Out of My Mindfulness: New Year’s resolutions revolutions

Out of My Mindfulness: New Year’s resolutions revolutions
Kristine Petterson

A new year has arrived, and revolution is in the air. Not resolutions; those are out. No one actually wants to overwhelm themselves by setting resolutions for a shiny new 5 a.m. meditation practice, brand new car, 10x bank account, designer wardrobe, 75-day smoothie detox or corner office.

This January, let’s do things differently: I’m calling for a revolution in how we treat ourselves and connect with each other.

I encourage you to think about the small changes and shifts you can make that will have a big impact on your quality of life this year. Instead of listening to the voices advertising new, superficial, performative, other-focused resolutions, I urge you to listen instead to a fresh new voice: the one deep inside of you. This revolutionary idea of self-guidance may indeed be a foreign and difficult practice for you, but it will benefit you far more than setting a bunch of half-hearted goals you’ll likely fail or forget by March.

Imagine what this next year might look like if you made choices and took actions that were motivated from deep inside yourself. Intrinsic rewards are intangible and highly motivating (as opposed to extrinsic rewards like stickers, compliments or trophies); they are typically derived from a sense of accomplishment, fun, curiosity and connection. The good feelings that come with these internal rewards are much more powerful and last longer than external rewards, which explains why we easily drop our superficial New Year’s resolutions the minute someone isn’t looking.

However, the thoughts and actions that feel inherently good keep us coming back for more. My New Year’s wish is for you to discover new and inspiring ways you can turn inward to your truth in 2023. Here are six ideas to get you started:

New Year’s Revolution No. 1: Make time for meaningful connections with friends and family. Consider who helps you feel safe, fun and supported so you can create more opportunities to see them regularly, even for a short time. You don’t have to spend hours together to benefit from human connection with your favorite people. Let them know you’d like to set up a regular standing date and see what works for them. On the flip side, give yourself permission to decrease the time you spend with folks who exhaust, overwhelm or fail to appreciate you.

New Year's Revolution No. 2: Seek joy. The new year is a great time to get out your calendar and commit to something that will inspire and excite you, and hopefully make you laugh. Go somewhere breathtaking, create something beautiful, take a class to learn something new or plan a trip to some place you’re curious about. Sometimes seeking joy is about finding new and unique opportunities to explore, but it can also be about making the mundane tasks you’ve got to do anyway more fun. Subscribe to podcasts or use an app to listen to free audiobooks (ask your library about this) while you do the dishes, commute to work or tidy the house.

New Year's Revolution No. 3: Enjoy food, without shame. In the new year you may be tempted to swear off fatty, sweet or salty foods you enjoy because the diet police tell you they are “unhealthy,” but you don’t have to eliminate foods you love to get better nutrition. If the old paradigm is all about taking things away, restricting and shrinking, it’s time to grow, expand and embrace new ideas about how we nourish ourselves. Try adding in nutrient dense food when possible, cooking with seasonal fruits and veggies and exploring new whole grains like farro and wild rice.

New Year's Revolution No. 4: Delight in your body. Do more pain-free activities like hiking, biking, dancing or skating that put a smile on your face, create helpful hormones and get your blood flowing. It doesn’t matter how many calories you burn; the healthiest movement is the kind that feels so good you keep coming back for more, right? Avoid your scale and stop punishing yourself with exercise that hurts, causes injury or floods your body with stress hormones. Your worth has nothing to do with your ability to fit into those jeans from 2019.

New Year's Revolution No. 5: Connect to nature. Spending time in nature helps you to feel more grounded and calms your nervous system, two sweet intrinsic rewards in one. Consciously connect with nature by creating an indoor or protected yard space where you can observe the sky above, the landscape and the sounds of nature surrounding you during any season. Reach out to a knowledgeable friend or local hiking group who can show you new trails or green spaces and help motivate you to create time for nature regularly. If the cold winter weather discourages you from going outside, use plants and other natural materials to create a cozy indoor corner for reading, drinking tea or meditation.

New Years Revolution No. 6: Commit to calm and ease. Invest in the sleep you need (eight to 10 hours is the new normal) for physical and emotional well-being. If you feel overtired after travel, holidays or a demanding work week, it’s important to schedule the time to catch up on missed sleep. Explore relaxation or movement activities that feel good, whether it’s a local class or online instruction. Meditation or Chi Gong may seem like it’s “not working” the first few times, so aim to stick with it for three to five sessions before you drop it. Really notice how you feel before, during and after — if you feel more joy, ease and connection, you’ll stick with it (because: intrinsic rewards). If not, then keep exploring until you hit on the activity that keeps you coming back for more.

You’ll find that the benefits from these activities multiply when you combine them, so take a look at how many new connections you can weave together with friends and family in 2023. Notice along the way how good it feels to work from the inside out, connecting with people, places and actions that inspire and motivate you. Give yourself permission to do what feels good, safe and easy for you this year.

Petterson lives in Moscow with her husband and their two children. She left public education to become a yoga instructor, sleep specialist and mindful parenting educator. Her “revolutions” for 2023 involve more afternoon naps, dancing and potlucks. She loves hearing from the community, so please reach out to her via her website at kristinepetterson.com.