Two years into a pandemic, many of us are feeling lost in one way or another. Here, Denise Kenny Byrne gives her tips for mindfully coming back to yourself and your goals.

Denise Kenny Byrne, the founder of the hugely popular Irish wellness company The Head Plan, is currently feeling the same pull towards reclaiming something that was lost.

"It's just this constant thing in my mind about Covid and the feeling like we're missing out on time and the feeling like we're missing out on relationships. Sometimes with those feelings, it's hard to live in the moment", she tells RTÉ LifeStyle.

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The entrepreneur has had a whirlwind couple of years, from launching her successful line of meditation journals and a brand that encourages gentle mindfulness, to her husband falling ill just a short while after their marriage. Though healthy now, it's been hard to adjust to in the midst of a global pandemic, too.

"I feel like we went from Ciaran being sick and, in some sense, a form of locked in – we'd already done a form of lockdown the year before lockdown kicked in for everyone else – and I just feel like my life hasn't been truly normal like many of us now, for the past two years. For me, three years, my life truly hasn't been very normal."

"And I really very mindfully, practice mindfulness so I can live in the present moment, but I can't help but feel I've lost a bit of myself through my connections with different people because I haven't seen them or being able to connect with them."

It's a place many of us know intimately by now, and with a new year comes new energy – or reluctance – to move forward.

It would be easy to assume that Byrne would be all about New Year's resolutions. Assessing the year gone by, planning for the year ahead, it all seems to align with Byrne's company motto, "write it to make it happen". But she's just as wary of the "commercial play" of January 1st.

"I have to agree with the people that say they don't agree with resolutions, to be honest", she says. "When I set up The Head Plan, I very mindfully created an undated journal because I feel like people get so caught up in January 1st or Monday or making a change at the start of the month.

"And I really think it's a bad approach with things. I truly believe you can make a change today. I'm all for that newfound motivation on January 1st when people want to make those positive changes in their life. But that motivation is going to dwindle, and I think that's what people forget. That is not a real motivation."

"It's really about consistency and commitment", she adds. Oh, and that "21 days to create a habit" thing? Not accurate. As Byrne points out, author James Clear debunked this in his seminal work Atomic Habits, proving that it can take anywhere between 66 and 266 days to create a habit.

"I feel like after 21 days, people are like, this isn't sticking. It's just not for me. And then move on to something else. People need to focus on the feeling of sticking to something and the feeling that is going to bring to their life."

So how does a mindfulness entrepreneur keep herself on track for her goals? For Byrne, she starts with writing her goals down and "mindfully" reading them each day as a kind of manifestation – something she acknowledges has become a bit of a "buzzword".

"There's really this misconception that you visualise that you want a car and it ends up in your driveway. Like, that is not what manifesting is. Manifesting is deeply rooted in neuroscience and even quantum physics. It's very much like attracts like and energy", she says.

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So how do you manifest something? "Setting those long term goals, for example, I read them every single day. That is a form of manifesting. I very, very mindfully write my goals in the present tense like they've happened. Like, I am a business owner of a business that does XYZ.

"I ensure that I align my actions to those goals every day. I guess it makes it easier to say no to anything that isn't it. So many of us get caught up in someone else's plan and without even realising it."

In a pandemic, making peace with the present and what we truly want amid so much stress can seem particularly difficult.

"I really believe small switches will help us get there", she says. "As hard as it is, I try not to jump to next week or the week after. Even though I set long short term goals, I very much set them and then plan day to day according to them.

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"Have a look at your hobbies that you currently do try and get the most out of every day. Maybe you won't see people that day, but maybe you might do something for you. Maybe you might read ten pages of your book. Maybe you might swap ten minutes of the news to ten minutes of meditation. Like maybe you might swap two cups of tea for a litre of water.

"Sometimes it's about controlling what you can control and you can control those healthy habits."

While setting intentions for more me-time, taking up a hobby or exercising more are worthwhile and important, many of us go into the new year with more pressing matters on our minds: clearing debt, working towards a mortgage, saving for education or maybe needing to curb some unhealthy financial habits.

Bringing the same focus that we do to making time for ourselves might be the way forward when it comes to getting our financial affairs in order. "Financial wellness is a huge part of our overall wellness, and it's such a source of anxiety for so many of us", Byrne says.

Kenny is working with Bord Gáis Energy on their current campaign to help people keep focused on their financial goals, with an offer of savings of up to €665* a year and a guaranteed price freeze for winter, and a research survey by the company found that 40 per cent of people wanted to be smarter with their spending.

"I do assess my outgoings because we have so much control over our finances", Byrne says. "But I feel like we don't dedicate the time to assess what's actually leaving the account. How many times has a direct debit come out of your account and you're like, oh, I must cancel that next month?"

Facing bigger financial worries is particularly intimidating, and for some people there might be years of financial stress holding them back from facing matters head on. Byrne says that "taking life in bite-sized pieces" is one way to start.

"The Head Plan motto is 'write it to make it happen'. And we absolutely do write it down and make it happen, but a hell of a lot of work goes into making that happen", she says.

"There is a lot of things that I do, and especially when Ciaran was ill, I needed to build up my own emotional resilience because that was a really difficult time", she adds, saying that during that time she focused on nothing but her husband's treatment plan to get through the days.

"It's all about the day that's in front of you. It's about getting the most out of the day."