Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Resolutions?

Do you make resolutions for the New Year? Many people do, and few people ever succeed with them. About 15 years ago I resolved to never make another New Year resolution, and it's the only one that has ever lasted.

But if you make New Year resolutions, here are two articles worth considering. First, Add Spiritual Renewal to your list of New Year's Resolutions and more importantly, A Guide to Making Change Stick in the New Year.

Doing the right thing for body, mind, and spirit includes spiritual renewal

by Thomas Plante, PhD

Many people make New Year resolutions to eat and drink less as well as exercise more. Why not add spiritual renewal to the list?

Regardless of your religious and spiritual traditions and beliefs, quality research and clinical practice shows that there are a variety of spiritual tools that can help to improve your life for body, mind, and spirit. Doing the right thing for yourself (and others) might include spiritual renewal.

In my most recent book, Spiritual Practices in Psychotherapy: Thirteen Tools for Enhacing Psychological Health published earlier this year by the American Psychological Assocition (, I outline spiritual tools that psychotherapists can use to improve their effectiveness with clients. All of the tools have been found in research to improve well being for body, mind, and spirit. They include the following:

1. Prayer

2. Meditation

3. Developing Meaning, Purpose, and Calling in Life

4. Bibliotherapy (Reading appropriate books and articles for renewal)

5. Attending Community Services and Rituals (e.g., Church or Temple services and events)

6. Volunteerism and Charity (Helping others means helping ourselves)

7. Ethical Values and Behavior

8. Forgiveness, Gratitude, and Kindness

9. Social Justice (working towards making the world a more just place for all especially those in need)

10. Learning from Spiritual Models (who are our spiritual models?)

11. Acceptance of Self and Others (even with faults)

12. Being Part of Something Larger than Yourself

13. Appreciating the Sacredness of Life (seeing the divine within all)

I'll discuss these in more detail in susbequent blog posts but for now think of these 13 tools as ways for you to structure your spiritual renewal. Perhaps it would be helpful as we come to a new year and decade to consider how we might work towards spiritual renewal by using some or all of the tools mentioned above. Something to consider in addition to joining the gym and passing on seconds at dinner as we begin 2010.

Now, if you want to make this resolution stick, read this article from Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

A Guide to Making Change Stick in the New Year

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
December 30, 2009

Recently I wrote the blog Neuroplasticity, Gratitude, and Your Mental Health: Food for Thought and thousands of people viewed it being reminded of the really powerful effects of counting blessings over burdens. So here we are, at the end of the year, answer these 4 questions for yourself right here, right now in an effort to move into 2010 with less stress and a greater sense of resiliency and well-being.

  1. Think back to when this year started-what were your expectations? What did you want/hope for?
  2. What are you grateful for in this past year?
  3. What are your intentions for this upcoming year, how would you like to be (e.g., more calm, a better listener, more focused, kinder to yourself and others, more present to friends and family?)
  4. Looking forward, what are you wishing for yourself (e.g., health, feeling safe, free from fear, happiness, a sense of peace)?

Take this into the New Year, making change stick is really about setting an intention and repeatedly coming back to review that intention as if it was a doctor’s appointment. This may actually be the most important thing to do, repeatedly coming back and reviewing your intentions.

Set a time in your calendar one week or one month from today to review your answers to this page and check back on your intentions for yourself. Really, go ahead and do it now and make it a recurring appointment. Life gets too busy and distracting, allow this to be your time to review your intentions on a more consistent basis than once a year.

May you move into this New Year with the presence and kindness to live your intentions.

Below, please share your intentions and wishes for yourself and others below. Your interactions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Do you make resolutions? Do you have tips for making them successful? If so, please leave a note in the comments.

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