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Making New Year's resolutions stick

Local psychologist offers insight from new book on making positive changes

Posted: January 1, 2014 - 9:21pm  |  Updated: January 1, 2014 - 9:25pm

Now that the calendar has rolled into a new year, the old tradition of setting lofty resolutions can commence.

Weather it be a commitment to exercise and healthy eating, or a pledge to save more money, the daily rigors of life can get in the way and derail those resolutions.

For those of us who have good intentions but lack the willpower to stick with set goals, a new book released from a local psychologist offers some guidance on ways to focus efforts and take the necessary steps to make behavioral changes.

Dr. Pamela Hays, a licensed psychologist who runs a practice in Soldotna, is the author of “Creating well-being: Four steps to a happier, healthier life.”

While Hays has more than 20 years of experience as a clinical therapist and has written several books in her field of work, her latest work is the first geared toward the general public. Hays said she wrote this book to help people make positive changes in their lives and give readers the tools to combat negative thinking.

“I want people to be well,” Hays said. “When we do positive things it spreads. Happy people tend to be more generous so when you take care of yourself it makes for a better world.”

The four steps Hays refers to in the book can be applied for those making New Year’s resolutions. With a new year comes an opportunity to make a change, she said.

“There is this idea in psychology that if you take something away you need to put something in its place or you are likely to revert back to unhealthy behavior,” Hays said. “You have to ask yourself what does this behavior do for me that I want to change.”

The first step is finding inspiration. Hays said she helps people by having them make a list of positives in their lives.

“You have to be inspired,” she said. “Sometimes it’s just a little spark of hope that whatever I’m working towards is better than where you are now.”

Following an understanding of stress and changing one’s mindset, step four explains how to take action using the acronym CLASS which she spells out: Creating a healthy environment, Learn something new, Assertiveness, Social support and Self-care.

When applied to making a resolution, Hays said it is important to take small steps and track progress. If the goal is to go to the gym more often, having someone to go with offers social support and acts as a facilitator.

“There is something energizing about taking that first step,” she said. “Whatever helps you stick with it.”

Hays said her resolutions are not tied to the New Year. Rather, she applies the same principles in her life everyday. One of her goals is to stay healthy so she tracks how often she exercises. She likes to go to yoga where she finds the social support to keep the routine.

“In January there is always a bunch of new people at yoga but it seems to taper off after a couple months,” she said. “The key is to not beat yourself up about getting off track because that will beat you down further.”

When progress is made Hays said it’s a good idea to reinforce the good behavior with rewards, like enjoying a favorite outdoor activity after accomplishing a goal.

What is important to keep in mind is that change is not without its setbacks.

“If you fall off the wagon, just jump back on the next day,” she said.

Hays’ book, “Creating well-being: Four steps to a happier, healthier life,” is available now at River City books in Soldotna on the Sterling Highway.

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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