A Mindful New Year: Tips for Making and Keeping Your Best Resolution Yet
Carefully hung ornaments and strings of lights are taken down and packed away. Family and friends have gone home, back to their schedules and routines. The pressure is off and you consider what might lie ahead on the clean slate of a new year.
“This is the year!” you think to yourself as you imagine all the ways you can resolve to be better. Resolutions to exercise more, eat healthier, spend less and get organized may be among them. But just when you thought you could take a breather from those usual holiday pressures, a new reality sets in.
For millions of people each year, January is the most depressing month of the year. Debt is exacerbated by holiday spending, dark and frigid winter weather can be relentless, and many times those resolutions that were so exciting just a couple weeks ago turn to failures.
There’s one resolution many may be missing that can provide a way to cope with and maybe even get ahead of this period.
“Setting a goal to begin a meditation practice or to be more mindful could change your life for the better,” said Jude Johnson, MA, LMFT, behavioral health therapist at Monarch.
Meditation doesn’t require a membership, a monetary cost or for you to be anything else other than who you are at the present moment. The National Institutes of Health defines meditation as a mind and body practice. Becoming more aware, or mindful, of thoughts, feelings, and sensations and observing them in a nonjudgmental way is at the foundation of meditating.
It's ironic to set a goal to be more mindful, when mindfulness is more about being who you are, than it is about doing anything in particular. However, Johnson advises, if we don’t set goals or have a plan to accompany our vision, then we are likely going to continue our usual habits and routines.
“Remember to be kind to yourself in the process, rather than being overly critical and judgmental. It is not helpful to focus on what you are unable to afford or what you failed to do throughout the year. Yet, it is helpful to be kind,” said Johnson. “In order to give to others, we must first give to ourselves.”
Mindfulness and meditation can be instrumental in reducing stress, burnout and fatigue. Some of the primary benefits of mindfulness observed through the research are greater focus and concentration, as well as an increased resilience from challenging events. As a result, this practice can help improve your performance at work, school, home and even when you’re tackling those other resolutions.
If you’re ready to start now, Johnson recommends some small steps and reminders you can use right away.
“The first step could be reading this article. The next could be downloading a free meditation app like Insight Timer. This app provides guided meditations, logs your meditation activity and provides a sense of community with more than three million fellow meditators,” said Johnson.
“If you are not ready for a large time commitment, you can start by committing to a regular time to practice each day. If you have little or no experience in meditation, start out with brief meditations. Maybe commit to one to ten minutes a day. Try just committing to one minute a day and then if you go longer, you are exceeding your expectation, which reduces the chances that you feel like a failure. Many people also give up on meditation too quickly because they think they’re doing it wrong. They believe they’re thinking too much or that they should be able to clear their mind during meditation. Meditation is not about stopping thoughts or experiences; it’s rather about learning to relate to those experiences as a kind and friendly observer.”
For more information and guidance on mindfulness and meditation techniques, check out consider these books and online resources:
Akeenmind.com with Jude Johnson
10-minute introduction to mindfulness with Andy Puddicombe
Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson
True Refuge or Radial Acceptance by Tara Brach