For a little while, I thought about writing a rather negative post about things that will make you fail your New Year’s resolution. There really are quite a few things that can contribute to someone’s failure. However, after the bizarre year that 2016 was for most of us, I realised that no one needs any more negativity at the start of 2017. Moreover, we are far more likely to succeed with something if we have a happy, positive feeling about it. Focusing on negatives that could contribute to one’s failure before we even give aspirations a chance to come to life does not make for a good beginning at all. I realise that a lot of the positive things that have happened to me this year have all been supported and consolidated from practising mindfulness. So, a far better and more positive message to give to any reader this New Year is why combining mindfulness alongside your resolutions will help you achieve your aspirations.
Mindfulness encourages a person to live in the present moment and take each moment as it comes. I appreciate many people could view ‘living in the present’ as a clichéd phrase. Indeed, I often thought this myself, however, it is no reason to not try mindfulness and meditation. When practising mindfulness it can be hard to focus on the breath and the present moment. The mind wanders and chatters away – it is so easy to get lost. However, there are those serene moments where everything stays still and you truly are present. It is these moments during mindfulness and the overall effect of trying to be present that can help you achieve your New Year’s resolutions.
Firstly, when trying to achieve a goal, it is easy to get wrapped in the future and the various possibilities. For example, often when trying to lose weight I have day dreamed about being in great shape and having an ‘ideal’ body. When I snap back to reality, I realise how difficult the task can be to achieve and from this moment failure often looms. Mindfulness allows us to observe how the mind wanders and that we don’t have to indulge in our thoughts. Having the understanding that our minds get carried away with where and what we want to be allows us to stay focused and content will all that needs to happen before we can achieve these results. It allows us to realise that the present is all we have and that the process of how we get to things is often far more rewarding than the end goal. If you are interested in the nature of achievement. Gwen Bradford’s philosophical enquiries provide an interesting debate.
Another thing I have noticed about others and myself since I have started mindfulness is that our minds can lead us to believe that something is bound to happen. For example, your friends invite you out for dinner; you are now bound to eat a huge burger with all the trimmings and a large chocolate fudge sundae for desert. At university, I saw a friend with a drug problem ‘quit’ countless times. His failure would come when he was invited for a night out, before it had even happened he ‘knew’ that he was going to take drugs. He believed it was bound to happen and nothing could change this. It simply isn’t the case that things are bound to happen! I can’t stress that enough! We all have the ability to choose our own paths. Mindfulness’s focus on the present allows us to realise that the future does not exist until it actually happens. So, any way in which we imagine the future has not yet come to pass and how we act allows us to mould the future in ways that can suit us. So, before going out for a large meal, you can practise mindfulness and realise that you can eat healthily and you can choose to do right by your New Year’s diet. Before going for a night out, you can practise mindfulness and realise you have the strength to not take drugs and if you don’t have that strength yet, then you have the option to not go out.
When practising mindfulness we become more aware of our thoughts. We try to observe them and not judge them, we learn more about ourselves and how our mind works. Often, thoughts can be so scattered. For example, today my thoughts kept returning to how I had to move my car when I had finished practising mindfulness. Returning to and fro from this thought would usually leave me annoyed at my repeated thoughts and anxious to complete the task. However, whilst practising mindfulness I could simply observe this source of unrest and be mindful of it in the future. So, when we practise mindfulness alongside our New Year’s resolutions we are wiser to our thoughts and how they can affect us and in turn the things we aspire to do.
However, it is not only these seemingly trivial thoughts that are to be observed when practising mindfulness. Occasionally I find my mind wandering upon a wonderful thought. Whilst, it is encouraged not to judge a thought; I have found there is only so much control I can exercise over my immediate emotions. Let me provide an example, when a friend died a year ago, I spent time meditating trying to make sense of it all. There were a few brilliant moments where a thought about him or our relationship brought me to tears with happiness as I came to terms with his death. These moments really helped me. When practising mindfulness, we could stumble across a really life affirming thought, for example, “You are strong enough to persevere”. We can observe this thought like all the others, but they may leave you with a great feeling. Practising mindfulness can help us utilise these thoughts to help succeed with whatever goal we have set ourselves.
These are but a few reasons on why mindfulness can help you achieve your New Year’s resolutions. However, there is plenty of research outlining the other benefits of mindfulness; another article surmises a few. I understand that for some it all sounds too good to be true and that we can’t always live mindfully in the present moment. Indeed, this may be the case, but we can find time to meditate and endeavour to be mindful where possible. In those moments where you strive towards mindful living, you can contribute greatly towards whatever worthwhile goal you are trying to achieve. If you are looking to start mindfulness it is best that you search consult a teacher. If not, Thich Nhat Hanh’s simple books on mindfulness are a great place to start and there is also a plethora of resources and guided meditations on the internet to choose from. So, why not give mindfulness a go alongside your New Year’s resolutions? Feel free to leave your New Year’s resolutions below, or private message me if you want some advice.
Happy New Year!