Ditching Resolution and Going for Happy: An Intentional Practice of Simple Delight


I officially ditched the New Year’s resolution tradition last year. Who wants to sign up for commitment that holds an 88 percent failure rate, anyway? For 2014, I focused on a specific intention: to feel greater ease in my mind and body. As a somatic mindfulness professional, I know what ease and wellbeing feel like in my body, and I focused on spending more time feeling that way. It was radically simple and totally awesome.

The intention over resolution approach gave me mindful focus over the long haul, with enough wiggle room to feel like a playfully curious explorer along the way. It was a failure resistant plan that my recovering perfectionist could embrace, fueled by a set of informal mindfulness mico-practices that were so successful they will appear as a written collection later this year. My resolution break up resulted in a great new partnership of loosely held intention and specific, tangible tools.

So I’m sticking with a winner and holding a mindful intention again this year, and doubling down with a continued exploration of micro-practices; I’ve decided to go big and go happy for 2015. Fortunately, I’ve got some science on my side.

The scientific community got serious about happiness in 2007, when Sonja Lyubomirsky unveiled research suggesting that 40 percent of our happiness is determined by intentional activity; despite genetic predisposition and life circumstances, we can actually choose to be happy. Since then, the study of happiness has exploded, and everyone from the Dalai Lama to Mary Lou Rettin seems to have a recommendation on just what that intentional activity should be.

My personal experience with happiness is similar to my experience with feeling ease and wellbeing in my body: It’s already there, it’s always been there, and it’s available at any moment in time. What’s required is a practice that brings us back again and again. So my intention for greater happiness in the coming year will be supported by the exploration of a single micro-practice: the practice of simple delight.

The practice of simple delight involves the simple noticing of little things throughout the day that tickle my fancy — the pink hue of a winter sunrise, the cool of my pillow when I roll over at night, the comforting sound of rain on the rooftop, the soul satisfying, thirst quenching delight of a single swig of cold beer. It’s the ultimate, ready access, feel good moment.

What’s great about the simple delight practice is that, over time, you actually become more inclined to practice. Unlike running, dieting and “shoulding” yourself into a new behavior, it feels good to notice the good, and the result is a deep, subtle impact on every corner of life. As Rick Hanson so eloquently describes in his work with neural plasticity and attraction thinking, by noticing the good, you actually change your brain to become increasingly inclined to notice the good more of the time. It’s a self sustaining, upward spiral towards general happiness instead of a big stick slog towards a specific new behavior. Way more fun, right?

So consider a break from resolution this year and play with a few days of simple delight. No big agenda, no seriousness around embracing this or embodying that — just noticing the little things that bring you a sense of lightness and appreciation. Like a little kid, keep it simple and start small — perhaps two delights a day — and notice what happens over the course of a week. The more you notice, the more there is to notice, and the better you feel every time you notice, yet again, something delightful.

Need more convincing that small moves mean big change? Check out this new book from Caroline L. Arnold on microresolutions and consider an intentional year of small delights.