If you’ve failed at keeping your New Year’s resolutions inthe past, scientists say this may be because you’ve chosenthe wrong ones or don’t admit to yourself that you may fail(which, surprisingly, will help to you succeed). One common mistake is to have too many goals. Another formula for failure is to set your sights on behaviors that are too vague, such as being a better spouse. A third pitfall is setting goals that are too lofty and are not really attainable.

What does work? The Harvard Health Letter says you’re more likely to achieve goals that match your own interests and values, rather than those that reflect outside pressures or expectations. In other words, you’re more likely to keep a resolution if the motivation is coming from you, not someone else.

You also need to come up with a strategy that’s rooted inpractical steps. Link the desired behaviors to common eventsor to habits you already have, so the new behavior becomesmore or less automatic. For example, you might improve yourpill-taking habits by putting your medications next to yourtoothbrush.

Is your resolution to quit smoking again this year?Anticipating that you will fail might help you succeed.

“A more productive approach than quitting cold turkey is tothink about tobacco dependence as a chronic disease, andexpect that there might be periods of relapse andremission,” says psychologist Patricia Daza. “On average,most smokers make between five and six attempts to quitbefore they are successful.”

About 25% of people in the United States smoke?that’s 50million people. Half of them try to quit each year, but onlyfive to 10% still don’t smoke a year later.

Nicotine can be as addicting as heroin, especially so forpsychiatric patients. For patients with schizophrenia, therate of cigarette smoking can be as high as 88%. Dr. Dazarecommends making a plan to quit smoking:

1. Set a date to quit.2. Tell co-workers, family and friends about your quit date.3. Clean your house, car and any other place where youtypically smoke. Remove all ashtrays, deodorize your houseand car to remove the smell of smoke and remove any itemsthat might remind you of smoking.4. If you usually drink coffee while you smoke, switch toorange juice or another beverage to break the link betweendrinking a specific beverage and smoking.5. Recognize that the most intense withdrawal symptomshappen in the first three weeks.6. Keep a list of reasons for quitting in places youtypically smoked.

Nicotine replacement aids such as nicotine gum and thepatch, help with withdrawal symptoms and can be purchasedover the counter. Smokers can also ask their doctor toprescribe them the drug Zyban, which stimulates the releaseof a feel-good chemical in the brain, called dopamine, tosimulate the effect of nicotine. Studies have shown that theuse of the drug doubles quit rates when compared withquitting cold turkey.

Most relapses occur within the first three months after aperson stops smoking. One third of relapses occur because ofalcohol use, Dr. Daza says. If you do relapse, treat it as abump in the road rather than proof that you can’t quit.

Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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