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Creating long lasting Change:

New year, new you: forget the resolutions and create lasting change instead! How many times have you made a New Year’s resolution, started off strong, and then let it drop a month and a half later? I see it happen all the time with my clients, my friends and family, and even myself. We know there are changes we want to make, but we’re not sure how to go about it. So, we wait until the end of t...he year and make grand declarations of change, but have no real plan on how to sustain these changes long term. And it simply doesn’t work. Many people I know are struggling to change something about their lives. They know that what they have been doing isn’t working – they feel lousy, they’re miserable, they constantly think “something’s got to give!” but they don’t know where to start. I’ve been there myself – battling against extreme exhaustion. I made it through – but it didn’t happen all at once, and I learned a lot along the way. That’s why I am so committed to helping other people – I know how difficult it can be, how alone I felt. And I know how amazing it is to come out on the other side feeling fantastic, joyful, and in control! Why is Lasting Change So Difficult? “Step out of the history that is holding you back. Step into the new story you are willing to create.” – Oprah Winfrey. Many people tell me they want to change, but have tried and failed so many times they think they’ll never be able to follow through on their goals. One of the things I have discovered throughout my years in practice is that to create change that lasts, it’s essential to discover what’s holding you back. Is it fear or failure? Old stories from your past? A cycle that’s gone on so long you can’t even remember where it began? Taking some time to examine the possibilities and discover where the negative pattern began can be the first, most important step in charting a new course. Try, Try Again New Year’s Day seems like such a great time to begin your journey towards a goal, doesn’t it? And it is – but you have to be willing to keep on trying. So many people make grand resolutions – they’re going to quit smoking cold turkey, give up sugar entirely, or leave their bad relationship behind without a backwards glance. They start off full speed ahead, but when they hit the first road block, they abandon the effort altogether. Did you know, though, that the people most successful at change are those who won’t give up? “Failing,” isn’t your cue to stop trying. I’ve seen it time and again in my practice – the people who take a deep breath and keep on going are the ones who create exactly the lives they want. I’m not talking about willpower, I’m talking about being truly ready to make changes – big or small – that will lead you to the life you deserve. Understanding the Stages of Change We can’t stop change, but we can learn to embrace it. Making big changes certainly takes a lot of courage, but often the first step is recognizing that change needs to happen in the first place. And it’s not an overnight thing: change takes 6 to 8 weeks to become a real habit. It’s also important to realize that sometimes you’ll take two steps forward and one step back. Remember, you’re still a step ahead of where you were when that happens! Just as there are many stages of grief, permanent change is a process with distinct phases. These stages occur naturally, and are fluid – you may move back and forth between them, quickly or slowly – there is no wrong order. But it’s important to be aware of these stages, so you can be prepared to deal with the difficulties you will certainly encounter. Okay, so you’ve made up your mind – this is the year the changes you make will stick! I’m proud of your commitment, and I want to help you succeed. Here are some tips to help you begin your journey: 1. Start small - Your goal might be huge – say you want to lose 50 pounds, quit a 20-year smoking habit, or break free from a bad relationship that has lasted more than a decade. You won’t be able to accomplish your final goal all at once, and thinking about the enormity of it might find you stalling before you even get going. Instead, stay focused on any small steps that can move you towards your goal. Cut back by one soda or one cigarette per day, or change one small thing about the way you relate to your partner. When you’ve maintained that step, try another baby step forward. And if you go find yourself sliding backwards, remember you always have another chance. Every moment is a new opportunity to change. 2. Surround yourself with support - Staying optimistic is a key factor in success, but you probably won’t be able to do it without support. One of the big mistakes I see people make is thinking they have to do everything on their own. Research has shown that social support positively correlates with successful life change. Pursue change with a partner – perhaps a friend who also wants to change the way she’s eating – or just find someone you trust to help you along your journey. 3. Plan for change - Permanent change can’t happen without your commitment, and planning ahead is one of the best ways to help you be successful. Paying attention to your environment can be a vital piece of the planning stages – removing temptation is easier than simply trying to resist it when it’s staring you in the face. Letting others know your boundaries – and standing up for yourself if they aren’t being respected, is also an important part of the planning process. 4. Find positive alternatives - It’s easy to find yourself obsessing over what you can’t do if you haven’t found something as enjoyable – or even more so – to do instead (such as gentle exercise!) 5. Look ahead - Create a vision of who you want to become. Once you realize there’s a need for change, it’s important to also know why. Wandering aimlessly doesn’t get you any closer to a destination, but if you have a clear picture of where you want to go, you can figure out what steps are necessary to get you there. 6. Find new perspective - Self-awareness is essential when changing old patterns. Give yourself permission to take the time you need to examine your behavior and discover what you want to change. And don’t forget – you deserve to do this for yourself. Set aside the worry about how your behaviors will impact others and give yourself permission to put yourself first. Looking at how the behavior you want to change impacts your life (for instance, how do you feel after bingeing on sugar?) instead of focusing solely on the behavior itself can be helpful. Understanding the immediate consequences of the behaviors, and the impact they have on your life, can be a powerful motivator to change. 7.Celebrate successes and reward yourself - Making small changes can be incredibly satisfying, especially if you give yourself the well-deserved pats on the back along the way. Just remember not to sabotage your progress by making your rewards counterproductive to your goal. If you’ve lost 2 pounds in a week, celebrating by eating a piece of cake doesn’t make much sense! 8. Believe That Change in the New Year is Possible - Yesterday is behind you, but your future is a wide-open space full of possibilities. Create the picture of who you want to be, and envision yourself there. It’s a technique used by successful people everywhere, and it can work for you too. When you tell yourself repeatedly that you can accomplish your goals, you’ll begin to believe that it’s possible. But remember, change is a long and complex process, so be gentle with yourself. So often I see women who treat everyone around them with kindness, but forget to extend that to themselves. Don’t let old stories and minor setbacks derail you. Celebrate small triumphs, reach out to others when obstacles present themselves, and remember that you deserve to be the person you want to be. Begin the new year with a healthier outlook, such as starting a good quality multi vitamin and fish oil. Remember baby steps. Happy New Year from all of us at Higher Health! X Yours in health, Maria Lucey, Nutritionist

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