New Year Resolutions Already Failing?

Could be because you aren’t doing this.

by Chimere G. Holmes, LPC, Mental Health Editor

How many resolutions did you make for 2022? The all too familiar ‘R’ word is said more often than “Happy New Year!” No matter how short-lived the actual change, we make a laundry list of resolutions every time that bedazzled ball drops in Times Square.

Declaring all the ways we are going to live our best lives (for real this time), we recite New Year’s resolutions that can feel like the Ten Commandments. “Thou shalt exercise and lose weight.” “Thou shalt spend less money.” or “Thou shalt drink and cuss less.” Why do we make these promises to ourselves, only to fall off the wagon by February 28th?

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New Year’s resolutions impact the psyche because, for a short window of time, obtaining the life we want seems possible. The desire to become happier is the common thread behind every resolution. We wish that we could bid farewell to unhealthy habits and unpleasant memories and  become our best selves.

Perhaps there is something transformational during the first 31 days of the year, but if you are like most people, old (sometimes unhelpful) habits die hard. The good news is, implementing mindfulness-based practices can tap into what you really desire by shifting your attention and focus. Even if it means pausing and restarting, mindfulness can enhance our mental health and realign our resolutions.

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If you make one resolution, let it be this: Practice mindfulness. Here’s why.  

  • Mindfulness contributes to happiness. Perhaps true happiness doesn’t come only from exercising more or dropping 10 lbs. Science shows that mindfulness reduces stress and increases happiness. Mindfulness extends to your physical as well as mental health. There is a long-term pay off to being mindful this year.
  • Mindfulness helps our decision making. Life stressors activate our automatic behaviors, like skipping the gym, staying up late or overindulging in unhealthy food. Some of those bad habits are familiar and possibly feel safe. But being mindful can help us make better choices. Sit with your difficult emotions and think about what is driving your behavior. That may be what is driving your choices.
  • A dose of positivity produces results. Most of our resolutions revolve around negative behavior, bad habits, and what we want to stop doing. Mindfulness leaves room for the positive “what if” perspective. That can fuel hopeful feelings. When we focus on the bigger picture and take our goals one step at a time, we set resolutions that are based on intention and consciousness, instead of hyper focusing on negatives.
  • Progress, not perfection. Truth be told, perfectionism does not exist. The sooner we make peace with this fact, the better off we will be. Mindfulness teaches radical acceptance of what is, through suspending judgment and committing to always moving forward. Research shows that behavioral change can take up to four months to set in and really stick. So, taking small steps but staying on the right path is the way to enact big change.

Big and small daily practices can help usher in a meaningful, mindful new year and welcome all that it can be. Cheers to staying grounded, focusing on the present moment, and lots of deep, belly breaths in 2022. Happy new year and namaste!

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