Let's face it, New Year's resolutions aren't always successful. It is easy to decide to change; it is much more difficult to actually create lasting change. Working towards goals can make a difference in how you feel about living with your pain. If you are thinking about making some changes that will increase your ability to cope with your pain, you may wish to think carefully about what might help. Then, create a plan that will enhance your ability to succeed. To help you get started, I have listed some areas in which you might want to make some changes. Then I will suggest 3 ways to help you create lasting change.
- Social – Friends
- Social – Family
- Relationships with Intimate Partner
- Activity Level
- Personal Growth/Learning
Creating Lasting Change
Be Realistic: One of the most common barriers to lasting change is resolving to make a very drastic, unrealistic change. Try to be realistic. For example, if you are like many people, you can stand to lose a few pounds. Rather than promising yourself that you will lose 50 pounds, start with 10 or 15. If you have become somewhat asocial due to your pain, it might be beneficial to increase your social contact. But, it will be difficult to go from 1 or 2 social activities per month to 8 or 10. An increase from 1 or 2 get-togethers per month to 4 or 5 may be more realistic. If you have not been exercising for many months or years, it is a great idea to increase your activity level. However, instead of planning to get up at 5 am every day for an hour run, you could start with a 20 minute walk at 7:30 a few times a week.
Small steps do make a difference.
Small steps do make a difference.Pain doesn't have to take away your ability to pursue goals that matter.
Make a Plan: Without a plan for action, it is difficult for most people to make lasting changes. A plan should include what you would like to change. It should be very specific (“I would like to spend time with at least one friend every week”). You will need the knowledge and tools to carry out your plan. If you want to lose weight, you will need to know what to eat, how much to eat, and have a scale to measure your progress. You will need to schedule the tasks that are connected to your plan (“Walk for 15 minutes after dropping the kids at school”). If you use an electronic calendar, send yourself a reminder the day before and the day of your task or activity. Monitor your progress. Each evening sit down with your plan and check off whether you completed the day's task. If you are having trouble completing your tasks, review your plan. You may be trying to do too much. You may have a problem with the time of day. Look for barriers.
Use Social Support: Other people can be great resources for change. Friends, family, or a professional can provide you with information, emotional support, and tangible assistance. You may know someone to partner with who wants to make the same change (walking with a friend can be more fun than walking alone).
Chronic pain can make it tough to get through the day, much less to “pursue goals”. But, part of the richness of life comes from looking to the future, setting a goal, figuring out how to get there, doing what it takes, and reaching your goal. The good feelings that accompany working towards and reaching a goal can happen with small, as well as large, goals. Set out to change yourself and your life in small, manageable steps. Create a slightly new you.
About the Author. Dr. Linda Ruehlman is a social/health psychologist and researcher, co-founder of Goalistics, and Director of the Chronic Pain Management Program, an interactive site that helps people with chronic pain to manage their pain and live richer, more effective lives.
DISCLAIMER: This blog is provided as an educational and informational resource only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional psychological or medical advice.