New year, new me. It’s a phrase that might seem less relevant now, but alas is one that perfectly captures the sentiment behind resolutions for the rest of the year ahead. The start of the calendar year, the beginning of a new you. One who loves the gym and hates junk food.
Yet, inevitably it’s a phrase that can’t be said in full sincerity. In fact, studies have found that fewer than ten per cent of people manage to keep their resolutions for more than a few months.
So, if you’ve hit February and struggling to hold onto the well meant intentions, you’re not alone. And while new you may seem to consistently revert back to old you, it doesn’t have to always be this way. In fact, we believe that resolutions can be achieved through embracing one thing in particular – mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Simply put, mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing on and accepting the present moment. Here, you’re fully focused on what you’re doing and where you are.
It’s a concept that seems easy enough, but mindfulness is something that takes practice.
Mindfulness needs to be experienced to be fully understood. While you’re getting back in the groove of work, school and the everyday, try to focus completely on the present. Don’t think about your house that needs tidying, the groceries you forgot to get or what you’re doing for dinner – stick firmly in the present.
Now you’re more familiar with mindfulness, let’s explore how it can help with your resolutions.
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Stop trying to be perfect
Part of the problem with resolutions is the importance people put on change. For many, the beginning of the year doesn’t just offer a chance to start fresh, but carries with it the fresh hope of completely eradicating bad habits and replacing them with good ones. Change isn’t achieved overnight, especially if the time for making this change occurs when there’s such beautiful weather and holidays.
So instead of aiming for the stars, look for the steps that will help you get there. Lisa Williams, a Senior Lecturer at The University of New South Wales’ School of Psychology, describes it as setting a range for your goals.
“Take going to the gym,” says Williams, “Rather than resolving to go five days a week for 52 weeks, aim for three to six times a week for 48-52 weeks. This allows for times when you can’t meet your exact goal. It leaves you bottom end leeway, whilst at the top end, you can exceed your goal – and that feels really good. You can pick up benefits from both ends.”
And if you do happen to have a bad week at the gym, simply accept it and continue to move forward. After all, you don’t have to be perfect to make improvements.
When we set out to make a change, it’s almost always addressing something that troubles us. Very rarely do people want to run more because they love working up a sweat, instead they want to do something about their weight or fitness. Likewise, when people vie to take care of their mental wellbeing they aren’t motivated by a brighter future, but rather spurred on by fears of what poor mental health can bring.
And while these two examples are great goals to have, it can be hard to stick to them when positive thinking isn’t as involved. That’s where mindfulness comes in.
Take the running example again. Going for a run while practicing mindfulness can be especially liberating. By doing this, you are focused on your breathing and what your body is telling you. More importantly, you’re not worried about feeling tired later or stopping mid-run. If it happens, it happens, you can simply pick back up where you left off.
You will gain so much accepting the present, rather than worrying about the future or getting bogged down by the past. Most importantly, you might actually enjoy the run.
Everyone goes through tough times
One of the key parts to ticking to your resolutions is change. Change is hard, and because it’s hard it can also be quite stressful. Add to this some of the stresses we go through in real life and it’s easy to see how adversity can get the best of most when it comes to setting their goals for the year.
A classic trap people fall into here is letting one bad thing set the tone for their day and in turn their week and from there, letting it all spiral downwards. Make no mistake, change is hard, but – as mentioned earlier – it’s also something that isn’t going to happen overnight.
This is another moment where mindfulness can be ideal. Say, for example, you have a bad day of eating and don’t exercise like you planned to. Instead of getting down on yourself, move on. You’ve got tomorrow ahead of you and know the exact steps you need to take to achieve your goals.
There are always going to be bad days, but it’s important to remember that there will always be good ones too.
Don’t worry if you’re reading this article and you already feel like you haven’t stuck to your goals. You don’t have to wait until the end of the year to try these techniques – treat the start of the next week or month as your time to reset and refocus. After all, there’s no time like the present!