The start of the new year is often synonymous with making resolutions and goals. We begin the new year by creating long lists of behaviors, habits, and thoughts we’d like to change. These goal-oriented lists may include resolutions related to physical or mental health, happiness, and relationships. Honoring these resolutions takes increased initiative and effort. So how do we create effective goals and remain motivated to accomplish them without feeling overwhelmed?
The answer is twofold. First, we formulate our goals in a manner that helps us achieve them. A way to formulate effective goals is to create SMART goals. Smart goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. A goal is specific when it is well defined; it answers the questions who, what, why and which (resources are necessary). Next, goals should be quantifiable. For example, goals should answer the following questions: how much can be accomplished or how will the goal be accomplished? Goals must also be achievable; the goal should be realistic, meaningful, and within the bounds of your available resources. Finally, goals should incorporate a timeline. Setting a limit for the amount of time you’d like to achieve your goal ensures that everyday tasks do not take priority over long term resolutions.
Second, we successfully engage our resolutions through a healthy balance of drive and mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us process our thoughts and feelings thereby allowing us to deal better with stress and anxiety. Stress reduction may promote increased presence; presence in turn can lead to greater effectiveness. Effectiveness undeniably becomes apart of your daily routine. Striking a balance between increased drive and mindfulness may reduce the daunting feelings that often arise when trying to achieve your goals.
Simple forms of mindfulness that can be incorporated into your daily routine include:
1. Engage in a body scan.
This technique requires very few tools. Simply find a quiet space to sit or lay. If you are sitting, place your feet firmly on the floor and ensure that your palms are face up.
Once situated, begin to focus on your breath. Greater awareness includes noticing your breath’s rhythm, sound, and how it moves in and out. While engaging in this practice, try not to change the way you are breathing. Simply hold gentle awareness of your breath.
Once your breath is stable, focus your attention on your body. Scan all portions of your body from your toes to your face, head, neck, and jawline. Notice areas that feel hyper or hypo sensitive.
If you are new to this practice, feel free to use the following resource from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.
2. Incorporate a mantra.
Find a mantra that fits your thoughts and feelings. Personally, I integrate the following mantra into my everyday mindfulness practice: “This too shall pass.” This mantra reminds me that everything is temporary. Good and bad are not permanent. Feelings come and go. This mantra is a gentle reminder to myself that I am in control.
Other mantra examples include:
Gratefulness & cultivation: “I am grateful for all that is unfolding in my life and all that is yet to come.”
Self-awareness and positive body understanding: “I am enough.”
Strength: “Just keep moving.”
Confidence: “I can do more than I think I can.”