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Reframe Resolutions for a More Intentional New Year

January 3, 2023
Notepad page reading "I can do anything not everything"

There’s something about turning the calendar and starting a new year that offers a chance to take stock of our lives and see the potential ahead. This natural urge for a fresh start can be a great opportunity to set goals and make positive change. For many people this means setting resolutions.

Even in the best of times resolutions can be difficult to keep and as we enter year three of living with COVID-19, rigid goal-setting may not be a practical exercise. Especially if you’re a parent or caregiver and the newest wave of the pandemic has put you back into survival mode. But if you are feeling motivated for a change, it may be helpful to rethink traditional new year’s resolutions and try setting intentions this year instead.

Resolutions vs. Intentions

Intentions and resolutions are very similar in that they both cause you to reflect on and identify what you value.

The difference is that resolutions are hard fast goals—often a specific thing that you want to do or change—which means that in the end they are either achieved or broken. Resolutions are so hard to keep because research shows that long-term behaviour patterns usually can’t be changed overnight.

Intentions on the other hand are broader and more focused on the motivation or purpose behind the change, not just the end result. Intention-setting increases your chance for success because there are many paths towards your ultimate goal. For example, a resolution to exercise for a half-hour every day leaves no room for error. If you miss a day or only have time for a 20-minute workout, you’ve already failed. The intention to ‘take better care of my body,’ can mean eating less processed food, drinking more water, trying out a friend’s spin bike, getting outside every day, and so on. Even after a bad week, you can adjust, keep going and figure out what works best for you.

Tips for Setting Intentions

Setting intentions can sound less focused, but it helps lay the groundwork so you can shift your behaviour and reach your goals. It may be easy for you to identify what you want to focus on this year, but if you need some help, here are a few recommendations:

  • Start with gratitude. A great approach to developing your intention for 2022 is to write down all the things that you’re grateful for, both big and small. Try keeping your list handy for a few days and add to it whenever you think of something that you appreciate or value. After acknowledging what’s going right in your life and is most important to you, you’ll get more clarity around what you want to improve on.
  • Find your motivation. After this gratitude practice, look for patterns to help you figure out what you want to do more (or less) of. Maybe you appreciated the slower pace over the last year, and now you’re feeling overcommitted and stressed out and want to adjust how you spend your time. In this case, your intention could be to, ‘slow down’. Or, if you really value your connections with friends and family but have been experiencing a lot of unnecessary conflict, you could try to, ‘let more things go’. Intentions can also be something as simple as choosing a single word to embrace throughout the year—more joy, self-love, movement or kindness, for example.
  • Make it stick. Consider posting your intention on your fridge, bathroom mirror, phone background, or on a vision board. Displaying your intention will be a daily reminder and hold you more accountable. It can also be helpful to share what you’ll be focusing on with family or friends to keep you on track and so you can celebrate any wins together.
  • Track and grow. Some people find it motivating to keep an ongoing note on their phone or to start a journal tracking their steps in the right direction. If your intention is to ‘be inspired’ for example, write down when you try a new restaurant, finish a book, improve something around the house or take a vacation day to do something that you love. There are many mental health benefits to journaling and this process will help you better integrate your intention into your actions. Check-in throughout the year and if what you feel or want has changed, let your intention evolve as well.

As we enter another year of unprecedented times, intentions may be a helpful way to evaluate what’s important, make positive change and do more of what makes you feel good. Instead of setting restrictions, prioritize compassion, kindness and healing, remembering to focus on the journey rather than the destination.

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