Let’s Do “New Year, New Me” Mindfully

According to History, the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions dates back to the ancient Babylonians and their tradition of promising their pagan gods to pay their accrued debts and return borrowed goods to the family and neighbors, hoping to have favor bestowed upon them in the new year. Although the New Year’s Resolution started as a manifestation of religion and spirituality, many people today have continued making promises to improve some aspect of their lives in the new year to themselves rather than to a higher being. The biggest reasons people fail with their resolutions are that they have too many resolutions, are setting unrealistic goals, and lack motivation. Proceeding mindfully when setting New Year’s Resolutions can assist in ensuring one makes a realistic set of attainable goals.

Mindfulness is one’s ability to be present within one’s body, mind, and environment, focusing one’s awareness, remaining balanced in the emotional and reasonable mind (wise mind), and making observations with judgment. Mindfulness practice is a simple therapeutic tool that can help people heighten their awareness and insight into the many facets of their lives. Self-concordance, in the simplest therapeutic terms, is a person’s ability to set personal goals that are intrinsically motivated and directly align with their authentic selves. People who have grasped the concept of mindfulness have gained the insight and self-awareness to set their goals. Want to learn how to set your New Year’s resolutions mindfully? Here are some steps you can take:

Step 1: Reflect.

The first step to setting mindful New Year’s Resolutions is to reflect on the previous year. Review the positives and negatives of the last year and the contributing factors to your wins and losses. Ask yourself:

●      What did you accomplish?

●      What did you want to do but didn’t or couldn’t?

●      What failures did you experience?

●      What did you learn?

●      What outside factors contributed to your wins and losses?

●      What did you do to contribute to your wins and losses?

●      How was your mindset through the year?

Step 2: Prioritize.

After reflecting on your previous year’s ups and downs, you should prioritize what you’d like to see happen in the new year. Ask yourself:

●      What improvements do you need to make in the new year?

●       What improvements do you want to make in the new year?

Remember that although we sometimes use the words “want” and “need” interchangeably, they are not the same thing.

Step 3: SMART goals.

Meeting the goals we set is often difficult because we aren’t setting them correctly. When setting your goals, ensure that they are SMART.

●      Specific – What is the clear-cut action you are attempting to accomplish?

●      Measurable – How will you quantify your goal to track progress?

●      Achievable/Attainable – Is your goal something that you can realistically do?

●      Relevant – Why are you setting this goal? How does it relate to your life?

●      Timely – What is the timeframe that you’d like to have this accomplished? Remember to set a realistic and healthy timeframe for your specific goal.

Step 4: Cope ahead.

Coping ahead is a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skill that encourages a person to be mindful in considering the stress or obstacles they may face to plan how to overcome them. When coping with your New Year’s Resolutions, identify the intrinsic and extrinsic obstacles that could stand in your way and plan how to respond to ensure you stay on track.

Step 5: Action plan.

After reflecting, prioritizing, creating SMART goals, and coping ahead, it is time to create your action plan. Identify 2-3 actions that you can take to begin working towards achieving your New Year’s Resolutions.

New Year’s Resolutions tradition has evolved into a personal commitment to self-improvement. Common challenges can be overcome with mindful resolution-setting and involve self-reflection, prioritization, and creating SMART goals aligned with one’s authentic self. Incorporating coping strategies to anticipate obstacles and developing a focused action plan will enhance the likelihood of sticking to the New Year resolution. Individuals can set realistic, meaningful goals by approaching resolutions mindfully and experiencing personal growth and positive change in the new year.

Julianna Thompson LAPC, Hillside Therapist