10 Amazing New Year’s Resolutions for Your Spiritual Life
I think most of us dislike New Year’s resolutions because we know we will somehow “fail” at meeting our high expectations, and we’re usually right. Losing a certain amount of weight, working out at the gym more often, cutting out sugar, etc. are usually futile attempts at making ourselves better in some way.
But what if we attached spiritual resolutions to our lives and somehow connected what we do or don’t do with a deeper meaning and purpose? Whether or not you participate in the culture’s definition of setting goals for New Year’s, you can start anytime – and start over anytime, too.
Here are ten ideas for simple, practical ways you can improve your interior life in the new year and beyond. Don’t be afraid to “fail.” Just keep moving forward and start anew.
Simplify your life.
This isn’t just about reorganizing your shelves or cleaning out closets. Those are important and feel free to make that part of your resolution to simplify. But, in a spiritual sense, simplicity involves decluttering our mental and emotional states of being, too. It means getting rid of the cobwebs and distractions that might deter us from focusing on what really matters.
Start to simplify by cutting out ten minutes of wasted time each day and using it for something productive. For example, if you spend an inordinate amount of time playing internet or video games, scanning your social media accounts, or watching hours of television, time yourself to see how long you spend doing these activities. Then cut out ten minutes. Set a timer for a reminder.
Then replace that time with something that you know will truly make you a better person – add ten minutes of Bible reading, prayer, or developing a talent or hobby that you can share with others. Maybe spend the time writing a thoughtful card to someone who is lonely or grieving. As the year progresses, you may find that you can add five more minute increments gradually until you reach a half hour or hour per day.
Read one spiritual book per month.
Let’s face it: most of us say we “don’t have time” to read anything more than a fun fantasy novel or browse a fluffy magazine. While these aren’t in and of themselves bad, why not swap some time spent reading something that will inspire you to grow in virtue and rid your life of vice? If you aren’t sure where to begin or what kind of book would suit you, check out this list my husband and I created of our top ten favorite spiritual books that have completely transformed our lives.
Attend a weekend retreat.
If you plan ahead, you can make the time for a weekend retreat once per year. Yes, it’s going to involve a bit of a stretch with your schedule, but if you commit to it, you won’t regret it. The best part about attending a retreat is that everything is already planned, so all you have to do is block out two days, pay your fee (if applicable), and show up.
You can make this easier by searching for retreats that are offered in your diocese so that you won’t have to travel far (unless you want to). Even a one-day retreat is worth the effort and will enrich your life if you attend with an open heart.
Pray a decade of the Rosary daily.
This seriously takes maybe five to seven minutes of your time. Our family prays a decade a day with our kids at night before bed, and we offer an entire Rosary on Sundays as part of our Sabbath celebration. The Rosary is a very powerful prayer and often calms those who faithfully recite it. Even if you find yourself getting fidgety or distracted, keep pressing forward with it and persevere.
This can be for anything. You might discern that volunteering suits your entire family. Discuss with your spouse and children what options seem to be the best fit for where your concerns and gifts are. In my family, our oldest daughter is very concerned with the plight of the poor and homeless. We have fostered this longing to help them by encouraging food drives and collecting donations instead of birthday presents. Eventually, we plan to volunteer at our local food pantry or homeless shelter.
But you might decide to do something by yourself or with your spouse, which is also fine. Maybe there is a ministry in your parish that needs some help. The type of volunteer work and commitment level is entirely up to your discretion, based on prayer and discernment. The point is, giving of your time will fill your heart more abundantly and cultivate a deeper sense of gratitude.
Keep the Sabbath holy.
A lot of people consider Sundays to be “just another day” of the week. Unfortunately, many Catholics have also made Sunday another day to cram in extra work around the house or to run errands. It’s because we are otherwise so busy that Sunday is almost a necessity for getting something accomplished.
But the reality is that we need to rest. And, out of obedience to God, we must do it. If God rested on the seventh day, we must find time to do this, as well. Perhaps you can make arrangements to do your grocery shopping on another day of the week or another time of day during the week. Talk to your family about how you all can chip in a bit of extra time to get chores completed, like shoveling snow or mowing the lawn.
Then spend Sundays together as a family. Worship together, pray together, rest, spend time in quiet, take a nap! You will discover an entirely new perspective, attitude, and physical refreshment as you begin your work or school week on Monday if you make some minor adjustments.
Go to Confession once a month.
This one might be one of the most intimidating and daunting suggestions of all the resolutions listed so far. Don’t let your fears deter you from cleansing your soul through this Sacrament. It is often declared as the most underutilized Sacrament that we, as Catholics, have available to us.
First, find out when Confessions are offered at your parish. Then, write it on your calendar for each month. Make it a family affair. For older kids who have already received their First Reconciliation, this is a fantastic spiritual lesson that can jumpstart great conversations about forgiveness, how we can make amends to those we hurt, and how we can change our bad habits or help each other make those changes.
If you make a concerted effort to go to Confession regularly, especially as a family, you will be astounded at how much more clearly you see yourself and others. Moreover, when paired with reception of the Eucharist, these Sacraments of Healing offer us a boost of much-needed strength to overcome our weaknesses and vices.
Start a prayer journal.
This doesn’t have to be complex. A simple spiral notebook kept at your bedside – or wherever you spend time in prayer – suffices. Make a daily habit of writing whatever spiritual thoughts inspire you. Sometimes this might be a gratitude list, a simple prayer, a letter to God, or a quote from a saint or Scripture. Revisit your journal when you find yourself in a spiritual slump for encouragement.
Try to make a habit of listening to others before you offer your opinion or thoughts. When with family, friends, or neighbors, allow them to talk, perhaps interjecting a few clarifying questions now and then. As you develop a more natural penchant for attentive listening, you will discover that it is much easier to discipline yourself to hear God’s voice instead of chattering on to Him ad infinitum. In the space that silence affords you, allow God to speak to your heart and respond to Him with love.
Give your failures, weaknesses, and sins to God.
The worst mistake we can make in our spiritual journeys is to give up when we do not meet our expectations or goals. There will be times in your calendar year when you are unable to fulfill your spiritual commitments, perhaps due to an injury, illness, accident, death, or supremely busy period of life. The point here is to offer up your discouragement, disappointments, and frustrations to God as a prayer.
Instead of completely abandoning your spiritual resolutions when life gets out of sync (as it assuredly will), surrender your brokenness, your tears, your pain and suffering, even and especially your sins and repeated weaknesses to God. When He asks us to give Him everything, He means even the parts of ourselves we don’t like and would rather hide. Remember that God was born a tiny baby in order that we might be saved from our sins. Even handing Him our ugliness can be a gift in and of itself.
What are your spiritual resolutions for the new year? Let us know in the comments!