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How to Quit Anything: Tips for Keeping Your Resolutions

By Heidi Patalano | January 6, 2014 7:01am
 There are resources all over the city that will help you follow through with your New Year's resolutions.
How to Quit Anything
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MIDTOWN — This city is loaded with ambitious people, many of whom want to lose weight, quit smoking, stop spending too much and find a new job all in the first days of 2014.

But as we know, New Year’s resolutions are easy to make but tricky to keep.

Here, DNAinfo New York offers tips for following through on goals for self-reinvention. Read on for resources in the city that can help as the new year starts, and beyond.

1. Keep your resolutions simple

“Be realistic about the habit you want to create and the commitment involved,” said cognitive behavioral therapist Melissa D. Horowitz, Psy.D, of the American Institute of Cognitive Therapy.

“Start small. Saving money may start with putting any loose change in a jar each night before bed,” she said.

2. Build on small accomplishments

 There are plenty of resources in the city to help you stick to your Jan. 1 vow.
There are plenty of resources in the city to help you stick to your Jan. 1 vow.
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Tackling easy tasks can spur you to take on bigger goals, DNAinfo’s Mental Wellness columnist, Morris Cohen, LCSW, said.

“If you are able to reach your easy goal, it will keep you motivated to tackle other resolutions,” he said. “You are trying to create a snowball effect, where one goal achieved will keep you positive about achieving another goal, which, in turn, keeps you motivated to moving forward on the rest of your goals.”

3. Banish negative self-talk

"I've written before about how our negative beliefs hold us back from change,” said Cohen. “Identifying your core negative beliefs can help you conquer them and finally let yourself keep those resolutions."

It's easier to tune out a destructive thought once you've identified it.

“Sometimes it’s best to gently ignore the critical voice in your head just long enough to finish your four push-ups or to toss those coins in the jar for the day,” Horowitz added. “The very act of completing a task that feels hard or unattainable can be invigorating and motivate us enough to stay on track.”

4. Buddy up

“Partnering with somebody is incredibly effective for staying motivated around a resolution, because it is no longer just about you,” Cohen said.

“If you commit with someone else to change, it is harder to say 'I can't do this today.' The other person is waiting for you," he said."The 12-step community has known this for years and incorporate the concept of sponsorship into their programs."

5. Visualize a positive outcome and reward good behavior

“Take a moment, close your eyes, and imagine yourself enacting each step in achieving your resolution, including the final moment of completion,” Horowitz said.

“What also helps increase the probability of your new habit sticking is the way you reward yourself," she said. "Some ways to do so are with personal praise, small goods (a cup of espresso, a new article of clothing, a massage) and relaxation time just after participating in your new habit."

6. When faced with roadblocks, don’t think in extremes

"'If I can’t get to spin class today or tomorrow, I might as well not bother at all’ can deflate one’s enthusiasm and lead to giving up rather quickly,” Horowitz said.

“Cognitive behavior therapists refer to this as an 'all or nothing thought,' which can compromise our best intentions. If a thought such as this occurs, don’t accept it as is," she said. "Try to retool the thought so it helps you stay on track: 'Missing two days doesn’t mean I should quit, it just means I need to accept the situation and find a time this week I can make it to spin.’”

7. Know when to get help

"Many people believe that keeping resolutions is about willpower, and often feel like they have to do it all by themselves," Cohen said. "They neglect the help that's out there, either through a personal trainer, physician, therapist or friends."

With Cohen's advice in mind, here are some resources in the city dedicated to helping you stay on track with your resolutions:

To Quit Smoking: The city has many smoking cessation resources. The best way to figure out which ones are right for you is to call 311 or visit Quitterinyou.org

"If they’re offering patch giveaways, you’ll find all that out through 311 and talk to trained counselors as well," said Mike Seilback, a spokesman for the American Lung Association. "We know quitting is difficult. On average it takes a smoker seven times before they’re successful. It’s normal to have failed quit attempts and it doesn’t mean you can’t quit for good."

To Quit Overspending: Debtors Anonymous is set up like other 12-step programs. It focuses on getting one's finances in order with tools that track spending. While there are many meetings in the city every day, conference-call meetings are particularly convenient for those who are time-crunched.

"One of the tools is awareness," said Kathleen M., a volunteer with the program. "People are sort of vague about what’s going on with their money, how they’re spending, what they’re spending it on. You hear other people share about that and there are other people that share your problem. And they’ve had maybe a little more success with dealing with that problem over a period of time."

To Quit Biting Your Nails: Hypnosis is said to be effective for dealing with a number of issues, such as smoking, drinking, social anxiety and even improving your golf game. Guided hypnosis can help to obliterate compulsive habits such as picking at skin or biting nails.

"Anything you do automatically is controlled by your subconscious mind," said Eli Blilious of the New York Hypnosis Institute. "Basically when a client comes in for hypnosis, we reprogram their subconscious mind to help them overcome a habit, a belief."

"It’s actually simply meditation with a goal," said Grace Smith, a practitioner of hypnocoaching. "It is the only way to access and recondition our habitual behavior."

These experts estimated that it takes two to six sessions of hypnosis for it to be effective. Sessions can run between $200 and $400.

To Quit Being a Sloth: It goes without saying that every gym in the city will be trying to entice resolution-makers come Jan. 1. As our experts say, it's helpful to buddy up. Uplift in Chelsea is doing a group challenge in which teams of four to six women compete with other teams to lose the highest percentage of body fat, starting Jan. 6 and ending on March 8. For an entry fee of $499, teams will have unlimited access to the gym's classes. Cash prizes will be awarded.

Gyms like Warrior Fitness Boot Camp are also offering discounts on packages of classes purchased during the holidays.

To Quit Ducking Family and Friends: This one may seem like the easiest resolution, but it's not as simple as you'd think, according to Cohen.

"'Spending more time with the family,' is a common one I hear in my practice," he said. "Maybe this individual has a fear of being a bad father and is avoiding the family with the excuse of needing to work long hours. It's important to understand what has kept us away from achieving our goals in the first place. Often times people are unaware of the emotions behind their behaviors. The unconscious mind is powerful, and if you have had multiple years with the same resolution, it might be time to seek the help of a mental health professional."