A mindful approach to New Year’s resolutions


The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that we become obsessed with notions of success and failure. There is a better approach to carrying out this festive ritual.

Article by Victoria Wood

Ceramic Buddha praying with father christmas hat.

The end of another year approaches, and once we are feeling complete in our celebration of what has just passed, we can open a new chapter and start it with ideals and notions of what we could improve.

People tend to put exaggerated expectations and big changes ahead of themselves, which creates a feeling of pressure to succeed and adds stress to their daily lives.

Following the intensity of the lead up to the New Year, there might just be a more refreshing and uplifting way to live the traditional “New Year’s resolutions” goal quest.   

What does a resolution mean to us? Speaking literally, it is a determined course of action, a firm decision to do something or make something happen. The mental state of being resolved or resolute. 

Mindfulness spiritual practice, a young man sitting on a rock by a calm sea or lake at sunset.
Mindfulness is a spiritual practice that helps us to keep a calm and collected mental state

A resolution is quite final, which does lay a rather concrete path ahead of us for those tricky early January ideals. Could there be a more appropriate terminology to use that would gradually ease us into our new and improved selves? Or perhaps the resolutions could begin with baby steps rather than leaping to a whole new realm?

Whatever we choose to call them, or however we manage to begin our resolutions, we must accept the fact that we are not perfect, and there may well be some slip-ups along the way, and that is OK! One way we can help ourselves to find the right path is to choose to be more mindful in our tasks.

Mindfulness is a spiritual practice which not only helps us to achieve our goals but also aids in keeping a calm and collected mental state. There is a general tension created when we combine patience with determination: we all have a lazy side that battles with our obsessive side. We need to find a balance between them, as neither of these extremes is a comfortable state to be in.

A girl reading a book in a wooden cabin by a wood burning stove.
Perhaps “New Year’s Intentions” would be a better phrase

So, to incorporate a more mindful approach to your New Year’s resolutions, how about changing the context slightly and renaming them your New Year’s ‘intentions’?

Here are some tips on how to incorporate mindfulness when mapping out your intentions.

Stay true to your intentions

What is it that we want to shift, change, transition, remove, add, or alter within our lives? Before we embark on the journey of change, we need to take the time to work out what these things are. Defining our intentions is a process in itself. We can also remind ourselves that as we work through it, our perception may shift, and it is ok to change your intentions as you see fit. We should check in with ourselves as to why these are our intentions and ensure that we are still on the right path for our own fulfilment.

Man and dog walking along the beach
It’s OK to change our intentions as long as we are on the right path for our own fulfilment

Stay present

We can get so overwhelmed with the ideals we want to achieve that we lose sight of the main objective – which is as simple as our happiness. We shouldn’t then beat ourselves up if we haven’t got as far as we had hoped within a certain period of time; so long as the intentions are still there, and we are still happy with them. Practicing mindfulness means that every new day is just that – new – and we are beginning again with our intentions. We need to consistently remind ourselves to remain present rather than let our minds wander towards tomorrow. We must not punish ourselves for not living up to our own expectations but rather allow the next day to be a new beginning. Take a deep breath, meditate, and get back to where you want to be, without judgement. This is mindfulness, the insight to be able to gently reset your mind, taking note of the action itself.

Girl with hat and outstretched arms
We need to consistently remind ourselves to remain present rather than let our minds wander

Stay aware of your progress

We must always keep things real, especially when in the process of change. The best tip to keep in the back of your mind at all times is to always be present with your process. We must try not to only focus on the main goal, but to keep our energy aligned with the progress we are making. So, keep the focus of your attention on the process – not only the result – and enjoy the ride!

and breathe in neon against greenery.
Be present with your process, enjoy the ride and don’t forget to breathe!

Steer clear of old habits

Self-awareness is the mindful key to change and where self-transformation can begin — we need to take stock of our habits, and what has conditioned us to have them, before we can begin to shift out of them. Take a look at the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’ of our habitual living and understand how you got to the place that needs change in the first place – you can then consider ways to make more effective changes.

One of the most poignant and effective practices is, hands down, meditation. It gives us the time and place to realign ourselves, to reset, to become present and check in with ourselves. Allocating a moment in the day to do this will really help us on our mindful path of good intentions.

Line of family and friends on beach looking out to sea at sunset.
Examine your feelings and decide how you would prefer to feel

If this all starts to feel a bit too much, or too little perhaps, you are at liberty to change things to suit your needs. Ways to make clear intentions can include making a vision board, or gratitude board, or a journal. Examine your feelings and decide how you would prefer to feel – how you really want to grow and improve is the ultimate insight into what your new intentions should be. And don’t forget that you may well be living your best life already! Your intention could be to continue just as you are…

Happy New Year to you, however you choose to live it! Happy mindful holidays!

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