Valdosta Daily Times


February 17, 2013

The business of keeping resolutions ... far past New Year’s

VALDOSTA — Now that we’re in the middle of February, it’s time to start thinking about getting around to those New Year’s resolutions.

By now, we’ve all had time to start, stall, jump-start and give up on our resolutions. But the people who study how our brains form and break habits have broken it down to three simple things you can do to accomplish your resolutions: recognize your habits; set small, detailed goals; persevere.

Habits are made of three components: a cue, a routine, and a reward. The key to breaking a habit, or starting a new one, is to determine the cue and the reward.

For example, let’s say every evening I get home, I watch Netflix for four hours. I want to break that habit and start reading more, but after a week, I’m back to Netflix. The question to ask is, Why?

What is it that cues my turning the TV on? Tossing the mail next to the remote, sitting on the couch to take off my shoes or reaching for a snack. And what am I getting out of it? Am I lonely, bored, or mentally exhausted from work?

Once I figure out my cue and reward — a process that can take a couple of weeks — I can set new ones. If I’m watching TV to have company, I can read in public, at a coffee shop or library. If I’m mentally exhausted, I might stick to light reading. If bored, I should head to the thriller section of the bookstore.

Many of us make the mistake of making a large, blanket resolution. I want to get in shape. I want to lose weight. I want to read more. These are large, complicated tasks. Smaller, more detailed tasks are easier to wrap your head around.

Instead of “I want to read more,” pledge to read 10 pages a day. Instead of “I want to get in shape,” pledge to go to the gym, twice a week for 45 minutes. Use a calendar, chart or app to track your progress.

And stick with it. If the plan is failing, re-plan, but don’t give up. Failure is only failure when you don’t learn from it.

Now, the three most common resolutions for 2013 are getting in better shape, spending more time with friends and family, and reading more. Thankfully, Valdosta is fully equipped for all three.

For people looking to get in shape, lose weight, and tone up, Valdosta has a number of gyms available, from the 24-hour, do-it-yourself Anytime Fitness, to the YMCA’s pre-dawn to post-dusk classes to Kinetix, TitleTown Fitness and Curves, there’s a decked-out, modern gym nearby no matter which part of town where you live and work. If working out inside isn’t your thing, there are also got a couple of great outdoor running tracks, the Valdosta Middle School Track off of Patterson Street and one at Freedom Park on Guest Road off Bemiss.

You need to break resolutions down into simpler, more descriptive parts. Don’t say you’re going to spend more time with your friends and family, say you’re going to spend Friday nights with the family and Saturday afternoons from 1-5 with your best friend(s).

Despite being classified as a small town, Valdosta has a lot to offer, entertainment-wise. Between the two movie theaters, the Dosta Playhouse, Wild Adventures, the theater and symphony shows offered by Valdosta State University, our local parks and Grand Bay, as well as a cornucopia of title-winning sports teams and a number of restaurants and bars, there is no shortage of ways to spend more time with family and friends. Even if you want to spend your Friday night with friends playing Magic: The Gathering or role-playing, we have two places for that: Wizard’s Keep and Black Sunshine Games.

Between smart phones, apps, e-readers, computers and good old-fashioned books, reading is more accessible than ever before, but there are also more distractions than ever before. As such, reading has to be something you plan for. Schedule a certain time to knock out 10-15 pages a day.

While there are many digital apps and options for reading, you don’t want to overlook the physical book. Locally, you’ve got your pick between Books-A-Million, the second-hand book store The Book Sack, the discount booksellers Book Warehouse and $3 Book Sale in Lake Park, and last, but not least, the local public library.

The South Georgia Regional Library and its stacks and stacks and stacks of books can be yours at no cost. With a photo ID and proof of address, a library card can be yours. You can even check out books for your Kindle through the library.

Whatever habit you’re trying to form or break, you can’t let yourself give up on it.

For more detailed information about habits and how our brains form them, check out “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg.

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