A Cancer Survivor's Gentler New Year's Resolutions

Two-time cancer survivor shares effective, yet gentle ways to change habits for the new year.

As someone trying to get away from cancer, what bad habit could I fix and still be gentle with myself? What good habit would I start? Do I think it is even too optimistic to make New Year’s resolutions as a cancer survivor? When you think about New Year’s resolutions, what are you really thinking about? Maybe you are thinking about habits you want to add, change or delete.

After being swamped by a cancer diagnosis, where is the best place to start? Which habit would you consider tweaking or changing? Here is my suggestion for the greatest possibility of success and a gentle fresh start: Change the habit(s) that you do most often.

For example, most of us eat three to six times per day. That offers a lot of opportunities for change, yet how many of us don’t look at this very carefully, before, well, just eating?

Another example is paper clutter. Consider the mail. We get the mail six out of seven days per week. That adds up to a lot of paper constantly coming into our homes, without even considering what comes home from work or school. Paper might be worth your time. If you are swamped by emails instead, considering unsubscribing steadily to them every day for a week or so and you will be rewarded with a less cluttered inbox.

Healthy resolutions? Maybe there are ways to help prevent cancer from coming back? What about trying to physically move several times per week? Again, it is something that is or could be a high-frequency activity. Wouldn’t it be worth it to spend the time to explore different exercise options and times to figure out what works best for you—what you really might enjoy? You could at least resolve to try a couple of options.

When you tackle a habit that happens frequently, it is a great investment of your limited spare time and energy—something that happens often can get you into or out of trouble in a hurry. If you make a mistake or need to adjust something, you will get an opportunity to try again very soon. Especially as a cancer survivor, it is worth spending time and energy to address items that happen often. What makes for successful New Year’s resolutions? The experts say to make them specific (clear), measurable (quantifiable) and achievable (don’t set yourself up for failure). For me, a realistic goal for weight loss within a certain time frame would meet the criteria.

Why do some people achieve their goals while others fail? Again, the experts have a comment: People who create back-up plans at the time they set their goal, have a higher success rate for achieving their goal. What does that mean? It could be as simple as the plan to exercise on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but if there isn’t time on Friday, the back-up plan is to workout on Saturday morning. Regardless of what you resolve to try, consider hanging loose. Try floating above the resolutions or taking a gentler, lighter approach to them. In that less tense, softer approach, you open up to the possibility of adjusting and tweaking as you go and forgiving yourself for miss-steps. Above all, be gentle with yourself. You have been through a lot and you can move forward lightly and successfully into 2017!