A Toast to the New Year!
When I think of New Years I think of two things. The first is: joyful imagery consisting of champagne toasts and receiving midnight kisses surrounded by family and friends. The second, more prominent is the notion of New Year’s resolutions. You may be surprised to hear, but I am not a fan. In fact, I will go as far as to say that creating and trying to stick to a New Year’s resolution is down right unhealthy.
The proof is in the pudding. Just read the definition of resolution: A firm and unwavering decision to do or not do something. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds pretty dramatic and extremely unrealistic. It is no wonder that the majority of people who resolve to get healthy wind up canceling their gym memberships a few months into the year.
The reality is that we are imperfect beings. We are inherently flawed and that is okay. Research indicates that we only have about 15 minutes a day of willpower stored up. That’s right 15 minutes in a 24-hour span. That is why it is so much easier to make healthier choices earlier in the day. By the time dinner rolls around, all of your willpower has been used up on chasing kids around the house or attending to responsibilities at work.
So instead of trying to rely on a faulty system, let’s re-frame the focus. For starters, let’s drop the notion of resolution and introduce the concept of intention. An intention is: An aim that guides action. The intentions that we set for ourselves remind us of what is important; like getting healthy. It is gaining access to an internal compass. When we form the intention to live a healthier lifestyle, that intention helps to shape our choices and actions.
Although it may be surprising to some, most of our choices are actually guided by unconscious habitual patterns. Each time a person engages in a behavior the neural pathways in his/her brain become stronger. That person is therefore then more likely to engage in that behavior in the future. So if you are 40 years old, you have a lot of years of conditioning to work through. Don’t be alarmed. The brain is malleable and with the right intentions, behavioral change can occur.
The practice of mindfulness helps us to become aware of our individualized habits. It allows us to notice when we are being seduced by distraction or carried away into that unawareness abyss. Mindfulness increases the likelihood that we will be more present in our own lives and better able to stay in touch with what we care about the most.
So why don’t you take a few moments to think about what truly matters to you.
Then follow these tips to maximize your intentions.
Recognize that you will mess up. We are not aiming for perfection, just progress. Start small if that helps!
Allow for self-compassion. Understand that your brain is used to behaving in one way and it is going to put up a fight when you start making changes. That is okay!
Don’t attach too much meaning to specific days. There is no good reason to wait for Monday or New Year’s Day. Today works just fine!
Keep a daily journal. Writing your thoughts down not only makes you more accountable, but it also helps you to identify those unhealthy behavioral patterns!
Create a vision board. A vision board is a wonderful reminder of what you truly want in life and it’s a powerful motivator to enact on achieving your goals!