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Make New Year’s resolutions easy with a mindful approach



You made it through the holidays and you know what that means – New Year’s resolutions are right around the corner! The New Year is a time of excitement. We shed the weight of the past year in exchange for the potential of the coming year. But as most of us know, it’s one thing to set resolutions and another thing entirely to maintain them through the year.

One study by Scranton University found only 19% of people achieve and maintain their resolutions. While 23% of resolution-makers abandon theirs as early as the first week of January [1]. So this year, if you’re worried about seeing your resolutions to success, try embracing a mindful approach to strengthen your resolve and boost motivation. 

What are resolutions?

As defined by Oxford Languages, a resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or not to do something,” and is associated with the qualities of steadfast commitment, dedication, and determination.

People have been striking (and failing to keep) agreements with themselves since our humble beginnings, but New Year’s resolutions in particular date back to the early 19th century [2]. In fact, New Year’s resolutions (and our inability to keep them) were infamous enough that 19th-century authors even took to satirizing them.

The magic of New Year’s resolutions

If you’re one of the naysayers who never make New Year’s resolutions because it’s an arbitrary day, you’re not wrong. There isn’t anything scientifically more powerful about the day itself. But there is something to be said for the meaning (and magic) we give to the end of one year and the beginning of a brand new one.

Packed with unlimited potential, the New Year signals to many the beginning of a “clean slate,” where anything is possible. Considering that the holidays often provide space for relaxation at the end of a long, hard year, it makes sense that our minds naturally take this time to reflect, explore, and dream about where we want to grow next.

From changing our health habits to improving relationships to spending more time engaging in activities we love – the New Year offers space for us to live in our dreams of what we feel would make us happier, healthier, and more fulfilled.

But as any who’ve made resolutions in the past know, it’s one thing to make a pact with yourself, and a whole other thing to see your goal through to the end…

Eating healthy

Common Obstacles to Long-Term Success of New Year’s Resolutions

While resolutions are born of the best intentions, there are many reasons why we may not see them to success. Take a look at the challenges below to see if any resonate with your past experience with resolutions. (You can use this information to get even more creative with firming up your commitment to your resolutions!)

1. Your goals aren’t specific

Goals like “get in shape,” or “change careers,” are not going to propel you into action because they’re too vague. What does it mean to get in shape? What would it take to achieve this goal? It’s important to set specific milestones so you can take intentional and impactful steps towards your goals. (Plus, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’ve arrived?)

2. Your goals focus on the destination (and forget about the journey…)

It’s great to have specific and achievable goals, like “I want to become more present so I can enjoy the little things in life.” But when you only focus on the outcome, it can be difficult maintaining motivation through the hard work of the journey. Instead, resolutions like, “I want to practice meditation for 5+ minutes a day, so I can become more present…” can help you celebrate small, daily wins that fuel your motivation for the long-haul.

3. Your goals are framed negatively

It can be tempting to make a commitment to NOT do something, like to not smoke or to eat less junk food. But it’s actually far more powerful to frame your resolutions through a positive action, rather than a negative one. For instance, think of the last time someone told you not to think about your favorite junk food. You’re already thinking about it, right? Instead of trying to avoid a behavior, give yourself something active you can do. For instance, you could swap out “eat less junk food” with “eat two servings of fruits and vegetables every day.”

4. Your resolutions are based on “should’s” instead of what really excites you

It’s easy to get caught up in popular resolutions like “losing weight,” “getting more active,” “eating more healthily,” or “saving more money” [3]. But if those goals don’t deeply resonate with what you really want – you’re likely setting yourself up for disappointment. So forget the “tried and true” resolutions – choose resolutions that really speak to you!

5. Your goals aren’t realistic

A common pitfall of New Year’s resolutions is that they’re usually made during the holidays after we’ve filled up on time with loved ones and time off work. More often than not, we’re setting resolutions based on how we feel then, rather than looking at how much time, energy, and motivation we’ll have once we get back to work. Plus, if the goals are too big, it’s easy to get stuck in an all-or-nothing mindset that turns a few missed days into throwing in the towel.

Embracing a mindful approach to New Year’s resolutions

Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of the present moment, without judgment. It can be practiced through focused activities like meditation or embraced throughout the day in contemplation, awareness, and reflection.

Well-established research has found that practicing mindfulness, as through meditation practice or mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques, can have a positive effect on stress, anxiety, and depression [4]. Applied to New Year’s resolutions, the principles of mindfulness can help us embrace acceptance and patience as we commit to and actualize our goals on a daily basis. Mindfulness can also help us learn to let go of days we missed our resolution, rather than ruminating on negative thoughts and giving up on resolutions entirely.

Person writing on notebook

Ready to embrace a more mindful approach to your New Year’s resolutions?

Below are a collection of 10 tips to help you strengthen your commitment to your resolutions and maintain your motivation through the new year and beyond. Some may be more helpful to you than others, so try out a few to see what works best for you!

Begin with your intention

Like we mentioned above, don’t focus on the “should’s” or unrealistic destinations. Spend some time reflecting on your values and the activities that really bring joy to your life and use those to detail the milestones you want to hit over the next year.

Infuse mindfulness into your lifestyle

Mindfulness helps train our brains towards greater present-mind awareness, which can give us greater freedom and power over our actions. For this reason, embracing mindfulness can help us stop undesirable habits as they pop up, so we can replace them with behaviors that elevate us towards our goals.

Embrace the journey (not just the results)

In other words, make sure to celebrate the small wins and all the milestones on the way to your ultimate destination.

Really prepare yourself for the reality of your resolution

We may make our resolutions in the rose-colored haze of the holidays, but to see them through to success it’s important to plan out how you’re going to achieve your resolutions once work, life, and reality hits.

Try short bursts of meditation

Even just 5 minutes of meditation can have a positive impact on your wellbeing, helping to reduce stress and expanding our mental wherewithal so we stay patient with ourselves and on track with our resolutions.

Challenge your all-or-nothing mindset

It’s easy to focus on the negative and how many times we’ve fallen short of our resolutions, which makes it hard to stay motivated. Instead, pay attention to all the times you succeed and progress towards your resolutions, and make sure you celebrate those midway milestones!

Own your choices

If you do miss a day, a week, or even a month – own it. Choose to act towards your goal or choose not to. Just don’t give your power away to other people or the situations you find yourself in. If you’re struggling to choose behaviors and actions that support your resolutions, own it and explore it. It may be that there are other, more relevant resolutions you need to prioritize at this point of your life, or that you may need to work harder to challenge habitual behaviors to achieve your current resolutions.

Get creative with how you maintain your motivation!

Share your resolutions with friends and family, create a vision board, listen to podcasts, start a daily meditation practice, set daily phone reminders, create a playlist designed to get you in the right mood for your resolutions – explore what inspires you and build it into your resolutions.

Learn about the science of motivation >

Take stock of all your milestones

I mean it – we often tend to zoom past our successes to focus on our next goals. Instead, slow down – honor the work and commitment it took to reach each milestone, no matter how small. Rewarding and celebrating your work serves a double purpose. Beyond making you feel good, it also strengthens your resolve and makes it easier to perform those new habits consistently.

Treat yourself with kindness

Maybe you’ve missed a day or two or 20 – so what! You are not defined by your resolutions, and who said you were being graded pass-fail anyways? Remember that you’re already perfect, just as you are. It’s okay if you missed a day, a week or even a month. There are no rules when it comes to resolutions, and making yourself feel bad will only make it harder to try again. So remember – above all else, these resolutions are meant to make you feel better and elevate your life. Focus on your wins, and don’t sweat the small stuff. You got this!

Excited by the idea of practicing the art of acceptance, patience, and letting go with meditation, but not sure where to begin?

We at Muse are here to help. Choose from over 500 guided meditations featuring collections designed for sleep, stress, performance, happiness, confidence, and more. Discover how mindfulness and meditation can help you power through your New Year’s resolutions.

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