Why is it that most New Year's resolutions fail? Think about the ones you have made in the past-to lose weight, stop smoking, find a mate, make more money, achieve lasting peace and harmony-whatever you might have resolved to do or change. Did it work? Did you keep any of your past resolutions?
Don't worry, most people are unable to make lasting changes simply by resolving to do so. After all, the things we resolve to do-or not do-generally involve the most difficult, unsolvable problems in our lives, or bad habits that have taken years to develop. It is unrealistic to think that suddenly we will have the power to erase our conflicts and negative behaviors just because it is the beginning of the New Year.
I could never keep any New Year's resolutions, except one, which I made 15 years ago. I resolved to stop making New Years resolutions! I just gave up and as a last resort looked to God for help. I had resolved for many years to lose weight, stop smoking, improve my health, and find peace and happiness. I had again gained lots of weight after many failed attempts at dieting (at one point I tipped the scales at 400 pounds). I was smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. My marriage was difficult. I could not find a job and had not worked in almost a year. I had tried and tried to solve my problems myself-by dieting, joining exercise clubs and gyms, taking pills and wearing nicotine patches, reading self-help books, sending out proposals and resumes-nothing was working and I had reached the end of my patience and energy. I felt like I was dying. I was so desperate for a little joy in my life, but nothing I resolved to do through will power worked.
After letting go of my resolutions I began to see things more clearly than ever before. Behind all of my self-destructive behaviors, diet deprivations, and self-help remedies was the desire for joy and happiness.
After reaching a dead end, after giving up on my own ability to find healthful joy and happiness, I reached out to God. I got down on my knees and prayed for God to help me. I had always believed in God, or a Higher Power. I just had not put my faith into action and actually asked God for help.
Somehow, I thought it was improper or rude to ask directly for spiritual help. I had always believed that I was supposed to pray specific prayers I learned from Sunday school or to meditate without saying anything. God was always too big and powerful for "little me" to get His attention. Only as a last resort through the process of surrender was I able to truly release all of my failed attempts. I just could not do it all myself. So I gave my life to God and asked for help.
You do not have to pray in any particular way-just ask God for help (or your Higher Power, Allah, or whatever name you feel in faith). Then, with God as your partner, you are given the power to do your part, to learn about "normal, healthy" eating and being active, to cope with difficult experiences, and to find joy and grace in your life. It sounds very simple to go to God for help, but most people find it very hard to admit they have a problem they cannot solve on their own. It is easier when you realize that God created you, and you're already in this life together-all that's necessary is for you to acknowledge God, and seek divine assistance.
Please closely consider what I am saying to you: Behind most negative habits and desperate needs are desires to relieve tension and anxiety, to get more energy and feel happier. You may have learned to find relief through overeating, smoking, drinking, procrastinating, or other unhealthy means. If you suddenly and completely withdraw all of your methods of comfort and joy in a sudden crescendo of New Year's resolutions, then you'll really be in a bind. In a few days you will feel deprived and shocked, down, nervous, anxious--and then guilty from failing so thoroughly again. So don't do it!
Here's what to do instead:
1. Make only one New Year's Resolution: To ask God for help.
2. DO NOT give up any negative behaviors yet; let God help fill you with spiritual joy and happiness as often as possible. Then slowly over time, the habits and self-destructive behaviors will subside. Guaranteed.
3. Spend time and energy increasing joy and happiness in your life: Read spiritual and religious books (and inspirational articles on Beliefnet), bone up on nutrition and learn ways to move that make you feel good. Go for walks, dance to the radio, soak in hot baths, call or visit friends, express your feelings through writing or good conversation, be with children, volunteer to help someone else, surround yourself with nature and beautiful, simple things. Be active in life, and see God everywhere, in action.
You can do all of these things on your own, in partnership with God, but it really helps to join with others. It's so good to have someone to talk to and share ideas, feelings, and experiences. If you like the idea of having company as you explore this approach to change, join a fitness or stretch class at your church or temple, or a local school, hospital or recreation center. Attend a workshop or retreat as soon as possible. Or get a walking or yoga group going at work, during lunchtime or on breaks.
It could also be very helpful to do some strategic planning, such as planning your daily food intake and scheduling physical, emotional and spiritual activities. Make time to talk to friends. Plot available time to workout, play or dance. Find moments to pray or meditate, asking God for help throughout the day and evening. Having order and structure in your life, in partnership with God, will allow you to have a consistent feeling of safety and resolve. You will be able to keep the momentum this time, not just make a resolution at the beginning of a new year.
Remember that by surrendering to God on a regular basis, you will relieve yourself of great tension and anxiety. By asking God for help, you share some of the burden and avail yourself of the greatest power and energy there is. Then, with spiritual grace and joy, you'll feel so much better you won't need any self-destructive addictions. With God as your partner, everything goes well and miracles happen all the time. Then, you'll really have a Happy New Year!