Setting New Year’s resolutions? Let mindfulness help you reach them


by Alessandra Stasnopolis, RDN, LDN

Dec 19, 2023

With the new year quickly approaching, many people—maybe you—are starting to think about the New Year's resolutions they’ll be setting for 2024.

Goals can be a great way to focus your energy and attention on things you want to accomplish. However, every year most of us fall short of their New Year's resolutions; studies suggest that fewer than 10% of Americans stick with them. The reasons for this are endless because after all, we’re all human. We can find an excuse for almost anything.

But many times, it boils down to the fact that the resolutions were unrealistic, extreme or maybe just something you forced yourself to do. Setting goals like this almost always leads to failure.

To be clear, failure is not a bad thing. But if you were set on achieving a specific goal, it can feel like a huge setback.

What if instead of focusing on setting New Year’s resolutions, you focused on incorporating more mindfulness into your goal setting in 2024? Mindfulness can be a more realistic approach for many people and help them achieve their goals in a productive way.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is defined as being aware in the present moment and acknowledging your current thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. This technique is derived from Hinduism and Buddhist philosophies dating back thousands of years ago and is commonly incorporated into yoga practices as well.

How can mindfulness help achieve our goals?

By incorporating mindfulness into your goals or intentions for 2024, you avoid setting unrealistic expectations. Instead, you focus on setting small, achievable goals that you work on over time while tuning into your emotions, intentions and actions. Having a plan and integrating mindfulness into that plan can help you be successful.

Here are four steps I use to help me set manageable goals all year long.

Step 1: What are you trying to achieve?

Decide what you want to accomplish in 2024. Maybe it's saving for a down payment on a house or to start exercising more. Figure out your overall goal and then scale it down. So instead of saying that by the end of 2024, you’ll have a 20% down payment saved, you start with saving X amount of dollars each week or month. By focusing on smaller, more realistic checkpoints on your way to your big goal, you are incorporating mindfulness.

Step 2: What are your barriers and motivations?

This is one place where awareness aspect of mindfulness is really helpful. Identifying actions or situations that could prevent you from achieving your goals before you start working toward them can help you avoid roadblocks and be more successful.

This step is when your actions or habits can assist with anything you are trying to accomplish. It shows you are in tune with how you function as a human being, which is a huge factor in behavioral changes and achieving success. Addressing your motivations can also keep you going when you are struggling to maintain your goals. Reminding yourself that, “I’m doing this so I can save for a house,” or “I’m working on increasing exercise so my mental health and digestion are better,” can buoy you during rough patches.

Step 3: Check in with yourself

Each day or a few times a week, do a mental check-in to ask yourself questions about your goals and how you feel about them. “Do I feel this goal is realistic?” “Is this goal making me miserable or does it feel empowering/doable?” “Where am I struggling and where am I doing well?”

Incorporating mindful check-ins like this help you track your progress and decide if you need to re-assess your goals.

Step 4: Reassess or continue

After checking in, if you find that you need to reassess or tweak your goals, that's 100% okay. Life can’t be all or nothing; you have to learn to live in the gray areas. Reassessing a goal because it’s stressing you or you want to change courses is not a bad thing. By being mindful of what you need, you’ll be more successful than someone who feels forced to stay with a rigid resolution that doesn’t fit their life.

Incorporating mindfulness into your New Year's intentions or goals can often be a better approach than setting grand resolutions that you have little chance of reaching. Mindfulness is a great tool that can be used in all aspects of life and help you be more successful in 2024.

Looking for suggestions to manage your health year round? Subscribe to our Scrubbing In newsletter for weekly wellness tips delivered right to your inbox.

About the Author

Alessandra Stasnopolis, RDN, LDN, is a clinical dietitian and wellness coordinator in the Baylor Scott & White Health wellness department.

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