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Mindful approach to New Year's resolutions

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Mindfulness is a practice of presence. 

The New Year always brings with it a sense of renewal, therefore developing goals at the start of the year makes sense. However, we also know that setting lofty goals at the beginning of each year can sometimes add more stress and anxiety to our lives. 

According to a study by the University of Scranton, 40% of individuals make resolutions at the beginning of each year. However, only about 8% of those who make resolutions say they actually stick to and achieve those yearly goals.  In fact, most fitness resolutions last, on average, 8 days. (Yikes!) [1]

This year, why not approach New Year’s resolutions in a more mindful way. 

Although mindfulness helps us stay in the present moment, so that we can focus our thoughts on what is happening in the here and now (instead of worrying about the future), incorporating mindfulness into our New Year’s resolutions helps us plan with greater peace, ease, and clarity.

Consider alternatives to New Year’s resolutions 

While the new year can be an opportunity to assess areas you want to improve, sometimes, just the thought of New Year’s resolutions also brings with it a ton of pressure and anxiety. Hard-and-fast attempts to change our habits or behavior, as well as setting lofty goals can, at times, do more harm than good.  

Rethinking the purpose of New Year’s resolutions and making intentions instead, can, perhaps, ease some of the heaviness that’s thrust upon us at a time when we should be looking forward to the future with confidence and enthusiasm. 

Intentions are a way of approaching the things you want to achieve in a less-pressured way. Especially when we live in uncertain times and constant pressures from all angles continue to make things tough on mental health. 

When you shift your mindset from setting big goals  to setting intentions, it allows you to manage expectations and creates an enjoyable approach to creating lasting change. 

Consider your motivation

Some common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight, save more money or perhaps to FINALLY quit smoking.  Although those are all valuable and healthy objectives, what is the motivation behind these goals? Are you doing this for YOU or are you doing this for someone else? Most resolutions fail because it’s not what YOU want, but created based on what someone else (or society) is telling you to change. 

When our resolutions have a personal meaning behind them, making good choices can help us maintain our resolve and honor our determination. It can be easier to quit smoking because we know that’s what’s best for our health, rather than our partner telling us this is what we should do because THEY don’t like it. 

Changing bad habits

Self-transformation begins with self-awareness. When we want to change some bad habits, it’s important to first identify those habits, admit that some habits are indeed bad, and finally scrutinize what sustains those behaviors. 

For example, if you are a smoker and you would like not to be one, it might not be enough to just say that you will quit smoking with the New Year. It helps to examine WHY you might be reaching for those cigarettes in the first place. Do they help ease your stress and anxiety? Addressing the issues which trigger that bad habit, might make it easier to take steps to quit for good. 

Incorporating stress-reducing techniques, such as mindful breathing into your daily routine might ease your anxiety levels, making you less prone to reach for those cigs. 

Perhaps you spend too much time on social media and you would like to reduce your screen time. Figuring out WHY you gravitate to digital devices in the first place may provide insight as to what is causing you to become so absorbed in the virtual world. Do you feel isolated and crave connection? If that’s the case, just quitting social media may not be enough. Addressing your need for meaningful human interaction and why it’s missing in your life may be the first step to achieving your goal. 

Take small steps

As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” If you’ve got big goals, don’t underestimate the power of small steps. Small steps help us create valuable habits, which, in turn, help us achieve big goals. 

If you’re planning on losing weight in the new year, taking baby steps toward achieving that goal will make it more likely for you to stick to it long term. 

Start by taking a walk each morning. Perhaps after a week or two, increase that to two or three walks per day. Kick of the New Year with a commitment to eat more fruits and vegetables every day. 

Taking small, manageable steps can not only dramatically change the way you tackle your goals, but all those small steps put together add up to BIG progress. 

Focus on the journey, not the destination

Let’s face it, one of the main problems with making New Year’s resolutions is the insane pressure when it comes to delivering results. Most New Year’s resolutions often focus on the outcome, without acknowledging the process it takes to actually get there.  It’s actually pretty natural because as humans, we often believe that only through results can we secure a pathway for a better future. 

However, numerous studies have shown that when we focus on the experience and process, instead of speed and results, we actually perform better. Being super result-oriented, paradoxically makes us less likely to achieve those results. [2]

The focus of our New Year’s resolutions should be the process. We should acknowledge the infinite present moments in which transformation occurs,  rather than just focusing on the ultimate goal. 

Instead of being fixated on losing a certain amount of weight, why not focus on taking more walks during the week or making more mindful food choices. These choices will probably lead to some weight loss,  however,  you’re likely to enjoy the journey a lot more. 

Be KIND to yourself

No one’s perfect, and you should expect that your quest towards accomplishing your New Year resolution won’t be either. No matter what New Year’s resolutions we set for ourselves, we must be cognizant of the fact that there'll be days and even weeks when we won’t achieve what we expect to achieve. However, it’s important not to be too hard on ourselves and not to give up.  Through practicing mindfulness, we learn that we can experience a moment of awareness at any time.  Each new day gives us the opportunity to press the reset button and start over. 

If you notice that you’re getting off track, without judging or criticizing yourself, gently bring your focus back to what you need to be doing. The moment you recognize that you’re moving away from your goal, that’s a moment of insight which will allow you to get back on track.

If you’d like to read more about topics connected to this subject or perhaps you’d like to learn a little bit more about how to let go and relax, and deal with stress, please check out some of our other articles published on our blog:

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