Mindful Monday no. 16 – Setting Intentions for the New Year

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If the early days of the new year has motivated you to write down resolutions for 2016, you are not alone. At this time of year, many people make lists of things they’d like to change. A shift in diet, increased exercise, and breaking habits are common goals. While your intentions may be good, you might have experienced the disappointment that can come with broken resolutions. It has been reported that gyms see up to a 35% increase in membership sales in January, but that 18% of new members cease to come in February. Many trade holiday sweets for salads for awhile, but find themselves stopping for fast food more often than they’d like before winter is over.

Setting and breaking resolutions may be common, but it can effect us negatively. When we repeatedly set goals and fail to accomplish them, we may feel guilt, a lack of motivation, and shame. Resolutions are often broken because people create guidelines for themselves that are nearly impossible to follow. Those wanting to increase their activity levels may feel that they must make it to the gym a certain number of times per week. Many hoping to change their diet think they have to stay away from unhealthy foods altogether, and some hoping to change habits make plans to quit cold turkey. When there is a slip-up in these strict rules, people may think that they’ve failed and should give up completely. Before they know it, they’re spending evenings on the couch, over-indulging in sweets, and feeding the habits they’d like to break.

If the above sounds familiar, it may be time to change your plan of attack. Begin by considering the intentions behind your goals. If your resolution is to exercise a certain number of times per week, you may be feeling that your body is not feeling as good as it could be. If you’re thinking a lot about a changing your diet, you may be feeling that you could be eating healthier foods. If you’d like to break a habit, there may be something in your life that you’re continually doing that is not serving you. These voices are worth listening to, and they can influence lasting change.

Before writing a list of resolutions or goals, spend some time reflecting on the previous year. If you’re looking for some guiding questions, click here. Understanding why you want to make changes in your life can help clarify intentions so you can take action.

Once you have spent some time reflecting and your intentions are clear, you may feel that you’d like to set goals so you can see some changes take effect. If you choose this route, remember these key guidelines:

Be kind to yourself. Goals are often thrown out the window when we feel that we’ve failed. We beat ourselves up for breaking one of our own rules, decide there is no point in trying, and soon find ourselves repeating the same patterns we were trying to escape. If you stray from your intentions, accept it, reflect on what caused you to, and try again. Remember to practice self-compassion. Remind yourself that you are making changes and setting goals because you care about yourself.

Do not create goals that result in feelings of lack. When people set goals to change habits, they often go off track because they feel that there is something missing in their lives. They’re missing watching their favourite show because they’re at the gym, they’re hungry because they’re denying themselves food, or they’re at a loss for how to relax because they’ve quit smoking. Focusing on what’s missing from your life now that you’ve decided to make changes will only cause the need for what you’re giving up to increase. Instead of thinking about what you’re no longer doing, think about what you’re adding. If you’ve begun to exercise, you may feel more energized than usual and might even find that you don’t need as much rest during the day because you’re sleeping better. If you’re focusing on changing your diet, think about adding in healthy foods rather than taking away ones you enjoy. This shift in focus may inspire new recipes and the discovery of new foods. If you’re giving up cigarettes, consider trying meditation or yoga to learn new relaxation tools.

Did you set intentions for the new year? We’d love to hear from you! 

Words by Cassandra Van Dyck

Photo by Perry Miotto

 

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