A Healthy Approach to New Year's Resolutions

Picture this: it’s December 31st, 2019 and the year has come to a close. As you reflect on the past 365 days and look ahead, you feel a sense of content followed by a slight lump in your throat and twinge in your gut as someone asks, “So, what’s your New Year’s Resolution?” 

As kids, New Year’s Resolutions equated to self-improvement and another exciting opportunity to learn, grow, and discover. In adulthood, resolutions prompt sayings like, “2020 is SO my year!”, as if the previous 365 days were made up of miniature failures and disappointments that resulted in a year that failed to meet expectations. In adulthood, we’re fed articles with titles like, “3 Reason You Shouldn’t Make A New Year’s Resolution” and fall privy to the belief that we should stop before we begin because, no matter how hard we resolve to change, we’ll still be avoiding our personal trainer come March 1st.

By definition, a resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something. This also happens to be the basis of a long-lasting habit. An article by Benjamin Gardner, Phillippa Lally and Jane Wardle titled, Making health habitual: The psychology of “habit-formation” and general practice, states that “for new behaviors initially driven by conscious motivation, habit forms when a person (1) makes a decision to act and (2) acts on his or her decision (3) repeatedly, (4) in a manner conducive to the development of cue-behavior associations.” So by defining New Year Resolutions for 2020, we are taking the first step of change by making the decision to form new habits and mindfully move into the new year. 

That resolution, or decision to do or not do something, is a critical point in forming a new habit, as is the repetition that follows. In these early stages of forming a new habit and sticking to our resolutions, our actions and responses to situations are not automatic and require mindfulness, attention, and persistence. Contrary to popular belief, it does not take 3 weeks to form a new habit. Rather, Gardner’s study shows that an action can take over two months to become a habit. Habits are somewhat similar to CBD dosage in that everybody is unique. This, combined with the notion that one habit can be more difficult to change than the next, means that it may take a longer time to form new habits based on the person and the desired goal. 

If we can shift our view of resolutions to healthy habits and goals, we can remove the pressure and negative stigma surrounding resolutions. Here are a few tips to make healthy resolutions for the new year that will last...

Tip 1: Pinpoint Your Goal
You wouldn’t tackle a to-do list by trying to complete every task at the same time, and creating resolutions follows this same practice. Try to narrow down one or two goals for the new year. By doing this, you’ll be able to direct more of your efforts and attention to those specific goals.

Tip 2: Make It Known
This step is essentially setting intentions, which studies have shown is the first, and possibly most important, phase of forming a new habit. By writing down your goal or sharing it with a group, you are further solidifying your intent for change.

Tip 3: Practice Mindfulness
You’ve pinpointed your goals and resolved to change; now it’s time to become aware of your actions in relation to those goals. As we begin to form a new habit, our bodies and minds must be fully in tune to our actions as they’re not yet automatic responses. New habits require a lot of attention, and mindfulness practices like meditation can help you tune in to your body and mind.

Tip 5: Acknowledge The Naysayers
We’re often told to ignore the naysayers, and to some extent that is sound advice. Another approach is to acknowledge negativity, and gently let it pass. Often, acknowledging negative behaviors and mindfully choosing our response is more powerful than ignoring them completely.

Tip 4: Nourish Your Intellectual Health
One way to solidify change is to learn. If your New Year’s Resolution is to incorporate fresh vegetables into your diet, expand your knowledge around that topic, as keeping it top of mind will be a frequent reminder of your goals.

Tip 6: Repeat
You’ve set the foundation for change with resolve, intention, and mindfulness. The last step is to practice! Repetition of the same action in the same scenarios are the final phases of creating a new habit. And don’t worry - a slip-up won’t hinder your progress so long as you return to your intentions.

Interested in deepening your mindfulness practice? Join us for daily meditations and workshops.