Every New Year, twitter trends with New Year messages and we start to review and plan our New Year’s Resolutions in earnest – join a gym; lose weight; drink less; eat less; work less. Whatever our resolutions are, large or small, they normally stem from some aspect of ourselves that we’re not happy with – we have told ourselves that we’re “too fat”, “work too hard”, that we are “not fit enough” – and from that we set a resolution to “be better” for the next few months. If we fail to meet our goal or keep the resolution up, it sometimes reinforces the critique that led us to making it in the first place.
So what if we don’t need to reinvent ourselves in 2016 because we are OK with how we are? What if instead of looking at what we wanted to change, at New Year we reflected on what we are grateful for? What if we set out intentions around growing in those areas, noticing the good things, being kind to ourselves in times of difficulty and extending that kindness to those around us? What if all we need to change is our approach to what is happening, and if we didn’t set end goals but set intentions each day?
Mindfulness involves individually paying attention to each moment, on purpose, and without judgement. Doing this can help us stop building the internal storylines and critical reviews we so often write for ourselves – we can stop, watch, and just ‘be who we are, in that particular moment’, rather than being pulled along by a story which often takes us to a conclusion of ‘being not good enough’ and needing to change.
When we are stressed or unhappy our desire to change becomes even greater: we can often get caught up in storylines or negative critique automatically and travel with them to a foregone conclusion – we feel out of control, our ability to give ourselves space, step back and observe what is happening in our minds is hampered and the narrative becomes self-perpetuating.
By practising mindfulness, we can explore the simple but liberating concept that “thoughts are not facts”, and don’t therefore define who we are or what we should do in any given moment. By doing this, we learn to step back, observe, and often make wiser and more effective decisions as a result.
If I set myself a New Year's Resolutions list that uses this approach it might include:
keep practising mindfulness,
appreciate the good things,
continue to stay in touch with family, friends and people who are important to you,
be kind to yourself when times are difficult, and
give yourself space when needed.
These are all things that shouldn’t be taken for granted – they won’t simply happen without any effort on my part, but when I write that sort of list, it actually seems much more achievable and likely to be of benefit in the long run. Happy 2016 everyone!
Next Mindfulness Course starting Jan 17th – see www.calmcitymind.com/classes for more details.