If you have recently started practicing Buddhism for the sake of peace of mind, love for others, acceptance, or any other number of reasons, you may be looking to choose a New Year’s Resolution that reflects your new practices.
Studying Buddhism and attempting to let go of my ego over this past year and a half have been some of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. But this choice has eased my heart of suffering and helped me develop compassion for others, which is truly invaluable.
So if you’re looking for ideas for New Year’s resolutions for Buddhists in the US, keep reading. I’ve chosen many based on the Sutras, Bodhisattvas, and principles of teachings by Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron.
Buddhism for the Western World
First, I want to explain why I’ve qualified this article by explaining that this article is written for Buddhists residing in the US or Western world. Buddhism is an Eastern religion that originated in India. But it has become increasingly popular in the Western world.
My Experience with Buddhism
Personally, I practice the Plum Village tradition of Buddhism, called Engaged Buddhism by its founder, Thich Nhat Hanh. This tradition has greatly simplified Buddhist rituals and removed much of its dogma and frills.
I was first introduced to this form of Buddhism only about ten years ago with Thich Nhat Hanh’s books. It wasn’t until December of 2021 that I took an online meditation retreat with Plum Village that I truly started a Buddhist practice.
Thay’s Buddhist practice, Engaged Buddhism, focuses on the true vision of the Buddha (easing suffering within ourselves as well as in others) as well as the interconnectedness between everyone and everything.
That is where these New Year’s resolutions focus: on interconnectedness, easing our suffering, and simple practices that we can hold in our heart all year long.
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9 Buddhist New Year’s Resolutions (US)
I’ve tried to compile this list from the easiest, most basic resolutions to the more in-depth, challenging resolutions you might deign to try.
1. Learn more about the Dharma
This is the most basic New Year’s Resolution for Buddhists on this list. At the most foundational level, the least you can do is commit yourself to learning more about Buddhist teachings and the Dharma.
“Dharma” refers to the teachings of Buddhism. (Like the “Gospel” is to Christianity.)
Especially if you’re super new, you might want to read up on the 4 Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Thich Nhat Hanh also updated the Five Mindfulness Trainings, so if you’re interested in taking your practice deeper, make sure to check out number 2 on this list as well!
At the very least, you can watch some Dharma talks or read some books. Here are 16 Books on Spiritual Enlightenment that I Highly Recommend, but they’re not all from a Buddhist perspective, so just be sure to sift through them.
2. Join a Sangha and Attend Regularly
Again, this might be a less esoteric resolution than many of the others on this list, but in terms of practicality, it’s up there. A Sangha is a community of Buddhists that gets together to learn the Dharma and to connect with one another.
Finding a Sangha and practicing your Buddhism regularly with others is an excellent goal to have for anyone who is truly trying to immerse themselves in the Buddhist teachings.
I meet with a Sangha online, made up of people from all over the world. But you can find one local as well, if you prefer to meet in person.
In this directory, you can find local Sanghas all over the world!
3. Be Intentional About What Seeds You’re Planting
When you’re looking for New Year’s resolutions for Buddhists, there’s no better modern-day source than Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh.
Thich Nhat Hanh, affectionately called “Thay” (meaning “teacher”) by his students, was born in Vietnam in _ and passed away in January of 2022. His teachings and legacy consist of Plum Village, the Buddhist temple in rural France which he started, as well as over 100 published books.
One of Thay’s teachings was that of planting seeds. He says that in us (in our hearts and minds), we have the capability of planting seeds of love, understanding, and kindness, but we also have seeds of anger, frustration, worry, and fear.
We have to be both aware and very intentional about which seeds we water and nourish. We also must be aware of our capability to plant seeds in others. (And others have the capability of unknowingly planting seeds in you.)
We must be diligent about planting seeds of understanding and compassion in others, as well as in ourselves.
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4. Be Compassionate to Your Body
A resolution that I made last year based on the Meditation Retreat that I took was to stop eating meat. (I’m technically pescatarian, because I still eat fish.) You don’t have to stop eating meat, but taking care of your health is very much in line with the teachings of the Buddha.
“The principle of ‘oneness of mind and body’ teaches that a healthy body can only be achieved if the mind is kept strong and vice versa. Hence, a strong belief in leading a healthy lifestyle is as important as incorporating healthy foods and exercise in one’s life. Eating at the right time and in right quantity is the Buddhist way of healthy nourishment.”
Resolve to treat your body right, nourish your body fully, and be healthier in the New Year.
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5. Live in the Present Moment
Thay says that the only place to live is the here and now. Living in the present moment is something we all struggle to do, especially living in a hustle culture world. You might call this mindfulness, or you might call it living intentionally. But setting a New Year’s resolution to be more present might be the right one for you.
This isn’t an easy resolution to set, because it’s a little obscure. But with a few guiding principles, you might make it a little easier.
For example, you might resolve to be mindful during brushing your teeth every morning and night. You might decide that a deeper meditation practice will help you. You might consider journaling about your emotions and thoughts every time you find yourself zoning out, daydreaming, or slipping out of that present moment.
6. Stop Defending Yourself
It is a part of human nature to defend yourself. But as Sogyal Rinpoche explains in this article, bodhisattvas do not defend themselves against anything, because their primary concern is one of compassion.
To take on the suffering of others means releasing the need to defend yourself against harsh words, lies, deceit, accusations, and anything else people throw your way.
In the Eight Verses of Training the Mind, by Griche Langri:
“Whenever someone out of envy
Does me wrong by attacking or belittling me,
I will take defeat upon myself,
And give the victory to others.”
This could be a fantastic Buddhist New Year’s resolution to take on this year. Again, it’s not an easy one to follow-through with, but you might practice deep journaling or do some role-playing with a therapist.
7. Learn to Sit with Discomfort
“When we touch the center of sorrow, when we sit with discomfort without trying to fix it, when we stay present to the pain of disapproval or betrayal and let it soften us, these are times that we connect with bohdichitta.”
In order to understand our suffering, we need to allow it to get close. Most people just push it away, unable to look at it or sit with it for more than a few moments. Things like disappointment, grief, sorrow, anger, even hatred are things that we all experience, but we squash them, covering them up with entertainment, food, drink, sex, and all kinds of others obsessions.
If you make a Buddhist New Year resolution to sit with your discomfort, start by recognizing when you’re uncomfortable. What situations put you at dis-ease? What are the physical symptoms in your body when you’re trying to push that uncomfortable feeling away?
8. See Yourself in Your Enemies
Maybe we don’t have enemies like the villains in fairy tales, but most of us have people that we don’t like. We write it off as simply someone with whom we don’t get along, or someone who is “annoying.”
But the truth is that these people are here in our lives to teach us something about ourselves. And chances are, the reason we find them annoying is the very thing inside ourselves that we don’t like looking at.
People who irk us or frustrate us are really just holding up a mirror so that we may see ourselves. For no one is perfect, and we all have ego that we must cast away. This is a very Buddhist concept, especially in having compassion and understanding for our enemies (as demonstrated in #6 above.)
So this New Year, whenever someone triggers you or annoys you, do some journaling, meditation, and ask the Universe/Spirit for some guidance. There is a reason you’re being triggered! Seeking out the answers will help you dissolve that ego.
9. Practice Death (Letting Go)
In case you’re worried, I’m not talking about actual, physical death of our bodies. I don’t want you to think that I’m advocating for anyone’s death. I’m talking about death of a cycle and rebirth thereafter.
Death is the act of letting go. Death is allowing things to come to an end.
The same is in tarot. The death card does not represent physical death (perhaps sometimes), but usually represents an ending: divorce, graduation, changing jobs, your child moving out of the house.
These are the deaths that hit us all the time, and we like to pretend that they’re not a big deal. We like to move on without grieving, without giving proper thought and contemplation for the major event that just took place in our lives.
More than that, when you practice numbers 6, 7, and 8 above, you are witnessing a death of the ego… or at least part of it. Letting go of our egos, our personalities, our wins, our successes, our pride… this is tremendously hard. It’s one of the hardest concepts that we as human beings can try to comprehend.
Because when you allow yourself to let go, you’re making room for Spirit, Universe, God in your life and in your heart.
This is not your typical New Year’s Resolution, let alone one for Buddhists.
There are some amazing options out there for Buddhists in the Western world who are looking to choose a New Year’s resolution built around their faith.
Sure, you have to think outside the box a little, but these New Year’s resolutions for Buddhists can really help to bring peace in your life and alleviate your suffering.
Are you doing a New Year’s resolution this year?
Share it below in the comments if you want to!