Health Watch â€“ January 22, 2013Dr. David Prescott â€“ Eastern Maine Medical Center Behavioral MedicineHow Many People Are Able to Stick with New Habits? It has been exactly three weeks since the start of the New Year. For many of us, the New Year means taking a moment to reflect on those things we would like to change in 2013. But wait a moment! How are those resolutions coming along? If you are having trouble developing a new positive habit, you are not alone. Surveys suggest that about 60% of people who set a personal goal to make a positive change in their life have given up 6 months later. So, take a bit of comfort that making lifestyle changes doesnâ€™t happen automatically. How long is the list of things you would like to change about yourself?: Psychologists have found that one common problem with resolutions to make our lives better is that our list is too long. Changing one habit or incorporating one new thing into each day presents a big enough challenge. Trying to change many things at once can lead to frustration and giving up. If you resolved to make yourself a better or healthier person, did you focus on one small, but achievable step? Increasing Your Odds of Success: These 5 strategies can help make a new habit or routine a permanent part of your life: 1. Change one behavior at a time. Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time, so replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time. Many people run into problems when they try to change too much too fast. To improve your success, focus on one goal or change at a time. As new healthy behaviors become a habit, try to add another goal that works toward the overall change youâ€™re striving for.2. Start small. After youâ€™ve identified realistic short-term and long-term goals, break down your goals into small, manageable steps. It may sound overly simple, but change leads to more change. If you would like to eat healthier, consider as a goal for the week replacing dessert with a healthier option, like fruit or yogurt. At the end of the week, youâ€™ll feel successful knowing you met your goal.3. Make a plan that will stick. Your plan is a map that will guide you on this journey of change. You can even think of it as an adventure. When making your plan, be specific. Want to exercise more? Detail the time of day when you can take walks and how long youâ€™ll walk. Write everything down, and ask yourself if youâ€™re confident that these activities and goals are realistic for you. If not, start with smaller steps. Post your plan where youâ€™ll most often see it as a reminder. Donâ€™t underestimate the impact of simply putting your plan on a piece of paper where you see it several times a day. 4. Involve a buddy. Whether it be a friend, co-worker or family member, someone else on your journey will keep you motivated and accountable. Perhaps it can be someone who will go to the gym with you or someone who is also trying to stop smoking. Talk about what you are doing. Consider joining a support group. Having someone with whom to share your struggles and successes makes the work easier and the mission less intimidating.5. Ask for support. Accepting help from those who care about you and will listen strengthens your resilience and commitment. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking help from a psychologist. Psychologists are uniquely trained to understand the connection between the mind and body, as well as the factors that promote behavior change. Asking for help doesnâ€™t mean a lifetime of therapy: even just a few sessions can help you examine and set attainable goals or address the emotional issues that may be getting in your way.Thanks to the American Psychological Association for help with this feature. For more information, go to www.apa.org/helpcenter.Or visit Acadia Hospitalâ€™s website at www.acadiahospital.org.