Mindfulness vs. Resolutions

Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1

Mindfulness and mental health

“You go where you look.” The repeated phrase of my ski school trainer, my driving instructor, my ballet teacher, my high school tennis coach. A lesson that at the time I filed away as just another way to improve my performance, but now realize was probably the most relevant and profound advice I have ever received.

What you are giving energy is what you are giving life. More important than any physical resolution, concerning my health or my weight or something I need to fix or change, this year I resolve to try to pay more attention to where I am investing my energy. If I’m focusing on stress, or on the past, or on everything that can go wrong, then I am probably directing myself down a path of disappointment and grief. We have an internal dialogue going on 24/7, but as I heard Dan Harris say recently on a podcast, so often we pay more attention to the speaker in our head than the listener. By only engaging with the speaker that tells me I’m scared, that tells me I’m a failure, that tells me I’m way too busy to figure out why I’m scared, I miss out on a whole other dimension of human experience.

I prefer mindfulness over resolutions. Mindfulness deconstructed from the zeitgeist version of it – at its core, it really just means stepping back and listening to your internal dialogue. If you set out on a quest to quiet your thoughts, you will not be successful. If you approach mindfulness as another thing to add to your “New Me” to-do list, then the quest is doomed from the beginning.

There is so much to be said for just observing your thoughts, without judgement. When I learned that my thoughts aren’t truth, that the speaker in my head is not always quoting facts, it was honestly revolutionary. Taking time to just tune in to the movie constantly projected on the cluttered walls of my mind helps give me clarity into why I may be feeling the way I am and always reminds me to quietly redirect my mental energy. As Dan Harris says, “You just want to see whatever is there, so that it doesn’t own you.”

Another reason I prefer mindfulness over resolutions is because resolutions imply rigidity. How do I know what is going to serve me in October, when I barely know what I want for dinner tonight? Mindfulness allows for flexibility – it is the practice that helps me make quick decisions that feel right, in tune. It allows every day to be a moment to focus on my intentions, not just the beginning of the year.

I try to stay far, far away from anything that connotes restriction – and resolutions seem to have gained a reputation for doing exactly that. I like the idea of committing to something that adds, that brings joy, that gives back to my community and my loved ones. By being very conscious of where I’m throwing my energy, ultimately I’m showing up as the best, most authentic version of myself, both in my inner dialogue and in my interactions with others.

You go where you look. And once you find yourself somewhere, there you are. I have a tendency to constantly calculate my next move and forget about the girl who is here, now, present tense. In all of the planning and prioritising, and even in the depths of the quest for betterment, the girl that likes soft rain on tin roofs and tends to get distracted by sunlight on her cheeks gets lost. Here’s to prioritising her, to observing my thoughts but not necessarily believing them. And to be mindful of my precious energy, because when channelled in the right direction, my strength can move mountains.

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