As the new year dawns, it’s time to set some intentions for what you hope to accomplish in the months ahead. Instead of taking on daunting new diets or exercise regimens, start with some resolutions that will nourish your spirit, instead.
HuffPost Religion brainstormed 17 resolutions to help you have a mindful and renewing 2016. Let us know how they go!
1. Start a daily meditation practice.
Whether you take 5 minutes or 50 minutes every day to sit and breathe deeply, you will thank yourself for beginning a meditation practice. Meditation offers countless benefits to our lives, including reducing stress and increasing self-awareness. Not sure where to start? Try our daily meditations, which feature songs, poems and guided exercises you can do in under 10 minutes.
2. Express gratitude.
Practicing gratitude has been shown to improve the immune system, help us sleep longer and deeper, and decrease feelings of loneliness, among many other benefits. Click here to discover nine ways to start practicing gratitude daily.
3. Connect with nature.
If you’ve ever experienced awe at the sight of a brilliant sunset or towering mountain peak, then you know the value of this resolution. Take time to connect with nature this year — go on hikes, say a prayer for the environment, keep a plant on your desk to lovingly tend to every day.
4. Listen to your grandparents, elders and spiritual teachers.
The greatest spiritual wisdom may be hidden in your own home. Make a date to call or sit down with your parents and grandparents and ask them to share some life advice with you. What guiding philosophy has informed their lives? If you’re daring, ask them their thoughts about death, God and the afterlife.
5. Cultivate happiness.
As we learned from the Tao of Happiness, lasting joy is within our reach. But we may have to shift our relationship to happiness from one of cause and effect to a more sustainable mindset. Nurture positive thoughts, practice self-care and try to find the little pockets of joy in every moment.
6. Make a record of your dreams.
Dreams can be powerful tools for self-reflection, and if we’re lucky, they can help guide us to exciting new territory in our lives. Here’s a tip: Keep a journal near your bed, and when you wake up write down everything you can remember from your dreams the previous night. Colors, impressions and images are fair game even if you can’t remember full sequences. Judith Orloff, M.D said the more we get in a habit of recording our dreams the better we’ll train our brains to remember them.
7. Unleash your creativity.
Many of the habits of highly creative people are essentially mindfulness practices in disguise, like making time for solitude and staying grounded in the present moment. Immerse yourself in creative activities on a regular basis, and let yourself get lost in the moment. Have no expectations or judgment about what you manifest.
8. Go on a retreat.
Sometimes the greatest revelations come to us in moments of solitude and reflection. Get perspective on your life by getting away — take a solo trip or sign up for a meditation class. At the very least, take mini “retreats” regularly to a certain grove, library or house of worship where you can be still and check in with your spirit.
9. Practice forgiveness.
“Forgiveness is the ultimate spiritual practice,” said Rev. Adriene Thorne, executive minister of Middle Collegiate Church in New York City. “All other spiritual offerings depend on it.” In 2016, liberate yourself from anger, resentment and grudges. In their place, fill your heart with compassion for yourself and others.
10. Speak your truth.
Don Miguel Ruiz’s iconic personal growth book, The Four Agreements, begins with the lesson: Be impeccable with your word. Ruiz goes on to explain the ways in which gossip and self-deprecation inhibit us from realizing our true selves. Consider the words you use to communicate and express yourself. Speak with clarity and integrity, and say what you mean.
11. Laugh more.
Laughing feels good, but did you know it can also reduce stress, improve our immune system and relieve pain? For some, like laughter yoga instructor Jeannette Sanger, it’s a spiritual practice, too. “When you’re laughing you’re not thinking about yesterday or tomorrow,” Sanger said. “You’re just totally joyful, the way children are.” Laugh heartily, as often as you can, in 2016.
12. Stay present.
“You can do a hundred things during the day,” said Larry Kasanoff, director of “Mindfulness: Be Happy Now,” his new documentary. “Just do them one at a time and be present in the moment.” Do everything with mindful awareness and always maintain your footing in present reality.
13. Donate your time, money and energy.
In his recent book, Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World, Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard outlines the life-changing potential of serving others. Consider the people and causes you’d like to better support in the upcoming year. Connect with your congregation or spiritual community to see if there are humanitarian projects already underway that you can contribute to.
14. Do little acts of kindness.
Related to #13, pay attention to the small, everyday opportunities to make someone smile. It’s easier than you think. Compliment your coworkers on a project they’ve been working on, give your barista an extra tip, send a loved one an actual letter in the mail. Make a habit of doing something kind every day — eventually it will become second nature.
15. Practice hospitality.
In these times of division and xenophobia, be a bastion of acceptance in your own community. Open your heart and your doors to strangers. Engage in interfaith dialogue; invite your neighbors over for dinner. Be generous with your love, as with your time and resources.
16. Honor the sacred.
People discover the divine in myriad places. A seed can be sacred; pregnancy can be sacred; even our daily lives are filled with opportunities to experience the divine. Develop rituals that help you honor the sacred on a regular basis. Build a shrine in your house with images you hold dear. Say a prayer of gratitude before you sip your morning coffee, honoring the farmers, roasters and delivery workers who made that steaming mug possible. Take nothing for granted and hold everything with reverence.
17. Set intentions.
Intentions are potent seeds we plant in order to affect change in our lives and in the world. In her book Living With Intent, author and meditation teacher Mallika Chopra wrote: “Intents are expressions of who we aspire to be as individuals — physically, emotionally, spiritually — as members of our families and communities, and even as citizens of Mother Earth.” Set some intentions for the year, and write them down to make them stick. Share them with your loved ones, and return to them often to recalibrate and check your progress.
If happiness is something you’d like to focus on in 2016, sign up here to take part in HuffPost Lifestyle’s 30-day happiness challenge.