At this time of the year you probably already thought about what you want to accomplish in 2021. But how do you make sure you follow through with your resolutions? The answer might be mindfulness, a practice that consists in focusing your attention on the present moment, putting judgement aside and simply observing.

When you are mindful about goal setting, you can become aware of whether your goals are realistic, or whether you are just punishing yourself for everything you haven’t done. Self-awareness can help you identify the habits and patterns you need to replace to achieve your goals.  

Mindfulness is also the ultimate stress buster as it helps you redefine your past or present negative experiences. For example, mindfulness helps you recognize and accept any difficult circumstance as the way things are right now, which improves your ability to cope with difficult situations.  Making mindfulness a regular practice can also reduce your blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol,  reduce inflammation in your body, and improve the function of your immune system.

Below, we’ve included 31 daily challenges that will help you increase your self-awareness and reduce your stress. The first few challenges are focused on goal setting and implementing behaviors that might help with goal achieving. A few challenges are focused on helping you stay in the present in everything you do, from eating and spending time with friends and family, to working out, taking a shower, and driving to work. We have also included activities to explore your creative side, as well as challenges that incorporate mindfulness techniques such as breathing, practicing deep relaxation, and spending time in nature. Practice these challenges on a daily basis to kick off 2021, or do them at your own pace. Pay attention to what works for you and continue doing it the rest of the year!

Download a visual calendar of the challenges here.

Let’s begin!

Write down your goals for 2021 using positive words.

Friday, January 1st-  Happy New Year! 

Celebrate this new beginning by making a list of SMART goals specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based for 2021. For example, “I want to lose 10 lbs by the end of the first quarter.” Make sure to put a positive spin on them. The world’s largest study on New Year’s resolutions showed that using positive words when formulating your goals makes you more likely to achieve them. For example, instead of saying “I will quit” or “I will avoid”, say “I will be” or “ I will start”. For example, if your goal is to get better sleep, say “I will be bed in by 10 pm every night”, instead of “I will avoid going to bed late”. 

Saturday, January 2nd- Ditch the negativity

Negative thoughts undermine our confidence and put us in a bad mood. Think about the thoughts you have regularly that might hold you back from achieving your goals and write them down next to your list of resolutions. Today, when negative thoughts make an appearance, try using a pattern interrupt. For example, you can tap the side of your head or snap your fingers and say “out” or “stop”.

Sunday, January 3rd- Identify the bad patterns

Look for patterns in your day-to-day that aren’t serving you. For example, if you want to get more sleep this year, one pattern you might find is that you are not managing your time efficiently during the day, which means you work at night to make up for it. Identify those patterns and write them down. What can you do to break them? 

Monday, January 4th- Think about who you need to be to reach your goals

When we set goals for ourselves, we never address whether or not we believe we can hit them. “It doesn’t matter what our goals are, if we don’t believe we can get there,” says Susan McClain, founder of the Natural Success Institute and LIFE apps’ mindfulness coach.  With your goals in mind, write a statement about who you need to be to get there.  For example, “I am strong, committed, and confident enough to practice daily intermittent fasting and work out for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.” Today, and every time you work toward your goals, read your statement, and show up as that person. Feel the emotions as if you already were that person. 

Tuesday, January 5th- Explore your fear

Fear paralyzes us and makes us find excuses for not working on our goals. Look at your list of resolutions and ask yourself what fear or anxiety you have around them. Write your answer. Next, go deeper. Ask yourself, “Why does that cause me to feel anxiety?” Go deeper again and ask yourself the same question. Do this several times to uncover your real fear. 

Wednesday, January 6th- Imagine a suitable environment for goal achieving

Our environment affects our attitude, and it can make or break our determination. Imagine an environment or setting that would motivate you or that would make it easier for you to achieve your goals. Draw or write down what that looks like!

Silhouette of a man holding a trophy at sunset. Success concept
Goal visualization makes goals appear closer and thus more achievable.

Thursday, January 7th- Visualize yourself achieving your goals

Susan explains that picturing yourself as if you had already achieved your goals helps you get there faster. Today, draw or write down what success would look like for you. Imagine that you’ve achieved the goals that you listed on the first day. Engage your senses. What do you see? Smell? Taste? Hear? Feel? What are you wearing? Who is with you? 

Friday, January 8th- Make a vision board!

Look for print or online images that depict what you want to accomplish. For example, if your goal is to run a 5k, you might find pictures of running shoes, someone crossing the finish line with their hands in the air, a runner who is smiling, or a race bib! Put these images on a corkboard or magnetic board. Personalize it by putting your photo on the head of the runner crossing the finish line. Choose the race number you want on your race bib. Add a photo to your board of where or how you’ll celebrate after you accomplish your goal. Add photos of the people who will be cheering you on at the finish line.

Saturday, January 9th- Stay in the present moment

Over the next 3 days your challenge will be to enjoy the present. Susan explains that most of the unpleasant emotions that we feel are because we’re either replaying past events or we’re anticipating events that may or may not happen in the future. Today, as soon as you’re aware that you’re anticipating something in the future or remembering something from the past, bring yourself back to the present moment. Enjoy a walk outside and think about the things that make you happy today.

Sunday, January 10th- Be present today

Spend time with family or friends without your phone or any other distraction. If you prefer a remote interaction, get on the phone or on Zoom and have a present conversation.

Monday, January 11th- Be present when you eat

It’s so tempting to ‘Netflix and chill’ while you’re having dinner, or to mindlessly look at your social media while you’re quickly eating your lunch so you can get back to work. Your challenge today will be to practice this mindful eating meditation by Susan McClain, which requires you to ditch the electronics and just be present during your meal:

  1. Make a dish that you like. Put it in front of you and notice the different colors, textures, and aromas. 
  2. Pick a bite of food with a fork. Notice its color, texture, and aroma.
  3. Take a bite. Pay attention to the texture and the flavors you can taste. Notice any salt, pepper, or vinegar, and any other spices.
  4. As you take more bites, stop and tune in to how your body feels. Are you satisfied? Do you feel like you need a bite of something else?
  5. At the end of your meal, take a moment to be thankful for what you just enjoyed.

Tuesday, January 12th- Take some time to digest your thoughts and emotions

In his book, “The art of stopping time,”  author Pedram Shojai explains that just as we need time to digest our food after a meal, we need time to digest the thoughts about situations that might be bothering us. You might be thinking about an argument you had with your partner this morning, or about a disagreement you recently had with a colleague. According to Shojai, stress appears when there is an accumulation of things we need to process mentally. Today, take a walk (or a relaxing bath!) to process the thoughts that are causing you stress. You might find a solution to any problems in the process.

Wednesday, January 13th- Process your emotions through writing or drawing

Journaling is a great way to process your emotions and relieve any stress.  Write answers to the following questions: What emotion(s) are you feeling right now? Why do you feel this way?

What can you do to feel better? End with a list of things that you’re grateful for in life. If it’s hard to put into words, draw a picture of what you are feeling.

A Latino man is sitting on a rock and is looking out over a lake.
A simple meditation exercise is to focus on your breathing with your eyes closed, picturing your thoughts as moving clouds.

Thursday, January 14th- Try this simple mindfulness practice

Close your eyes and gently focus on your breathing.  Let your thoughts come and go, observing them without getting caught up in them. Picture your thoughts as clouds moving across the sky. Bring your attention back to your breathing when you notice your mind has started to wander. Do this for 5-10 minutes in the morning or at the end of your day.

Friday, January 15th- Edit your list of resolutions as needed

You are about half-way done with these mindfulness challenges! Use the day to revisit your list of resolutions and edit them as needed. Include any plans or goals that might have surfaced while you were practicing these daily challenges. Always be flexible and don’t be afraid to edit as new things come and go in your life. It will be easier to achieve your goals if you adapt them to your current needs and roadblocks. 

Saturday, January 16th- Spend some time in nature

People who feel connected to nature are happier and more satisfied with life. Go to the nearest park and focus on the sights, sounds and smells around it, really tuning in to the moment. If it’s too cold to be outside, close your eyes and imagine a place full of natural beauty. What do you smell, see, and hear? Some people find this type of meditation more relaxing than simply focusing on your breath. Which do you enjoy more?

Sunday, January 17th- Picture a problem you’re trying to solve as a mountain

In his book ‘Creative contemplation,” author Enrique Posada advises to picture a problem you have been trying to solve as a mountain you need to climb. This could be a problem you’ve been trying to solve at work, a difficult project you’re trying to complete, or an important decision you’re trying to make. Find a real mountain to climb, or close your eyes and picture one. As you go up, focus your attention on the details of the terrain, and see if you can find similarities between your problem and the landscape. When you reach the top, meditate on what you’ve learned and contemplate the beauty around you. On your way down, bring your attention back to the details in your environment. Do you see anything new you missed on your way up? 

Monday, January 18th- Try this meditation exercise!

Try this meditation exercise by LIFE Apps’ mindfulness coach Susan Mcclain:

  1. Take a deep breath through your nose, slowly expanding your belly and exhaling through your mouth.
  2. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath. Notice how it feels entering your body. Notice your muscles expanding on the inhale and relaxing on the exhale. 
  3. Bring your awareness to the sounds in the room, focusing on the furthest sound that you can hear. 
  4. Open your eyes and notice all of the colors that you can see around you. Bring your awareness to the textures of your surroundings, and to the light and the shadows in the room. Notice how that light and the shadows create different colors.
  5. Close your eyes again and bring your awareness to anything you can taste and to any aromas in the room.
  6. Pay attention to how your body feels sitting in your chair. Notice how you feel completely supported. Notice your feet firmly on the ground. Pay attention to how your clothes feel on your skin.
  7. Bring your awareness back to your breath. Take a full, deep breath, fully expanding your belly. Find your heartbeat on your wrist or neck. Inhale for four or five heartbeats. Exhale for the same number of heartbeats. On the out breath, say “one” silently to yourself. 
  8. Put your hand on your heart. Send yourself love and gratitude for taking this time. See and feel your energy increasing and getting stronger. 

Tuesday, January 19th- Practice progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a mindful awareness exercise that helps you tune into bottled up stress in your body, and let it go. Try this guided audio progressive muscle relaxation exercise, or read through detailed instructions on how to perform this exercise here. Start with several rounds of mindful breathing while laying on your back, and then work through various muscle groups in your body, tensing them hard for a few seconds, and then suddenly letting all of the tension go as you exhale. Do this starting with your hands and arms, working up through your shoulders to your head and face, down into your chest and stomach, and then down through your legs to your feet and toes. This exercise is very helpful in teaching you what relaxation feels like in your body. It can also show you where you tend to hold tension and stress.

Wednesday, January 20st- Take a break from the news

It’s good to be informed, but obsessing over the latest news or social media content can ramp up your anxiety. “Overexposure to the media can amplify stress, with downstream mental and physical health effects,” says Roxanne Cohen-Silver, professor of psychological science at UC Irvine who studies the long-term physical reactions to stress and anxiety. Use your phone and computer for doing the essentials, but try to not open any news apps or social media. 

Thursday, January 21st- Do something you enjoy

Today, set some time aside to do an activity you enjoy. Now might be a great chance to try that new hobby you’ve been meaning to start or try that new dish you’ve been meaning to make. It can be so easy to fall into the trap of binging on Netflix when you have some free time, but making the effort to change things up every now and again will do wonders for your mental health.

Friday, January 22nd- Do something good for someone today

Offer to pick up some food at the shop for an elderly neighbor, donate money to a charity, or offer your friendship to someone who needs it. Charitable giving activates areas of the brain involved in happiness and can also make you feel more gratitude toward your own life.

Saturday, January 23rd- Try yoga!

Yoga is a great activity for busting stress and promoting relaxing and mindful awareness in the body and the mind! Get started here.

Sunday, January 24th- Get Creative: Paint, draw or write a story

Tap into your creative senses today. Draw, paint, play music, dance a choreography, or write a song, a story, or poem. 

Monday, January  25th- Don’t let the autopilot take over!

Today, think about the moments in your day-to-day when your auto-pilot takes over. This could happen when you are showering, driving to work (have you ever driven somewhere and once you’re there you don’t remember how you got there?!), cooking lunch for the next day, etc. Select one of such moments and really be present. If you are taking a shower, notice the feeling of the water on your body and pay attention to any aromas or sensations. If you are driving, contemplate the scenery, the people you see, the colors in the sky, and the buildings in your city. Think about what other moments in your life you can try to be more present and start doing it today.

Tuesday, January 26th- Do the most annoying tasks first 

Take a look at today’s to-do list. What is the item that causes you the most stress? Do that item first! Whether you are putting off something unpleasant, something emotionally demanding, or just something that seems boring, getting that task out of the way as soon as you can will reduce your stress. Think about how good it will feel marking that off!

Smiling African American woman wearing a bathrobe looking at her complexion in the mirror while standing in her bathroom in the morning
Observe yourself at the end the day.

Wednesday, January 27th- Observe yourself

Take a moment to observe your body at the end of the work day. Look at yourself in the mirror, looking for signs of stress, anxiety, or restlessness. Meditate on what signals your body might be giving you. 

The body is the companion of the mind and soul, forming with them an integral unit. In the manifestations of the body, we find the key to understanding how much we are evolving. I believe that the body is a great ally on the road to understanding, and that its signals are very wise and friendly.” Enrique Posada, Creative contemplation: Application of Patanjali’s aphorisms to life.

Thursday, January 28th- Reflect

Do you remember a time when you were more fit or had more energy? When you fit into your favorite clothes? When you were happier or felt more in control? Do you have a picture that represents how you felt then? Use this exercise to examine what things you should change to be happier, and/or to practice gratitude if you feel in a better place right now. 

Friday, January 29th- Take a few minutes to do something active whenever you feel stressed out

Going for a run, dancing, stretching, or even simply flailing your limbs can help you clear stress hormones from your body. By clearing these hormones away through exercise, you will be more mentally connected with your body and more aware of when your body is physically holding on to stress. 

Saturday, January 30th- Be present during your workout

Meditate during your workout today.  Mindfulness can help ground you in this present moment, helping you feel physically grounded in your body and safe in the “now” that you are experiencing… even if that now is painful. 

Any kind of movement can be meditative: yoga, walking, running, swimming, tai chi, dancing, rock climbing— all can induce a mental flow state. Take note of every movement and try to stay present through the whole thing. 

Sunday, January 31st- Celebrate! 

You’ve made it! Do a 5-minute breathing meditation, focusing on your breathing and bringing your attention back to it wherever your mind starts to wander. At the end of it, meditate about the last 31 days. What progress have you made toward your resolutions? Are you closer to achieving them now compared to 31 days ago? Which of these challenges did you enjoy and which would you like to keep doing throughout the year? If you followed along with all or most of these challenges, send us an email at learn@lifeomic.com and tell us how it went and how it helped you— We’d love to know!