Living Well with Chronic Pain: Adjusting Your New Year’s Resolution Approach

Two females joyously embracing in winter

We all want to live a healthy, happy and fulfilling life.  If you’re living with chronic conditions such as chronic pain, you might be thinking about what you can do to make the most of 2022, so that you can do the things in life you want to do. And you can! With the new year approaching, many of us are planning our New Year’s resolutions. It seems true that most New Year’s resolutions focus on big goals like losing weight and often focus on quick fixes such as ambitious exercising and “dieting.” Most people find that because they’ve opted to make such drastic changes that they can’t maintain these behaviors over time and find themselves back at square one the next New Year. What if we were to think about smaller, more manageable changes that help us to feel successful without restricting ourselves or causing increased pain or frustration from overdoing?

It’s that time of year when we stop and reflect on the past year and envision how we want the coming year to be different. We resolve to try harder, be healthier, and do more. Those of us living with chronic conditions such as chronic pain, often find difficulty in accomplishing our New Year’s Resolution goals due to the nature of our condition(s). Let’s be truthful, we’d all like to know what the “magic bullet” is to resolve our health challenges. Unfortunately, there isn’t one and thus we have to actively work at achieving the life we want for ourselves which includes managing our chronic pain.  

Taking a self-management approach is essential to living a healthier and more fulfilling life with chronic pain. YOU can make a huge difference in your own quality of life each day if you begin to discover and apply the self-management tools and techniques that work best for you. The many tools available to each of us include:

  • Using your mind to distract
  • Condition-related problem solving 
  • Communication skills 
  • Managing our emotions 
  • Balancing physical activity and rest
  • Strategies to deal with fatigue, pain, frustration, isolation and poor sleep 
  • Developing a patient/physician partnership 
  • Using community resources 
  • Nutrition 
  • Medication management and effectively evaluating new treatments  
  • Support and encouragement from others also living with chronic pain

Learning and practicing self-management tools is vital, and when you commit to making smaller, more achievable goals that YOU choose and want to do, you’ll begin to make and feel real progress in improving your daily pain experience. So instead of making a big resolution this New Year, consider a plan to work on smaller, more doable goals that serve as steps toward achieving your larger goals and, ultimately, improving your overall quality of life.

Thanks to grant funding, UNH Extension currently offers free workshop series that teach these, along with many more, crucial self-management tools and techniques to help you manage your pain and symptoms. Learn more about our Living Well with Chronic Pain and Take Charge of Your Health! workshop series.

These workshops are funded by a SAMHSA Rural Opioid Technical Assistant grant (H79TI083274) awarded to UNH Cooperative Extension.