Ending the old year with some reflection and starting the next day fresh has fueled many a resolution for improvement. There is a reason both of these steps are considered key aspects of successful behavior change. We are much more successful in making desired changes—whether they be increasing our level of activity or improving our diets for better nutrition and balance—when we first acknowledge what we are doing right.
Here in Colorado, we have enjoyed being one of the leanest states in the nation. However, we are seeing that this statistic is not holding for our children. We seem to be falling victim to many of the unhealthful practices that plague much of the country, including too much sedentary time and empty calories. In order to reverse this trend, a family may take the beginning of the new year as a time to reflect on what they do right first, and take a moment to congratulate themselves. Building an actionable plan for change is best done from a strength-based perspective. Start with making your list; brainstorm together, naming all of the fun times you had together over the year that included activity as a family. Even if it was a child’s individual efforts in an after school sport, chances are that other family members played a role in supporting that activity. Recognize and reinforce these.
Examples (from your child’s perspective):
- Mom drove me to my soccer games most of the time
- Sis stayed to watch me play and cheered when I scored
- Dad took me out to buy some new cleats
Then, the leap from what you already do that is positive to incrementally making improvements is not very far and feels doable. It not only helps you to identify a small step, but having already explicitly acknowledged successful efforts bolsters your confidence that you can all contribute to being a healthy family; one step at a time.
Recognizing and building on strengths also helps you be more aware of what your children’s strengths are beyond the efforts to build your healthy eating and activity as a family. They are likely the same underlying strengths to tap into when supporting your child in other pro-social behaviors that help them grow into well-adjusted, happy individuals. Look for attributes as you are building your lists of success, and be sure to emphasize positive characteristics each family member already has, such as perseverance, enthusiasm, curiosity, sociability, striving for excellence, and so on. These are the building blocks for your strength-based foundation for a healthy new year!
ZisBoomBah advisor Beth Lonergan, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist with broad experience in the mental health field. As a psychologist who is balancing both research and practice, Beth is a well-versed expert in human behavior, including how people change and why they don’t – and “what makes people tick,” as she puts it herself.