Every year, well-intentioned people make resolutions as New Year’s Eve approaches … and end up failing to achieve them. According to Psychology Today, 80 percent of people who set New Year goals abandon them. That’s because making behavioral changes is one of the toughest things a person can do. Breaking old patterns and creating new, healthy habits take time and dedication.
This year, why not try preparing for the new year by making New Year goals and New Year’s resolutions that are both meaningful and realistic? You can foster positive and proactive New Year goals by taking an integrated approach to cultivating happiness and wellness—an approach that takes into account each aspect of who you are: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual.
The Mental Aspect of Preparing for the New Year
When we talk about the mental aspect of ourselves, we’re referring to our analytical mind—the rational, focused, logical part of the brain. Here are two ways to use those right-brain skills to create an organized plan for achieving our goals.
Be specific and realistic about your 2020 New Year goals.
It’s natural to want to start a new year by changing just about everything. But you’ll have a better chance of succeeding if you limit the number of New Year’s resolutions you make. By being specific about your wellness goals and realistic about what you hope to achieve, you can focus on measurable, attainable results. Take it step by step. For example, if you want to start a daily meditation practice, begin with just a few minutes of meditation a day. Then, once you establish the habit, consider lengthening the time. You can add other wellness goals later if you are successful with the first ones you set.
Use visualization techniques to imagine your path to your goals.
Visualization techniques can support you in achieving New Year goals. But science shows that visualizing success by imaging your biggest fantasy becoming a reality—for example, winning the lottery or writing a bestseller—isn’t all that helpful. In fact, fantasizing about an idealized future can sap our energy for following through, according to research. However, when we visualize ourselves going through the steps it takes to succeed, we have a greater chance of reaching our goals. For example, in a University of California study, one group of students visualized themselves getting a great grade on an exam, and another group visualized themselves studying for the exam. The studying group put more time into preparing and did better than the students who visualized themselves getting a good grade.
Preparing for the New Year on an Emotional Level
While mental focus is important, that alone isn’t usually enough to help us achieve important New Year goals and stick with New Year’s resolutions. We also need emotional motivation. And we often need to address the emotional sticking points that can come with shifting our habit patterns. Here are two tips for preparing emotionally for the year ahead.
Express your goals in a vision board.
Tune into the emotions connected with your New Year’s goals by creating a visual representation of what inspires you and what you want more of in your life in 2020. To help you take an emotion-based rather than analytical approach, go analog and use magazines, scissors, and glue to create a collage of images and words. Once it’s finished, keep your 2020 vision board in a prominent place so it can inspire you every day.
Don’t punish yourself for not being perfect.
As noted above, the success rate when it comes to New Year’s resolutions and New Year goals is not very high. So don’t punish yourself if you’re having a hard time establishing new health goals or breaking an unhealthy habit. Studies show that people who are self-compassionate are actually more motivated to improve themselves. Be gentle, forgive yourself, and start again.
Preparing for the New Year with Physical Health in Mind
Because the mind and body are intimately connected, physical health supports mental and emotional health. Along with setting long-term health goals for 2020, consider these two tips for starting off the year.
This might seem like it comes out of left field, but in fact, it does apply to almost all New Year goals and New Year’s resolutions. When we don’t drink enough water and get dehydrated, we lose focus and become less effective across the board. Staying hydrated supports your body and mind, increasing your strength and endurance so you can more easily make behavioral changes.
Start off the year with a digital detox.
Unplugging for a day, a weekend, or longer will help you reset and start fresh in the new year. Frequent use of technology releases dopamine in the brain, and the ongoing alerts coming from our devices put us in a constant state of fight-or-flight. Therefore, a digital detox supports the health of the nervous system. Moreover, unplugging leaves more time for activities that enhance both physical and mental health, such as exercise, time in nature, and cooking healthy meals.
The Spiritual Aspect of Pursuing Healthy New Year Goals
In the book 8 Ways to Wellbeing for Recovering People, author Sonnee D. Weedn, PhD, describes spirituality like this: “Spirituality includes a belief in a power operating in the universe that is greater than oneself, a sense of interconnectedness with all living creatures, an awareness of the purpose and meaning of life, and the development of personal values.” In preparing for the new year, connecting with your purpose, meaning, and values will support you in identifying your goals and making positive change.
Explore your New Year goals in a journal.
Writing in a journal helps you clarify your goals and break them down into manageable steps. Ask yourself questions like: What matters most to me? What will support me in feeling more connected to others and to myself? Write what comes naturally, without thinking about it beforehand or judging it afterward. In addition, by keeping a journal and writing in it every week, you can see your progress along the way, and notice what you need to do next in order to move forward. And when your progress feels slow, you can look back at the beginning of the journal and recognize how far you’ve come.
Be grateful for each mini-goal you achieve.
When it comes to 2020 New Year goals and 2020 New Year’s resolutions, progress takes time. Focus on setting and achieving mini-goals—and when you do, take time to savor them and to appreciate your hard work and dedication. Research shows that cultivating and expressing gratitude builds self-esteem and resilience—two qualities that will reinforce your progress forward. Moreover, gratitude supports a sense of spiritual connection by helping us notice and enjoy the beauty and goodness all around us.
Finally, when it comes to 2020 New Year’s resolutions, the ultimate goal is to be healthy and happy, in every aspect of our ourselves and along each step of the way.
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