New Year’s resolutions: some thoughts for 2018

Each year in December I try to review my thoughts about the general and local “scene” to access the direction I should take and perhaps suggest to others, not only on the medical area, but also those ideas and thoughts concerning life in general…

It appears that the optimal direction for our thoughts and efforts in 2018 should be positive steps for self-improvement and efforts to aid our neighbors and society. However, we as individuals and country also have possible but uncertain changes in employment, housing, income, savings and retirement accounts, and, for some, possible declining health and living conditions. Even more concerning has been the significant loss of trust in some of our financial institutions, our government, and the general leadership. Recent disclosures of aberrant behaviors by societal “leaders” have brought leadership questions from all of us.

However, just as our cultural heritage guides us seasonally to this holiday time of peace, reflection, and deeper thoughts, or at least attempts to do so, we are then faced just a week later with our societal recommendations for attempts to form positive personal changes at the turn of the calendar in the form of New Year’s resolutions! Usually we feel we are too busy to give proper thought and action to personal changes, but perhaps it would be an especially good endeavor this year since the media often surrounds us with a negative cast to life’s events!

Many of our lives can be filled with thoughts of tedium and boredom, and we find change is difficult and uncomfortable. Yet who doesn’t find a change of routine, trying a new recipe, or meeting someone new to be beneficial? We all feel a sense of accomplishment when we do something positive such as visiting or helping a friend, completing a difficult task or positively modifying an undesirable habit. We all have occasions in our lives that could benefit by positive and directed change…but how do we do it…and should we try? New social, avocational, and religious interactions may be worth a concerted effort.

Experience is a valuable asset and a great teacher, but, as such, experience can cause us to have increased anxiety, discomfort and reluctance to change. We know what to expect and what can happen in a set of circumstances, and often we fear and anticipate the worst instead of the remembering the “odds,” and that “common things and happenings are common…” and usually occur in similar ways. A psychologist friend once taught me a valuable tenet when he reminded me not to ascribe negative thoughts to common situations, e.g. “A phone call from my son’s teacher may reflect her concern and praise, not her criticism…” We all need to think and act in a POSITIVE way! A resolution to learn to EXPECT positive results, even in difficult situations, is indicated for many of us.

Take pride and a sense of accomplishment in the good things that have happened in your life. Unfortunately, our lives are often like the nightly news: it seems only the negative aspects of the day’s events are remembered, discussed and emphasized. Everyone can point to benefits resulting from his or her efforts…parents, children, workplace, church, and social groups. Take time to pat yourself on the back and congratulate others frequently! Think positively!

Developing a stronger self-image will cause us to be happier and perhaps better people. Habits play a major role in our image, both inwardly and outwardly, so modification of our habits is another positive force to happiness. However, we need to have reasonable goals so we have a good chance for success. If only we could accomplish what we want to do easily! We all can benefit from a discussion of our realistic goals with our family and friends! Positive habits such as reading for pleasure, moderate exercise, kind words and better habits bring good results!

Another excellent resolution for 2018 was voiced by former USA Weekend medical reporter Dr. Tedd Mitchell in his column. He tells all of us to find (and use) a primary care physician team to facilitate our health care…the “Medical Home” you have heard about and seen discussed in this column. Such a positive health direction will be a weapon to combat the increasing complexity of modern medical practice. However, his resolution can present a challenge regarding the changing aspects of the physician-patient relationship, one we shall continue to discuss in future columns.

Best Wishes for a Happy and Joyful New Year of positive changes!