The start of a New Year usually brings with it reflections of the past year and plans and goals for the year ahead. Somehow, starting a New Year seems to inspire us to start thriving again for better health, more success at work, or some other goal or value. However, it seems that whilst it might be easy to set a goal, it is very hard for us to then follow through with our intentions. Usually, the reason for this is that what we aim to achieve is difficult, takes time and brings with it unpleasant experiences. No pain, no gain, as they say. Often, in conjunction with other every day hassles, these difficulties then make us lose our way fairly quickly and our New Years resolution is forgotten or ignored before January is over.
Perseverance is the persistent effort of doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. It’s easy to see how someone with strong perseverance is more likely to work towards a goal despite difficulties and thus achieve it. Perseverance is one of the 24 Character Strengths identified by Positive Psychology research. Character strengths can affect our thoughts, behaviors, affect and motivation (Niemiec, Rashid & Spinella, 2012).
Whilst character strengths are seen as stable over one’s life, research has also shown that they can be strengthened with practice. Mindfulness meditation is one way to practice character strengths such as perseverance (Niemiec, Rashid & Spinella, 2012).
The opposite or a lack of perseverance is when we behave impulsively. Research has shown that mindfulness meditation practices can be helpful in the treatment of a range of mental health issues related to impulsivity, such as addiction, eating disorders and borderline personality disorder (Stratton, 2006). Mindfulness practices can help in decreasing impulsivity and thus increased perseverance by teaching the following skills: a) improving awareness of internal experiences. This awareness then helps people to monitor their impulsive behavior. b) Better acceptance of difficult internal experiences such as distressing thoughts and emotions. By practicing mindfulness people learn to be more accepting of these difficulties rather than engage in impulsive behaviors like e.g. drinking alcohol, taking drugs to avoid them (Peters et al., 2011).
Often we also stop working towards our goals or values because we feel that we have ‘failed’. Maybe we have had one bar of chocolate even though we wanted to eat healthier, or we have missed one week in the gym. A lot of the time, that is enough for us to give up on our New Years resolution entirely. When we practice mindfulness meditation we learn that getting off track with our intentions is part of the practice. If we are mindful we learn to simply observe ourselves getting off track without criticism and simply re-focus on our intention.
When we practice mindfulness meditation by for example focusing on our breath, we will always be sidetracked by thoughts. But that is ok because we can always come back to the breath. In this sense ‘failing to be mindful and coming back to the breath’ is the practice. Focus on your breath, lose focus, re-focus. This is another reason why Mindfulness is a good way to practice perseverance.
So if you are really serious about your New Years resolution, but don’t have a very good perseverance track record maybe practicing mindfulness meditation can help you to stay on track. Our 7-week Mindfulness and ACT for Beginners program could be a good way for you to start your mindfulness practice. Or join us for our monthly meditation sessions if you just want to tip your toes into meditation first to see what it’s like.
For more information on our Mindfulness Meditation programs go to https://zestinfusion.com.au/workshops/.
Niemiec, R. M., Rashid, T., Spinella, M. (2012). Strong Mindfulness: Integrating Mindfulness and Character Strength. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 34(3), pp 240-253.
Peters, J.S., Erisman, S.M., Upton, B.T., Baer, R.A. and Roemer, L. (2011). A Preliminary Investigation of the Relationship between Dispositional Mindfulness and Impulsivity. DOI 10.1007/s12671-011-0065-2.
Stratton, K. J. (2006). Mindfulness-based Approaches to Impulsive Behaviors. The New School Psychology Bulletin, 4(2), pp. 40-71.
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