“New year, new me!” This is a phrase we all hear quite often throughout the first few weeks of a new year. The new year presents an opportunity to set new goals for ourselves: new year’s resolutions. Yet, we get to this point in the year, about a month in, and commitment to these resolutions start to dwindle. Why might that be? Some of the most popular new year’s resolutions are dieting, weight loss, and saving money. There seems to be a culture of basing new year’s resolutions in “health”, but can dieting and weight loss really be considered health? We know losing weight does not equate to better health and that diets do not work long term. More importantly, these resolutions are unsustainable. In order to make new year’s resolutions that we can truly make happen and that will last, they need to be mindful new year’s resolutions!
What are Mindful New Year’s Resolutions?
Mindful new year’s resolutions are goals to set for oneself as a way to enter the new year -or any point really- that consider your thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the present and what would benefit them. Mindfulness is generally defined as non-judgmental awareness of the present moment including thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. It is full attention to the present without inessential reactivity or overwhelming emotion. Mindfulness is proven to have extensive benefits. Stress reduction, better focus, relationship satisfaction, and more may be attributed to mindfulness and its practice. Some common mindfulness practices include meditation, breath work, and yoga, but there is no right way or wrong way to introduce mindfulness to your life.
Even a five minute pause throughout the day could enhance your presence in the current moment. The smallest introductions of mindfulness may serve as a reminder to take every moment as it comes and to not spend too much time caught up in remorse toward the past or worry about the future. Mindfulness can help us better understand behaviors and patterns that we want to change without the shame and judgment that often interferes with the process of change. Mindful goals are targets- they are not overly rigid and allow for adaptation and change that will continue to support our intentions. For example, people often take on too much when setting goals, become overwhelmed, and abandon their resolution. With mindful goals, one can recognize that meal planning, meal prep, and adding in weekly exercise is too much and adapt goals that are more reality based without giving up on seeking a more balanced relationship with food and movement.
Mindful new year’s resolutions encourage us to check in and pay attention to the goals that feel overwhelming. From there, we can break those goals down into smaller steps that are less intimidating and thus more attainable. Mindful new year’s resolutions shy away from stereotypical new year’s goals that are idealistic and help us work toward goals that are realistic. Instead of being goals that you try to change your life and habits to fit into, mindful new year’s resolutions are intentions that adapt and adhere to your day-to-day life. Instead of unnaturally trying to contort to work towards them, they work for you.
What Makes Mindful New Year’s Resolutions Work?
How many times can you say you have truly stuck to your new year’s resolutions? Yes, for the entire 365 days. For most, the truth is not so often. The most common reason: intention. When we resolve to lose weight or diet, our intentions tend to be in the wrong places. We intend to look a certain way or “be healthier,” but health is a much larger picture and those resolutions neglect huge elements of it. Say you resolve to lose weight, but you are entering the biggest year in your career. The work piles on and time to hit the gym dwindles. If you are intent on maintaining your resolution, you may turn to unhealthy mediums like restriction or sacrifice sleep to exercise. You intended to be healthier but now you find yourself exhausted and stressed with a resolution that only adds to those feelings. It does not seem so healthy, and naturally it makes your resolution less appealing.
Mindful new year’s resolutions outline intention to apply in each individual moment. This implies the understanding that what you need for health in one moment may look entirely different than in another. The energy and resources you need to tackle the various demands of the day depend on many factors. One of which is sleep. If you do not get a good night’s sleep, you are ultimately running on empty. If you had planned to go for an afternoon hike, in this scenario, a shift to a short walk around your neighborhood or even inside of your apartment might benefit you more. This is one example of a mindful adaptation that can help your resolutions work for you. If you resolved to move more, you would have still taken a step toward achieving your goal!
New year’s resolutions, especially mindful new year’s resolutions are not all or nothing. Everyone’s “all” looks different every day and at every moment. Striving to go to the gym every day fails to account for the occasions where time is limited and the commute to the gym takes too long. An average new year’s resolution may consider this a failure, an incomplete day, but a mindful new year’s resolution acknowledges that in any given moment, there are finite amounts of time and energy, so it is crucial to give ourselves permission to shift them accordingly.
The adaptive nature of mindful new year’s resolutions makes them possible to commit to and more likely to actually work. When you set the intention of mindfulness with your goals, it enables flexibility in how you achieve them. This is incredibly important! Take “eating better.” First off, this resolution is incredibly vague, but even more so, without mindfulness, it opens the door to a slew of potentially unhealthy behaviors; deeming foods as bad, restriction, and more. That is not an appealing goal to commit to long-term! Now, say you introduce mindfulness to that goal. On some days, “eating better” may mean eating better quality food. Maybe you are craving a burger so you ditch the fast food for a better quality option. In another moment, “eating better” may mean cooking at home instead of ordering in. Perhaps “eating better” looks like trying more diverse foods or incorporating other food groups. It may mean finding a quick and easy balanced meal instead of tackling the challenge of a new recipe.
There is no singular way, nor is there right or wrong, because your intentions allow for adaptation to your individual needs at any given moment. It is so important to work on your awareness and understanding of your priorities, so that you can allocate your limited time, energy, and mental resources effectively. Give yourself kindness and know that you are doing the best you can in every moment. This supports your connection to what you are trying to achieve and helps avoid sinking into the “all or none” mentality of rigid goals that often leads to feelings of failure and eventually the abandonment of the goal or resolution altogether. Mindful new year’s resolutions work because they are intentional and enable the optimization of your valuable time and energy.
How to Make These Resolutions
First, consider the things that tend to steer you away from mindfulness. Do you find yourself especially overwhelmed, caught up in worries about what you have to do next? Sometimes we can become distracted by a disagreement or certain meetings. Perhaps you feel kind of low at certain points in the day. Even mornings, at times, feel so frenzied you feel like you cannot quite get a grip. Accounting for those moments may be a great starting point for developing mindful new year’s resolutions. Next, considering the introduction of moments of pause after or during those moments may help transition to more mindful thought processes. Pause may look different for everyone.
To start, it may be as simple as a couple of deep breaths. If a more concrete strategy is more appealing, perhaps listing five things you see, four things you hear, three things you feel, two things you smell, and one thing you taste might work better. Identifying your senses in a given moment can be a great way to engage with the moment and make yourself aware of your most basic sensations. We tend to get distracted from those and experience sensory overload because of the massive intake of sights, sounds, smells, feelings, and tastes. Some of which are heightened by especially tough or especially great moments in our day. Far too often, we forget to just be. Mindfulness can enhance the majority of our life experiences. When we go to make a new year’s resolution, we tend to look for what to change or eliminate. We rarely seek to enhance or support things we are already doing. This strategy tends to ignore the smaller steps it takes to implement that large scale change, specifically in the context of our day-to-day lives.
The next part of crafting mindful new year’s resolutions is to break down your larger intention or goal into smaller pieces you can easily integrate in your day to day life. If you intend to introduce pauses, contemplate a couple of different ways you may pause so that in the midst of your day you have options. Perhaps, you want to get better sleep. You already sleep every night, so this is a great starting point! With any goal or resolution, being mindful and determining options for their implementation, can help your success. It makes the goal more feasible even in changing circumstances. It allows you to acknowledge the moment you are in and work toward your goal in a way that is practical and effective in that moment. If you want to sleep better, depending on the day you have had or your plans for the next day, maybe you shift your focus between your nighttime and morning routines. Waking up is ultimately an extension of your night’s sleep, so you can create options that focus on the morning after for those nights where you have expended your energy or it already feels too late to try something before bed.
The final step in making mindful new year’s resolutions is giving yourself the credit and kindness you deserve. In reading this post, you are thinking about self-improvement. That is a preliminary step. You are looking to set goals and move forward in the new year mindfully. There is no way to go about mindful new year’s resolutions perfectly. Stay true and kind to yourself and your intentions. You got this!
Is it Too Late to Make Mindful New Year’s Resolutions?
Absolutely not! It is never too late to set mindful intentions and goals for yourself. In fact, another month, another week, or even another day is always right around the corner with an opportunity for a fresh start — an opportunity to introduce mindfulness to your life. It is never too late to optimize your overall well-being with mindfulness. That is exactly what mindfulness is: focus on the present moment as the experience for you to live. Where you choose to take that is up to you. Mindful new year’s resolutions are by no means confined to the new year and now is the perfect opportunity to make a mindful resolution! Every moment is a new opportunity.
Thank you to Mia Pearce, Best Within You Therapy & Wellness intern and Dr. Laura Riss, Licensed Clinical Psychologist for this article. If you are interested in therapy with Dr. Riss or any of the Best Within You Team you can schedule a complimentary consultation.