Mindful New Year’s resolutions

Making mindset a priority for the new year.
Published January 5, 2020

Can you believe it’s already that time again? A brand-new year is upon us, and with it, a brand-new chance to make New Year’s resolutions and change our lives for the better.

When we make New Year’s resolutions, we often focus on external goals, like losing weight or saving money. But this year, consider going in a different direction and explore some mindset-related resolutions.

“New Year’s is a time to make a fresh, positive start, and that must include a positive mindset as well as forming new habits, such as self care” says reflexologist Amy Sussex, who owns Revive As Wellness in London, Ontario.

“I prefer to use resolutions that offer a positive affirmation such as ‘I will treat my body with the respect it deserves’ or ‘I will eat healthy, nourishing food,’ as opposed to ‘I won't eat candy’ or ‘I will not fail in my exercise program,’ she says. “You deserve positive thoughts, and that includes healthy, happy, encouraging resolutions.”


Donna Cameron, author of A Year of Living Kindly, recommends two powerful mindset-based resolutions that can benefit anyone.


Choose Kindness: “There’s growing evidence that people who are routinely kind get relief from chronic pain, stress, and insomnia, and they have increased happiness, optimism, and self-worth,” Cameron says. “Kindness has also been shown to be good for the heart and [to] slow aging. Additionally, it improves our relationships and alleviates social anxiety. In the business world, a kind work environment helps employees feel more engaged, improves morale, builds loyalty, reduces absences, and increases profits.”


But just “be kinder” is a rather broad resolution, Cameron says, so it’s best to do it in increments.


“Rather than declare you are going to be the next Mother Teresa, resolve at first to be five per cent kinder. Each morning, think about where your kindness might be needed and remind yourself to pause before responding. Pausing allows us to give the benefit of the doubt and assume good intent, rather than take offence or rush to judgment about other people.”


Once you feel like you’ve mastered that five per cent, you can add another five, and then another.


“Pretty soon, kindness will become your default setting,” Cameron says.


Stop Keeping Score: “Notice all the ways you may keep score with your family, friends, and colleagues,” she says, such as: “I emptied the dishwasher last time – it’s your turn”; “I’m not going to call her – it’s her turn to call me”; “We had them over for dinner last – it’s their turn to have us.”


“Remember that we never know what’s happening in other people’s lives that may make it hard to reciprocate. Does it really matter whose ‘turn’ it is?” Cameron says. “When we keep score in our relationships, joy vanishes. Letting go of mental tallies and ledgers frees our minds from resentment, grudges, and disappointments. Relationships aren’t competitions – nobody wins unless everybody wins.”


If fitness and weight loss are goals you’d like to focus on in 2019, physical therapist and naturopathic lifestyle coach Dr. Lisa N. Folden, who owns Healthy Phit Physical Therapy & Wellness Consultants in Charlotte, North Carolina, has some suggestions for mindset-focused resolutions to help bring those goals to fruition:

  1. Decrease thoughts about food.
  2. Repeat the following daily affirmations:
  • I am healthy
  • I am in control
  • Food does not control me
  • Cravings do not control me
  • I am brilliant
  • I have so much to offer
  • I contribute to this world in a positive way
  • I am happy
  • I create my own happiness
  • I am strong
  1. Perform one random act of kindness (per week or month) to a stranger.
  2. Compliment someone once a week.
  3. Learn to accept compliments from others openly and with joy.
  4. Smile more times than you frown in a day.
  5. Write a list of your positive attributes and keep it hanging where you can see it throughout the year.
  6. Refocus your wellness journey on things such as strength, flexibility, and endurance (rather than on weight and size).
  7. Recognize and acknowledge when you are eating for emotional reasons and consider a different outlet.
  8. Spend five to 10 minutes in quiet/meditation/prayer time at least four days a week.
  9. Learn something new in your career field once each quarter. 

Another key to new year’s resolution success is breaking your resolution down into actionable steps. Simply saying “I want to fix my relationship with my neighbour” or “I want to become a better listener” won’t get you very far. You need to know how you’re going to do it.

New York-based attorney, mediator, and author Nance L. Schick recommends making a list of 12 actions you can take to help you reach your goal – one action for each month of the new year. She uses the goal of learning a new language as an example, and breaks it into 12 possible steps:

  1. Buy a textbook on the language.
  2. Register for a class on the language.
  3. Practise on Duolingo or a similar app.
  4. Find a partner to practise with.
  5. Check out from the library a children’s book in the language.
  6. Learn about the history of the language.
  7. Read about the culture of a place where the language is spoken regularly.
  8. Save for a trip to practise the language.
  9. Attend a meetup/event to practise speaking.
  10. Watch a TV show in the language.
  11. Use sticky notes to label items in your home with the foreign language equivalent.
  12. Travel to a location where the language is spoken regularly.


“The goal is to make [your resolution] a part of your life, so spread out the actions and adopt them fully,” she says. “Don’t rush to a result or expect an overnight success. Focus on who you want to become: a person with mutually powerful, loving, and supportive relationships; financially free; fit, healthy, happy, and active; bi-lingual; fearless; etc.”