Ah yes, the excesses of the holiday season are over… now it’s time to commit to a new and better you. What are your resolutions this year — quitting smoking, eating better, exercising more?
Whatever your resolutions are, take a moment to step back and look at the process of change itself. Although human psychology is vastly complex, one simple principle motivates most of our behavior: seeking pleasure, or avoiding pain. And this is however “pain” and “pleasure” are defined. For example, maybe you want to quit smoking to avoid the pain of smoker’s cough… or the pain in your wallet (fifty dollars a carton?!?)… or the painful thought of an early death. Or perhaps you seek the pleasure of higher energy and more physical endurance… or the pleasure of increased social acceptance… or the pleasure of being around for your grandchildren’s graduation.
Does this sound too simplistic? Give it a try — whatever change you’re contemplating, think about that behavior in terms of seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. Be brutally honest with yourself; remember that a “seeking” mindset is not superior to an “avoiding” mindset. By taking a few moments to examine this, you can determine if the pain of change is stronger than the pleasure of maintaining the status quo. If not, you’ll have to come up with more reasons to change… otherwise, it’s better to put off the change until you’re more prepared. This lack of examination is why most New Year’s resolutions don’t last.
So, are you ready? There are many different psychological models for changing behavior. Some common denominators include awareness of the need for change, a willingness to learn, and education on the subject. One of the fundamental principles of naturopathic medicine is Docere — the Latin word for both doctor and teacher. I constantly strive to educate patients, because the more informed you are about your health, the more it becomes a pleasure to seek healthy behaviors.
So let’s kick off 2012 with attainable resolutions, for a more contented new year!