Setting Intentions for the New Year

Dr. Mahalia Freed, ND

(Written and first published for January 2010)

Last New Year’s, a good friend and I spent a very long, snowy drive sharing and concretizing our intentions for 2009. It was an organic yet intentional conversation. We went back and forth, helping each other get more specific, as well as inspiring one another with our separate dreams. I wrote everything down while she drove. Sharing intentions in this way is something I truly value. Even if you do not have the same goals, this practice creates a context of support as you move through the year, giving you someone to check in with – someone who might notice if you, say, resolved to ski 3 weekends a month and haven’t been out once by March. This kind of social support can, for example, provide us with someone to talk to if we are frustrated by continuing to struggle with a relationship pattern we intend to overcome.

For example, one of the intentions we came up with – and enjoyed following through with during the year – was to cook dinner together on Sundays. The beauty of this plan is that it addressed a number of different intentions/resolutions in one: connection with friends, cooking nourishing food, and eating at home more often.

Without any plan to do so, the two of us ended up curled up together one night over the holidays, reflecting on 2009, and looking back at the intentions we articulated that day in the car, in order to see how we did with our goals. Both of us exceeded our own expectations for the changes we could accomplish, and what joy this could bring.

How did I do this? How did I exceed my own expectations? How did I finally stumble upon how to do things differently when I thought I had been trying to ‘do things differently’ for years? What changed?

As I considered these questions, my training as a naturopathic physician inspired me to broaden my investigation: What compels us to make substantive changes in our lives?

According to some, we are inspired to change as a result of deep misery. But what creates our suffering? If we can identify the common denominators of unhappiness, can this also imbue us with the catalysts for change?

According to Dr. Bruce Lipton, cell biologist, “There is no doubt that human beings have a great capacity for sticking to false beliefs with great passion and tenacity, and hyper-rational scientists are not immune” (Biology of Belief, 2005, xiv).

If our beliefs are key ingredients in the soup of our daily lives, then can changing our beliefs – our thoughts – create a tastier experience? A more nourishing, delightful, and stimulating existence?

Believing in Change, Being Ready to Do Things Differently

One thing that keeps coming up as I look back at the last 12 months or so is this devotion to doing things differently. For me, it was a year of responding to situations differently, making different choices, thinking outside the (belief) box; and reaping the many and unexpected rewards of the new storyline I have been creating.

Wow! What a relief! There have been measurable improvements in every aspect of my life. However, part of my mind cannot just accept this. I need to know what changed, what I did that finally got me to where I thought I had been trying to go for years. The so-called “scientific” part of my mind always wants a logical, detailed answer. And I found one.

The answer is both simple and paradigm-busting: I was finally able to change some of my beliefs. About myself, about my clinical practice, about the kind of relationships I can have. Bruce Lipton, PhD, is a proponent of New Biology, lecturer and cell membrane researcher. He is also the author of a powerful book, The Biology of Belief. Based on his research in Epigenetics, the book offers a detailed biochemical explanation for the ways in which our cells are affected by our thoughts.

According to his findings, our actual biology – the expression of our genes – is controlled by signals from outside the cell, including the energetic messages that stem from our thoughts. Yes, that is correct: mainstream, scientific research has proven that your thoughts impact your body from a cellular level up. While old school biology and medical training teach that the actions of the cell are controlled by the cell’s nucleus, Lipton proved that cells respond to information from their environment – that the organism’s behaviour, and even its fate, are determined by its perception of the environment (2005, xv). And a significant aspect of that environment is determined by our thoughts.

In talking about his own transformation resulting from his research, Lipton writes, “I was exhilarated by the new realization that I could change the character of my life by changing my beliefs…there was a science-based path that would take me from my job as a perennial “victim” to my new position as “co-creator” of my destiny” (2005, xv).

How do we put Lipton’s ground-breaking research into practice in our own lives? We can begin by setting clear intentions about our desires for the New Year. However, Lipton’s research enjoins us to do more than create another sterile list of ‘resolutions’ that will become next December’s ironic status updates on facebook. My new year’s wish for all of us is that we may know this: the power of our thoughts can fundamentally and drastically improve our physical health, and endow our lives with the joy and satisfaction that results from surrendering what Eckhart Tolle has called, “our victim stories” (Tolle, 1999: 84). May being mindful of how we think – not just what we think – inspire us to begin to make the changes we are ready for. May you each set clear intentions, share them with someone you love and trust, and may the power to do things differently help you to have great health – physically, emotionally and spiritually, in 2010.


Lipton, Bruce (2008). The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, and Miracles. Vancouver, BC: Raincoast Inc.

Tolle, Eckhart (1999). The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Vancouver, BC: Namaste Publishing.

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