January 14, 2015

What’s Your Resolution? Three Ways to Overcome Addiction and Bad Habits In 2015

New Year’s Day is my favorite holiday. It is the most self-reflective of the holidays and gives me a chance to look back on the previous year and evaluate my life. Each year, I can see clearly where I went wrong and make the necessary corrections.

The New Year can be an excellent time to set goals for overcoming addiction. I am no expert in psychology or behavioral science, but I’ve had my fair share of bad habits and addictive indulgences. Whether your addiction is drugs, alcohol, codependency, video games, or simply a severe reliance on your smart phone, there are many ways you can start slaying the beast that has taken over your life.

I’d like to share a few tips I’ve learned over the years.

For me, I like to reflect on three aspects of my life and set small goals in each area.

First, set social goals. If your addiction is fueled by the influence of others (or lack thereof), try to place yourself in more positive social situations. Set a goal to attend your classes at school instead of bailing with friends for a smoke. Seek out new friends and establish relationships with people who lift you up. If loneliness or depression causes you to indulge in your addiction, set a goal to fill up that loneliness with some fun, social activities that are perhaps new to you. You may find that a sporting event, book club, or a comedy show is far more rewarding than any substance.

Set physical goals. I have a friend who was once so addicted to drugs that it was literally taking over his body. Once heavily into sports, the drugs took him to a skeletal state. He was buried so deep that he eventually tried to take his life. I don’t know what changed in him, but he discovered what marathoners call the “Runner’s ‘High,’”—a state of natural exhilaration caused from running. He quit drugs and substituted them with daily runs. In the course of a year, he went from barely being able to walk to being able to run a full, 26-mile marathon. It all started with setting a goal to run a half mile a day.

Set mental and emotional goals. Good mental and emotional health is key to avoiding your destructive behavior. In my experience, if you become emotionally unstable for various reasons, you are more vulnerable to giving into your addiction. I combat this by staying mentally acute at all times. I like to read a book of fiction, acquire a new outdoors’ skill, or learn about a new subject in history. For me, that keeps the logical gears in my brain in top condition, which helps me realize that my addictive behavior is unreasonable and destructive. If I laze away on hours of video games, I tend to forget what is most important in life, and I become susceptible.

With New Year’s Resolutions, be sure to make yourself accountable. Report each week to a friend or family member and tell them how you are progressing. By forcing yourself to report your progress, you are more likely to continue down the road to sobriety.

Also, make sure you goals aren’t too big, or they become too daunting. How many people quit their diet within the first month because they want to have the perfect body at the end of the year? My guess is thousands.

In my experience, the key to accomplishing a goal is to set small goals that will lead to the broad objectives. It is amazing what you can do if you just break it down with small steps.

Use the S.M.A.R.T. acronym to help make your goals specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

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