We have all started years with grand plans and promises. These resolutions can bring a sense of purpose and a promise of happiness… for about 2 weeks, until they dissolve into guilt for eating that cookie, taking advantage of that huge sale, or not cleaning the house before bed.

Research shows that about 80% of us don’t keep our resolutions past January. We also know that it takes about 2 months to change behavioral patterns, yet we sit down on the 31st of each December to make a bulleted list that we swear, this year, will stick. We set ourselves up for failure. This article talks about the habit formation process and looks at habit formation in a real-world setting.  At our first Mission: Mindfulness session of 2018, we invited participants to shift from making resolutions to creating intentions.

The Latin root for Intention means “To turn one’s attention.” At that session on January 10th, we turned our attention to what’s lurking under our resolutions and how the practice of mindfulness can help us along the way.

Think about habits you have labeled as “bad” or tried to change. Habits that, annoying as they are on their own, are even more so when you think about the copious amount of time spent trying to change them, and all the negative feelings you may have about not being able to. Too often, we try to use will power to change behaviors by cutting them off completely, saying “today is the day I stop eating chocolate.” However, our brain’s behavioral inclinations are very strong; and when we try to resist cravings cold-turkey, we often lose control and fall back into our original pattern of behavior, only now with a new layer of self-judgment.

Mindfulness is simply the art of being present to what is. Think about hard and fast resolutions you’ve set in the past. This year, rather than saying “I’m going to lose 15 pounds,” maybe I say “My intention is to be conscious of the food I put in my body-not to keep myself from eating it all together.” Research shows that simply paying mindful attention to cravings and your body’s responses is more useful than trying to resist the craving altogether; and having an intention rather than a set-in-stone goal can help ward off the guilt we too often feel when our outcome isn’t exactly what we wanted it to be.

It’s the end of January. Maybe you’ve already forgotten your New Year’s resolution? Or, maybe you stopped setting them years ago because they’ve never worked? Try working with an intention this year. Pause for a moment and ask yourself, “How do I want to be in the world and show up every day?”  Don’t judge your response; just write it down, and make it yours.

Even with a well thought out intention, you can expect to stray. Remember that with the support of a mindfulness practice, you can return to your intention without judgment and better accept the reality of imperfection

We hope you can join us next week for February’s session on Wednesday night the 7th. We will meet from 6p-8p on the 5th floor conference room of the Bliss building in Providence. Sign up today for an evening centered around self-compassion.