as "get in shape" or "eat better." However, the first step toward success is to redefine this larger objective into a smaller target that is manageable and realistic. Thus, "get in shape" becomes "I will go for a walk at least 5 times per week" - or "eat better" is defined as "I will eat more fruit that I like."

- J. Russell Ramsay, PhD, co-author of The Adult ADHD Toolkit

4. Be specific

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Have specific action steps for how, when, and where your plans will be implemented.

“I will take a walk during my lunch hour at work,” or “When grocery shopping I will buy grapes and apples for snacks instead of potato chips,” makes you more likely to follow through on and sustain your target behaviors.

- J. Russell Ramsay, PhD, co-author of The Adult ADHD Toolkit

5. Take your time.

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We often try to make changes before we really understand the situation (e.g. why we currently drink a lot, or don't exercise much). Instead of resolving to change something, why not resolve just to notice it for the next few months? When we understand what we get from the current situation, it is much easier to make a change that lasts.

- Meg Barker, author of Rewriting the Rules

6. Get a new friend - Start a diary

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It doesn't matter what you write, just write. It's amazing how quickly the diary can become a confidante and a helper in sorting problems, healing emotional and mental wounds, repackaging hurtful and other life issues into a manageable and fresh perspective. The diary also can record beautiful moments, as they happen. Above all, keeping a diary makes your life count. Diary writing is particularly helpful in clarifying who we are and cope with challenges such as mental or physical illness, emotional pain and trauma.

- June Alexander, co-author of Getting Better Bite by Bite

7. Break the diet-binge cycle

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Losing weight is the #1 New Year’s resolution, but the deprivation of diets typically leads to overeating. Instead, become mindful of your natural cues for hunger and fullness to decide when, what and how much to eat throughout the year. (Rather than categorizing foods as "good" and "bad, identify what will satisfy your physical hunger, choosing from a wide variety of foods.)

- Judith Matz, LCSW, co-author of Beyond a Shadow of a Diet

8. Calm your feelings without turning to food

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Emotional overeating is a way to comfort, distract, or numb yourself when something is bothering you. Stay compassionate with yourself for doing the best you can in moments of distress; at the same time, learn to identify your feelings and develop at least one other way to soothe yourself such as connecting with a friend, journaling, or practicing mindfulness.

- Judith Matz, LCSW, co-author of Beyond a Shadow of a Diet

9. Develop your listening skills

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For a better relationship adopt the motto: "Baby, when you're upset (especially with me) the world stops and I listen." The ability to listen non-defensively and repair interaction is the most important thing one can do to keep a relationship on a healthy-happy track.

- John Mordechai Gottman, PhD, author of Principia Amoris

12. Pay attention to your relationships.

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Sometimes, it’s easy to take our relationships for granted – especially when we are distracted, or exhausted, or angry, or just busy with life. Your relationship with your partner can actually hold the key to how you respond to and manage everything else; when a primary relationship is solid and healthy, everything else feels a little bit better. Pay attention to your relationship. Be mindful of how your partner feels and what he or she may need. And always, always be kind.

- Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW, author of Tokens of Affection

13. Think about what motivates people

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Especially when they do something that annoys or upsets you, keep the question "why?" in the back of your mind. What is really going on for them? This perspective can make a big difference to how you feel.

- Sue Gerhardt, author of Why Love Matters

14. Remember you are not alone

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When you go through hard times, remember: dealing with stress alone makes you tougher; dealing with stress together with a partner or friend makes you stronger

- Veronica Kallos-Lilly, PhD, co-author of An Emotionally Focused Workbook for Couples

15. Keep an open mind about what constitutes healing

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Healing trauma is not what we think it is – the pain and fear arising from our wounds does not go away. We cannot un-experience what we have experienced. However, what can be changed is the impact of those experiences on us. To achieve that, we need to travel inwards to the heart of our wounds, and find new and healthier ways of relating the fear and pain that we carry. It is a challenging journey, but if we persevere, then we make our way into a world that is infinitely richer and more meaningful than anything we could have imagined when we began the healing process.

- Daniela Sieff, PhD, author of Understanding and Healing Emotional Trauma

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