It’s 2022! Hooray!
As I start to jump on the New Years’ resolution train, I cannot help wondering about all the conditioning that takes place during this time of year. Every January it is as if we supposed to magically begin thinking about becoming a “better” version of ourselves. All we have to do is tune in to any kind of media and there is the propaganda for exercise equipment, the newest weight loss diet and every kind of closet organizer you can imagine!
How many of you made a New Year’s resolution? If you did, research says it most likely is about fitness, losing weight, making healthy diet changes (stop sugar, go vegan, etc.) or organizing our lives in some way.
A study at The University of Scranton found that on average only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolution and close to 80% fail at achieving their goal. That same study found that the average respondent only kept their resolution for 36 days. WHY is that, you ask? The study found that the reason is that we humans often set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and then get frustrated and give up on our lofty goals.
It is normal and very human to reflect at the end of any calendar year about the previous year. It is also common to think about how we want to better ourselves during the next 365 days. Although nothing is wrong with wanting to better ourselves or to change unwanted habits, what if this new resolution only adds pressure and stress to our already overly activated nervous systems?
Even in our meditation journey we can push ourselves too hard to do it “right”. Goals like meditating daily, meditating for longer amounts of time or meditating to silence our mind chatter can become exhausting if we strive too hard.
I myself have been known to strive too hard in my meditation practice. For me, striving to be perfect in life has always been an obstacle to overcome. I know the perfectionism is back in my meditation life when I beat myself up for skipping a day (or a week), when I struggle to stay present (“HELLO, mind chatter!”) or judge myself at the end of a meditation (“Well, that was a total waste of time!”). Luckily, it doesn’t take long for me to realize that I am trying too hard to do meditation instead of just being. It is then that I focus in on being gentler, more still and more present by accepting the present moment as it is.
My meditation time has made me realize some things about setting goals and resolutions. The big lesson for me is to give myself credit for just showing up. In this case it is about just showing up in my meditation space. On the days that my nervous system is too activated (Thank you, Pandemic!) I now allow myself to just sit. I no longer beat myself up or punish myself for struggling. Offering up myself some self-compassion (“This is HARD today”) always seems to calm me down.
Another thing that has helped me with my mindset around the “perfect” meditation experience is to focus on just one goal at each sitting. On the days that my mind continually wanders, I simply practice bringing my awareness back to the present moment and then congratulating myself for noticing that my mind has wandered. Sometimes, I even visualize my mind as a small puppy that I gently and playfully redirect back to where I want it.
Lastly on the days where I feel my meditation practice is lacking, I start giving myself credit for any mindful experiences that I engaged in during the day. These experiences can include stopping and taking a deep breath when I notice how pink the sky looks when the sun is rising, focusing on the warm soothing water in the shower or even offering up a smile to someone who looks like they could use one. These experiences all require being present and, in my book, they count!
We are living in unprecedented times, my friends, and we have to be gentle with ourselves as we set any new goals or refine goals from past years. We can give the New Year’s Resolution game an upgrade by simply giving ourselves credit for showing up and being.
New York Post; New Year’s Resolutions Last Exactly This Long” by Shireen Khali
Betsy Collar was born and raised in Torrington, Wyoming. She earned her undergraduate degree from The University of Wyoming and her Masters of Arts from The University of Denver.
Betsy lived in Denver for almost 30 years and taught elementary school. She also served as an instructional leader to teachers and principals during which time she discovered Mindfulness and Meditation.
After retiring from public education and moving back to Wyoming, Betsy has combined her teaching expertise with her love of meditation to teach meditation classes at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne.
*Please join Betsy every Thursday evening in February at The Hawthorn Tree from 5:15- 6:00 pm for a series of meetings called Meditation, Mindfulness and Mingling. These meetings will be supportive of building a community while supporting each other as we practice just being and welcoming in this new year.