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Resolutions if it makes you happy, do it

Jessica Ireland | Interrobang | Lifestyles | January 11th, 2010

It's resolutions' season! If you already find yourself drowning in a sea of “shoulds” or chastising yourself for last year's failed attempts at improvement — stop.

Resolutions are not a punishment, nor should they be. But time and time again people seem to enjoy overloading their lives with promises and putting themselves through the rigours of self-improvement.

The process is more like torture and nothing close to the life-affirming journey you'd think it'd be. No wonder people end up a week into the new year binging on chocolate and still behind on work.

“People come in with these huge lists of all these things they want to stop,” said personal trainer Joan Mortimer of Karma Personal Training. “People make too many promises to themselves to make too many changes.”

“It's overwhelming.”

Inevitably, the pressure of all these expectations culminates in a slip-up — a cigarette, a pint of ice cream — which turns into a slippery slope leading to disappointment, Mortimer explained.

The easy way to combat the idea that resolutions can be more than a list of “do's” and “do not's” is to look at your goals a little deeper. As hokey as it may sound, your goals should be based on what you like and how they make you feel — which should be good.

As logical as we may want to be, humans are emotional creatures, explained life coach, Sabine Hildebrandt of Synergy in Motion. We tend to associate a lot of resolutions — like working out a million times a week and cutting sugar out cold turkey — with pain which humans naturally want to avoid, hence the failed attempts at changing a lifestyle.

So why not take it easy this year when setting your goals? Instead of telling yourself what to do, start listening to yourself, said Hildebrandt. Too often people make up resolutions based on others' expectations and peer pressure, when their emotional brain says “no thanks” and the resolution fails, she said.

“You're not living your life but someone else's,” she explained.

A similar approach applies to those resolutions you make that aren't exactly fun. Particularly with fitness resolutions, if someone forces themselves to a gym everyday and they despise it, it's just going to be a waste of time. When it comes to working out, it's pretty simple, said Mortimer.

“Find something you really like. If you like it, you'll stick with it,” she said, adding that it's equally important to make sure you're doing your chosen activity properly.

So breathe easy — high pressure, hard-core resolutions are on their way out. Time to make way for ones that are fun, the good kind of challenging and are distinctly you — how's that for a nice change of pace?

So now that you can relax a little on your resolutions, here are some suggestions to help you get started on some changes that will actually be fun to make:

Joan Mortimer of Karma Personal Training recommends the S.M.A.R.T. method to help determine the best way to reach your goals.

S — Is your goal specific?
M — Measurable. How can you measure your progress?
A — Is your goal achievable?
R — How realistic is it?
T — You need a time frame.

Sabine Hildebrandt of Synergy in Motion offers some insightful questions to get you going:

You've come up with a goal, now the first thing to do is to ask yourself, “Who does that goal belong to?”

Pay attention to how you feel. If there's a heavy feeling — we've all felt it before — you could realize, deep down, that this goal belongs to someone else, such as a parent's expectations.

But if you feel excited and light — you know it's right for you.

So let's say you get that weighted feeling — ask yourself “What else is possible?”

Maybe you felt crappy with your goal of “Lose 20 pounds,” but when you ask yourself what else is possible — you might realize you chose that goal because you really just want to feel comfortable in your body.

The whole idea is just to tap into the gut feeling, she said.

“People get frustrated with life because they're picking up other people's goals,” said Hildebrandt. “They never ask what they want personally.”

There's no better time to start!

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