IT'S that time of year again. A time for post-New Year resolution feelings of guilt and self-criticism. Apologies for my pessimism, but the stats back me up – if you still intend to push through with your resolution there’s a 90 per cent chance it’ll lapse by the end of the month.

Mindfulness asks us to notice things as they actually are, moment by moment. When we do this with regard to resolutions we notice that they generally don’t do the job we ask of them. They do, however, succeed in making us feel miserable for failing. With mindfulness, we notice that willpower ... well, it lacks power. The will is there but there’s no fuel in the engine. The engine is your mind so there’s the problem. It’s almost always the problem and that's why mindfulness focuses so much of its attention on our thoughts and feelings.

This is strange. It’s your mind that wants to lose 10 pounds but it’s the same mind that wants to stuff your face with mince pies and leftover chocolates from Christmas. Talk about the enemy within.

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Actually there are two distinct areas of the brain at work. One area deals with reasoning, decision-making, clear thinking; the other ignites fight or flight responses. Imagine having Star Trek's Mr Spock in one corner and Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races in the other. This is what we have to contend with every day.

Every time Mr Spock decides he’ll persuade you to give up alcohol, cakes or whatever, it’s just a matter of time before Dick Dastardly plots to stop you on the road to success. And unlike in the cartoon version, the bad guy generally wins.

I gave up drinking alcohol around the year 2000. I didn’t drink a lot but I disliked the occasional hangover and I knew it wasn’t good for my health. I didn’t make a resolution. I just treated it as an experiment of my early days practising mindfulness. Each time the desire for a beer or red wine popped into my mind I noticed it for what it was – just something that pops up from time to time. This is the core skill of mindfulness. Our task as people who want sane, happy lives, is to discern whether a thought is from Mr Spock, or if it’s Dastardly throwing TNT on the road in front of us. Thanks to my mindfulness I gave up instantly and have never lapsed. No resolution, not even determination. I just stopped and never restarted.

Through the week ahead, try to notice whenever a want arises in your mind. You might call it a craving, a desire, a yearning, a nee; a time when your mind tells you that you are dissatisfied because right now you lack something, and you will only feel satisfied if you get it.

Note it down on your phone if you have a Notes section, or in a private journal. You don’t need to try to block the craving though you can if you want to. What matters for now is gaining familiarity with what your brain comes up with.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds. We are so used to things popping up in our mind that we don’t usually even notice that this is what’s happening. We automatically do what our mind says without question. This is you on autopilot. So you’ll miss a heap of these wants when they arise. Don’t bother about it. Bothering about it is just a waste of your time. Simply try to notice the next one.

If you do get annoyed just note your annoyance in your journal or on your phone. Annoyance is itself another mental creation signifying that you wanted something but didn’t get it.

After a couple of days you’ll start to see that you’re writing down the same things time and again. Then start to add up the repeats to see which are most common. Doing this exercise you’ll learn some key life lessons. You’ll see for real the extent of the recurring nature of most of our thoughts; and you can compare their relative frequency.

Just notice. No vows. The familiarity you gain will act as a subtle distancing between you and your automatic thoughts. Basically, Spock is getting a bit more in charge. Just keep practising.