New Year, New Thinking, New Leaf

As the year comes to a close a lot of people start thinking of turning over a new leaf

According to one CNN poll, before year’s end, 43% of respondents said they’ll make a resolution. After January 1, however, the number of people planning to usher changes in the new year drops to 29%. Digging deeper, nearly seven in 10 of that 29% actually stick to them. 

Top resolutions tend to focus on self-improvement, including:

  • Exercising more
  • Eating healthier
  • Saving more money
  • Spending more time with family
  • Being a better person
  • Quitting smoking

Dry January

Quitting drinking (both for the short- and long-term) is another popular resolution. You may have heard of it: Dry January and Dryuary are two variations on a similar theme. (Plus we have Sober Septembers and Octobers picking up momentum in recent years.)

A story from January 2021 reported that one of every seven Americans (about 14%) was planning to partake in Dry January. Other surveys found 7.5% planned to practice moderation rather than abstinence. Some opt to stop or cut back for the month of January because they’ve done it before and like the tradition, calling it a nice way to reset after the indulgences of the holiday season.

Some of that slowing down is tied to a desire to feel healthier or to lose weight. (Alcohol, after all, loosens inhibitions, including the ones that guide practicing portion control.) It also fuels hunger, which isn’t an ideal combination when impulse control is dissolved. Then there are the health risks — like high blood pressure, heart disease, and many cancers — that alcohol abuse can cause.

Some also are stalling their pours because the early months of the pandemic led to an increase in alcohol consumption, and they felt it was time to tug on the reins.

Stopping Bad Habits

Putting an end to a bad habit or starting a good one can be tricky. We easily get distracted, bored, or discouraged.

It’s a struggle to change deeply ingrained behaviors. It’s a reason a fair number of us continue to make resolutions year after year. (Or we at least resolve to resolve to do better.) 

Some of the road bumps we encounter tend to derail us entirely rather than detour us slightly. 

Reasons vary, but psychology can explain a lot of it:

We expect to succeed, and we don’t prepare for the times when we don’t.

The big picture counts, but if we break the process down into more manageable pieces, it can feel less overwhelming. That can be a good approach to changing habits or implementing newer, healthier ones. 

Avoid All-or-Nothing Thinking

When we have an all-or-nothing mindset that isn’t always the best path. But one day, two days, one week — that builds up into something. When it comes to days, weeks, months, and even years of abstinence or moderation, that so-called marathon was run one mile at a time.

A lot of negative thinking (also called black-or-white or all-or-nothing thinking) can push away the positives and fuel anxiety, depression, stress, and other issues that can result in relapse. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, (which addresses such thought processes) can be a more effective tool in the long run. Seeing past relapses as lessons and developing better coping skills have a good track record not just for addiction treatment but also for other day-to-day struggles. 

CBT tells us that in a period of stress it’s easy to look back to moments that were “fun,” which in reality maybe were not really that fun but more numbed or chemically enhanced. It’s easy to want to go back to that quick escape that resulted from drinking or taking drugs. (It’s often been said that addicted individuals are always trying to recreate that first high.) 

For the person who finds themselves struggling as they self-medicate doubts or fears or anxieties, it’s a genuine battle. A war raging within, even.

When someone with a substance use disorder pursues the next high (fueled by a compulsion to use, despite adverse consequences), CBT can help address the motivations and help the addicted individual find better mechanisms.

One thing is clear: It takes time to develop habits, both bad and good. It can take time to undo them, too. It may feel impossible, but with effort, dedication, and help, it can be done.

Happy New Year!.

Sources

cnn.com – Here are the top New Year’s resolutions. Is yours among them?

forbes.com – New Surveys Indicate Increasing Interest in Dry January

betterhealth.vic.gov.au – Alcohol and weight gain

reuters.com – Why Most New Year’s Resolutions Are Guaranteed to Fail

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery

sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Substance Abuse

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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