As we move through January, it’s important to remember that setting goals and fulfilling them is more than just a New Year’s tradition. For anyone with a pain condition, goal setting can help tremendously both physically and mentally, by giving us a clear direction to move into. It’s something to focus on, to be pain-free, when things look grim or hurt way too much.
Motivation is hard to come by with something as oppressive as a chronic pain condition. Thankfully, motivation is not something that just happens to be around – it can and must be cultivated and grown, and your New Year’s resolutions are a critical part of that.
The key to a happier, more pain-free you will depend on your condition, your circumstances, and your capabilities – so we’ve listed a number of different New Year’s resolutions that help tackle many of the mental and physical challenges faced by people with chronic pain. Let’s go over each resolution, and how it can contribute to your overall goal of a better quality of life.
Get More Quality Sleep
Rather than simply increasing the amount of time you spend resting – which can actually place further burden on your body by robbing you of precious hours you should spend being active, mentally and physically – this is more so a resolution meant to make a point of improving the quality of your sleep.
If you find yourself struggling with sleep issues, then this is something you should address first and foremost. Good, healthy sleep is the foundation for everything else we do, and without good sleep, we cannot heal, grow, or improve effectively.
Some ways you might be able to improve your sleep could be through hypnotherapy, herbal supplementation, a humidifier for your sinuses, essential oils, ASMR, and better sleep hygiene. This means no screen time at least a half-hour before bed, a consistent and regular sleeping schedule, and a simple bedtime ritual.
Set Realistic Physical Goals
Setting unrealistic physical goals for yourself is setting yourself up for failure – followed by a phase of severe guilt, relapse, and resentment. Instead of aiming to do something that might take you several months, start with something you can do in four weeks.
Four weeks is still a considerable commitment, but it gives you a taste of success much earlier on in the year, and provides you with the sort of self-encouragement that you need to continue with bigger and better goals. For example, consider giving yourself the goal of exercising twice a week for four weeks. Or, consider dropping five pounds in four weeks.
In general, it takes several weeks for an activity to form into a habit. One study showed that, depending on the individual, the range of time it takes to form a habit can go from 18 to 254 days.
Now, that might seem discouraging at first – 254 days is equivalent to about eight months, after all – but on average, most people developed a habit within 66 days. Giving yourself two goals for four weeks, can help you get started on turning what starts out as a minor project into a year-long commitment, potentially.
When it comes to chronic pain, no two activities are more deleterious for your overall health, wellbeing, and pain sensitivity than regularly drinking and smoking. Make 2020 the year you go sober and quit tobacco and be sure to enlist the help of friends and family to hold yourself accountable to those goals.
If you have a more serious alcohol problem, then consider asking for professional help rather than simply taking the problem on by yourself. An alcohol problem can be indicative of an alcohol use disorder, which is very difficult to deal with alone.
Work on Resolutions Together
If you have a hard time with being self-motivated, then one way to try and reach your goals is to find someone to reach those goals with. Instead of simply training alone, consider taking a friend to the gym with you. You can hold each other accountable, so that when you don’t want to go, they can drag you (within reason), and if they don’t want to go, you can do your best to bring them along anyway.
The hang up with tying your resolutions to someone else is that they might eventually give up, and you’ll have a hard time going on without them. Self-motivation is an important skill – but if you’re having a really hard time getting yourself to make any changes at all, then enlisting a friend to go through those changes with you can be a tremendous help.
Learn Something New
One way to deal with chronic pain is to constantly feed the brain with other things, from minor distractions and entertaining hobbies like audiobooks, podcasts, and video games, to interesting new courses, taking free classes, listening in on lectures, and watching tutorials on practical things like plumbing, basic engineering, mathematics, and programming.
The Internet is filled to the brim with an amazing wealth of knowledge, and if you know where to look, you can curate an educative curriculum and spend a lot of time learning new things and developing useful skills in 2020, from the comfort of your own home.
See a Specialist
If you don’t already have a doctor you regularly visit to help better understand and treat your condition, then make 2020 the year you take your health seriously and go see a professional. While there are few forms of chronic pain that can be effectively cured, most of them can be managed, and knowing where to start is an important first step towards a better quality of life.
There’s more to treating chronic pain medically than prescribing pain pills. Many pain management specialists understand that the best way to treat chronic pain is by addressing it holistically, and they will often help you find ways to stick to exercise regimen, find programs that better suit your abilities and needs, refer you to nutritionists who can identify foods that might cause flare ups and worsen your condition, and provide you with access to mental healthcare to help with tobacco or alcohol problems, motivation issues, relationship problems, and problems in the family.
Achieve to Be Pain-Free
You might not reach all of your goals this year, and you might even find yourself struggling on days to stick to one. But that’s okay. Improvement doesn’t come from living a perfect life, but from doing one’s best to continue the hard work of doing better despite setbacks, road bumps, and difficult circumstances.
No one manages to fulfill their daily goals in perpetuity – but by making a long-term commitment to get back on the horse every time you take a tumble, you will begin to see long-lasting and serious change over the next couple of months and years.