Make Chronic Pain Management Your New Year's Resolution

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • Those pesky New Year's resolutions – it's that time again, as the calendar flips to January 1, when everyone is talking about them.  I have mixed emotions about New Year's resolutions.  In theory, they're a great idea – start the new year fresh, resolving to make positive changes in your life.  Practically speaking, though, statistics show that most New Year's resolutions are broken before the end of January.  This got me to thinking about where the idea of making New Year's resolutions came from and what we can do to make them actually work for us. 

    History of New Year's Resolutions

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    Most historians say the Babylonians started the tradition some 4,000 years ago.  Their new year was celebrated on what is March 23 on our calendar, which actually makes a lot of sense since that is early spring, when the earth is beginning to bloom with new life.  One of the most popular Babylonian resolutions was to return something borrowed from a friend during the previous year. 

    The Chinese New Year has been celebrated for thousands of years as well.  Although the exact date of their New Year varies each year, it generally falls sometime between January 19 and February 21.  A popular Chinese custom has been to begin their new year with a good housecleaning. 

    The Roman emperors liked to fiddle with the calendar, so it was changed several times until Julius Caesar developed what we know as the Julian Calendar, establishing January 1 as the beginning of the new year.  The Romans named the first month of the year after Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances.  Janus was depicted with two faces, one on the front of his head and one on the back.  His image was placed at the beginning of the calendar so he could look back at the old year and forward to the new year at the same time.  A popular New Year's resolution for ancient Romans was to ask forgiveness from any enemies they had made in the past year. 

    In the Middle Ages, Christians changed the day they celebrated the New Year to December 25 to coincide with their celebration of the birth of Jesus.  Later they changed it to March 25, a holiday  called the Annunciation, commemorating the day the angel told Mary she would give birth to Jesus.  Finally, in the sixteenth century, Pope Gregory XIII revised the Julian calendar, returning the New Year celebration to January 1.  Early Christians spent the first day of the new year reflecting on past mistakes and resolving to improve oneself in the new year.

    In today's culture, New Year's resolutions have become less about improving our character and more about improving our health.  Some of  today's most popular resolutions include losing weight, exercising more, and quitting smoking.  Businesses that specialize in health-related products, such as supplements or exercise equipment, find that January is usually one of their best months for sales.  TV programs, commercials and Web sites abound with “New Year, New You” promotions. 

  • How to Make Your Resolutions Work

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    Personally, I think it's every bit as important to work on improving the inner person as it is to improve the physical body.  But regardless what your New Year's resolutions might be, the key is to make resolutions you have a reasonable chance of keeping.  Many times we approach the New Year with residual guilt from over-spending and over-indulging during the recent holidays.  We then have a tendency to over-compensate by making lofty resolutions to change. 

    Be careful not to make your resolutions too quickly or just because you think you “should.”  If you're serious about wanting to make changes in your life, think carefully about what changes you'd like to make and how you can reasonably expect to make them.  A resolution without a plan is bound to fail. 

    I tend to be a goal-oriented person by nature and over the years I've learned a few things about making resolutions and achieving goals.  Here are a few tips that have helped me:

    • Only make resolutions that are important to YOU.  Making a resolution to meet someone else’s expectation of you seldom, if ever, works. To be successful in achieving your resolution, you have to really want to make a change.
    • Use positive terminology for your resolutions. I read once that our brains don’t register negatives. If we say, “I will not eat sweets,” our brains hear, “I will eat sweets.” Whether there’s any scientific validity to that, I have no idea. But I have found from personal experience that positively worded resolutions do seem to work better.
    • Avoid setting hard and fast deadlines for achieving your resolutions.  You’re much more likely to continue working on our resolution if you feel you’re making progress. However, if a preset deadline passes and you haven’t fully accomplished your resolution, you’re more apt to feel like a  failure and give up trying.
    • Make reasonable resolutions. Making a resolution to get out of debt this year is not reasonable if you’re $50,000 in debt and your household income is $30,000 a year. A better resolution might be to only pay cash for purchases until you’re able to pay off your debt.
    • Avoid making too many resolutions at once.  Having too many resolutions at once can overwhelm you.  And make sure your resolutions don't work against each other.  For example, don't decide to quit smoking and lose weight at the same time.  Often when people first quit smoking, they tend to snack more often, so you may be setting yourself up to fail.   
    • Write down your resolutions and verbally share them with someone you trust. You may think this is unnecessary, but you’d be amazed at what a difference it can make. My best friend and I used to get together once a year to take stock of our lives and set new goals. We would each write down our goals, then verbally share them with one another. To be honest, some years I never looked at or consciously thought about my goals until we got together the following year. Much to my surprise, I had usually accomplished most, if not all, of the previous year’s goals. There seems to be something about writing and verbalizing goals or resolutions that sets them in your subconscious and you end up working toward them without even realizing it.

    If you have a New Year's resolution that you don't mind sharing, you can get started on that last tip by sharing your resolution in a comment below.  Or write your own SharePost and put your resolutions in writing.  And lest you think I don't practice what I preach, tomorrow I'll share my reflections on 2008 and my resolutions for 2009. 

    Finally, as 2008 winds to a close, I want to wish each of you a very Happy New Year filled with love, joy, peace and (of course) relief from pain! 

Published On: December 31, 2008