Setting achievable intentions for a healthy new year
As we bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new, it's customary for many of us to set New Year's resolutions. However, as a therapist specialising in mental health, I've observed a recurring pattern: these resolutions often set us up for disappointment rather than success. This year, I propose a shift in perspective, from setting lofty resolutions to embracing achievable intentions that enhance our mental well-being.
Understanding the difference between resolutions and intentions
Resolutions often entail rigid goals and a focus on outcomes, such as losing a specific amount of weight or running a marathon. While these goals can be motivating, they also come with the risk of creating undue pressure and a sense of failure if not met. Intentions, on the other hand, are more about the journey than the destination. They are flexible, compassionate and grounded in the present moment.
The power of intention-setting
Intention setting is a practice that aligns our actions with our values and personal growth. Unlike resolutions, intentions are not about achieving a particular outcome, but rather about how we want to feel and be in our lives. This practice encourages self-compassion, mindfulness and a growth mindset, which are essential components of mental health.
How to set achievable intentions
- Reflect on your values: Begin by reflecting on what truly matters to you. What brings you joy, fulfilment and a sense of purpose? Your intentions should resonate with these core values.
- Be specific, yet flexible: While it's good to be specific about what you want to achieve, ensure that your intentions have room for flexibility and adaptation. Life is unpredictable and our needs and circumstances can change.
- Focus on small steps: Break down your intentions into small, manageable actions. Celebrate each step you take towards your intention, no matter how small.
- Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself. If you find yourself straying from your intention, acknowledge it without judgment and gently steer yourself back on course.
- Incorporate mindfulness: Mindfulness helps us stay connected with our intentions. Regularly check in with yourself. Are your daily actions aligned with your intentions?
Examples of healthy intentions
- Intention for physical health: Instead of setting a goal to lose a certain amount of weight, set an intention to nurture your body with healthy food and enjoyable physical activity.
- Intention for mental health: Rather than resolving to never feel anxious, set an intention to develop healthier coping mechanisms for stress.
- Intention for relationships: Instead of resolving to find the perfect partner, set an intention to cultivate qualities like openness, honesty and empathy within yourself.
As we step into the new year, let's embrace a kinder, more achievable approach to personal growth. Setting intentions rather than resolutions invites a journey of continuous learning and self-compassion.
What is the most beautiful version of 2024 that you can imagine? What feeling do you want to embody by the end of the coming year?
Remember, it's not about perfection; it's about progress and the positive steps we take towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.