Thursday, January 21, 2010

Keep New Year's Resolutions and Get Things Done

As a therapist, one way I keep up to speed with psychiatric findings is through regular emails from Medscape. This week the Medscape psychiatry newsletter had a thoughtful and highly practical item from Shyam Bhat, who's an internist and psychiatrist.

Dr Bhat's article showed he was thinking about ways to help his patients with a greater degree of practicality and willingness to step outside the official psychiatric box than I usually see in the literature.

The article was entitled, simply, "New Year's Resolutions," and in the lead paragraph he noted his own resolution "is to write two blog posts per week." (Mine is 14, but it's not a compettion.)

Bhat notes people with mild to moderate depression or chronic dysthymia experience a mood lift in the first few weeks of a new year, speculating it is analogous to "wiping the slate clean...and forgetting the difficulties of the past."

But, notes, Bhat, while new year's resolutions seem "to offer these patients a chance to reinvent themselves, to see themselves in new a light," the problem is "the effects don't always last."

Especially when people like his patients, and I, who have lived long lived with depression, don't keep our resolutions. Readers familiar with my other blog, Unsticking Joe's Life, will know how I'm trying to deal with the reality of broken resolutions, of intention that just seem to fizzle out.

And it's here that Bhat wins my respect for going beyond the bounds of conventional psychiatry.

"I was looking for a webapp that I could share with my patients as a means of renewing their motivation," he writes.

Wow! That's impressive.

His search lead him to a web-based program called HabitForge.

I checked out this web-based app, and it's kind of neat. The headline on the site is pretty clear:

"It takes 21 days to form a habit. HabitForge will help you get there."

I joined HabitForge, thinking it was worth an experiment.

Once a day HabitForge will send me an email asking if I was successful in doing what I committed myself to do.

One of the goals which I have identified for my 101 Day Count Down is to spend 15 minutes in "home care," which means taking time to make my place more livable.

I put that into HabitForge. The program asked me to identify a downside of not doing that, and I wrote: "The apartment will be more unlivable, inhospitable to the guy who pays the rent: me."

Asked to state the upside of doing 15 minutes of homecare a day, I wrote: "I'll feel good, and my appartment will be a more pleasant place for me, and I'll start to invite people over again."

I checked an option box saying I wanted HabitForge to remind me every third day of the up and down sides to my resolution.

We'll see how it works. I like the concept. It's simple, and easy to set up. So far, 11,565 people have become HabitForge members.

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