Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I'm Not Playing: New Life Resolutions

by Kirsten Milliken, PhD

Why was there no post during the weeks of Christmas or New Year’s from the play person? I was having too much fun!

While on vacation in Vermont with my kids, I occasionally read posts and emails about making resolutions, not making resolutions, setting goals, being happy, having gratitude, and more. I also had conversations about these concepts.

One post that struck a chord with me was that of a friend who talked about his New Life Resolutions. Rather than making resolutions that start at the beginning of the year and typically end sometime in January—whether by plan or loss of motivation—my friend resolved to change his eating habits permanently. In the past, he'd made temporary plans to change his eating habits in one way or another. But he’d learned some new information recently, and he’d begun to really pay attention to how food affected him. He noticed that when he followed a vegan diet, he felt better and could think more clearly. This got me thinking.

I have followed a mostly paleo diet for several years, but there are times when I am committed to the plan and other times when I eat sugar, grains, and processed foods. I know the latter diet makes me feel irritable, tired, and demotivated. My body and brain do not function optimally. When I follow the paleo plan, my body and mind feel lighter. It’s kind of a no-brainer that eating healthy makes me feel better.

So, why don’t we all just make and follow resolutions, plans, and goals that we know will make us feel better, do better, or be more successful? Because they seem like “work.” And “work” is “hard.” Eating sugar, on the other hand, makes me think I feel happy now. There is a feeling of fun and playfulness that I associate with eating food that is not good for me. I enjoy the taste, the crunch, the melting in my mouth and not in my hands! The thought of eating healthy “feels” like work. However, once I get in the habit, it is fun and I am more playful because I feel better.

Remaining focused on New Life Resolutions can be difficult, because it requires long-term resolve to live a better life, whatever that means to you. To be a better friend or parent, to focus closely on higher values, to eat healthier, go to bed earlier, or exercise regularly—these resolutions require being mindful about resisting momentary impulses, pausing to refocus on priorities, developing habits, and setting intentions about how you want your life to be and who you want to be in your life. The reality is that any change can feel like “work” until it becomes a habit, or what you are comfortable with.

Approaching New Life Resolutions with a playful attitude and an intention to enjoy the path you are on, rather than just looking to see if you’re "there" yet, will make you more successful. Finding someone to share the path with you can also make the process of change easier.

So, rather than setting yourself up with a temporary resolution, take some time to think about how you want your life to be and how you want to be in your life. What do you want to change to get closer to this life? What will it take for you to make that change for life? Who can help you?

You don’t have to start on January 1. Just pick your favorite day of any week, mark it on the calendar, make an agreement with your partner in crime, and get into action—moving to the life you want, not just for now, but for always. This is the start of your Happy New Life! 

Got a resolution to share? Start or join a conversation on Attention connection, your social network for all things ADHD!

Kirsten Milliken, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist, a certified ADHD coach, and the founder of PlayDHD. She lives in Portland, Maine, with her two amazing children and two really freaky dogs. Dr. Milliken is passionate about helping those with ADHD communicate about the ways that ADHD affects them and coaches them to develop skill sets that build on their strengths in order to manage the day-to-day challenges of ADHD. She created PLAYDHD to create a specific awareness of the connection between ADHD and the value of play. Her website, playdhd.com, is dedicated to the art of using play in managing symptoms of ADHD, achieving goals, and enjoying life. She is an active member in the ADHD Coaches Organization (ACO), CHADD, Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA), International Coaches Federation (ICF), and a graduate of the ADD Coaches Academy (ADDCA). She regularly presents at ADHD conferences on the subject of play. She also hosts the PlayDHD podcast, is a frequent guest and former co-host on Attention Talk Radio, and contributes to various other websites serving the ADHD community.


  1. The statement any change seems like work at first really makes a lot of sense.I'm again at this point and dread it to a point I wish I never existed.I'm confused easy and sticking to a new change is a constant battle especially being alone most of the time.Thanks for your insight Kirsten! I'm still hoping to find a coach.

  2. "Work" for some is play for me. This morning we finally had snow. I was so happy to get out in the crisp cold sunshine and decided to do my condo neighbor's steps too. Even at 52, I love remembering that when I was a kid my older brothers were so nice they "let" me shovel the snow.