Every year, I make a list of new habits I’d like to start and old bad habits I’d like to break, thereby creating a list of great New Year's resolutions. Some of them are simple, like calling my grandmother more often, but some are more difficult, like giving up Dr. Pepper (I know it’s bad for me, but I just can’t help myself!). Whether you’re looking to make a small change, or a major, life-altering one, here are my ideas for some fantastic New Year’s resolutions, along with tips on how to keep them!
1. Quit Smoking
We all know the dangers associated with smoking, which is likely why quitting is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions. However, millions of people around the world still smoke. My first bit of advice? If you’re not ready to quit, don’t let anyone pressure you into attempting it. When you are ready, make sure you have an action plan, and a small army of supporters. You can quit cold turkey, wean yourself gradually, use smoking-cessation products like Nicorette gum, or even get a prescription medication from your doctor, like Chantix. Once you do quit smoking, you’ll notice some benefits right away — more energy, less breathlessness, and more kissing time with your sweetheart!
2. Get Your Sleep
Lack of sleep can leave you susceptible to everything from catching a cold to the H1N1 virus. It can also make you look sallow, sullen, and worn out. So unattractive! The best way to stay healthy and look bright-eyed is to make sure you’re getting your eight to ten hours of sleep each night. If you suffer from insomnia, the best way to combat it is to set a bedtime routine and stick to it! Also, avoid caffeine and spicy foods at least three hours before bedtime, and stop watching TV for an hour before bedtime. If you still can’t sleep, you may want to talk to your doctor about an over-the-counter or prescription drug to help.
3. Eat More Healthful Foods
We all like our food fast and convenient, but it’s loaded with fat, sodium, and cholesterol. A good rule of thumb: if it comes from a drive-thru or a can, it’s not something you should be eating every day. Instead, cook at home! You need five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, and that’s a great way to start eating a more healthful diet. Also, be sure to drink more water! Not only will you be protecting your heart, you’ll also maintain a healthier weight!
In order to stay fit and healthy, you need to exercise rigorously half an hour a day, at least three days per week. By rigorous, I mean working up a sweat, breathing heavily, heart pounding. You can run, jog, bicycle, take a kick-boxing step-aerobics class, or just use the elliptical machine. One advantage to using a machine at the gym (or at home) is that they have built-in heart-rate monitors, so you know when you’re getting a good cardio workout. Once you’ve started working out, the best way to stay motivated is to find a workout buddy, someone who can encourage you when you want to quit, and someone who won’t judge you for working out in those ratty old sweat pants!
5. Pursue a Hobby
Remember way back when you had a hobby? You painted, or knitted, or sang in a choir? You had that novel you were writing, or that scrapbook you were compiling? When we get busy, we tend to neglect the things that bring us the most joy — our hobbies. But these hobbies are exactly the things that help us reduce stress and unwind. So try your best to set aside one hour every week to pursue your hobby, whatever it might be.
6. Set Aside “you” Time
I don’t know about you, but nothing in this world is more relaxing than a nice hot bubble-bath. Why, then, do we always take quick showers instead? Half the time, I’m brushing my teeth in the shower while my conditioner sets and I’m trying to shave my legs. Set aside time each week to do something that makes you feel good, whether it’s giving yourself a mani/pedi, taking a bubble bath, or (gasp!) getting a massage. Shut off your cell phone, turn off the TV, and unwind.
7. Finish That Project!
Right now, as I type this article, my master bathroom is unpainted, my garage needs organizing, and my memoir is unfinished. I solemnly resolve that this year, I’m going to finish all of those pesky incomplete projects I’ve started but given up on for some reason. Better yet, I’m going to finish them BEFORE I start something new!
8. Spend Time with Your Children
My mother gave me a marvelous bit of advice after the birth of my youngest child: your baby isn’t going to care if the laundry is done, or if the dishwasher’s empty. Before you know it, she’ll be borrowing the car keys. What she meant was, leave off those unimportant, boring chores, and enjoy your children before they become teenagers who are positively allergic to you. Run through piles of crisp fall leaves, dress and undress an army of Barbie dolls, have epic snowball fights. These are the things your children will remember, not how clean the kitchen was.
9. Set Aside a Date Night
It’s so easy to fall into a comfortable, boring rut with your sweetheart. The romance fades. You stop shaving your legs every day, and get a lot more comfortable letting him see you in those ratty sweatpants you wear to the gym. He adores you, swears you’re beautiful anyway. Kudos to him for lying so convincingly! Add some of that spice back into your love life by setting aside a date night with him once a month. Get dressed up, wear make-up and for the love of all that’s holy, shave your legs! Have a nice dinner, make goo-goo eyes at him from across the table, and make him remember why he fell in love with you in the first place.
10. Keep a Journal
Whether it’s a blog or a proper, paper journal in book form, it’s a great idea to keep a daily, or at least weekly, diary. Add photos, ticket stubs, and other mementos, and be candid and honest in your writing. I love keeping a journal because it provides such fantastic perspective. What mattered most to me in my teens (boys, clothes, and boys) seems silly, and I like seeing how far I’ve come, and how my priorities have changed (men, clothes, men)…
11. Spend More Wisely
I loathe living paycheck to paycheck, having to budget every penny carefully to make ends meet. I would love to spend all of my money on handbags, shoes, and my biggest weakness, bracelets! But I’m a mature adult and thinking about retirement. Even if you’re in your early twenties, now is the time to start being wise with money. If you have charge cards, stop using them, and work hard at paying down the balances. If you don’t have charge cards, don’t get them! Most banks offer free online tracking that will let you know how much of your money goes to what expenses, which can be a big eye-opener.
12. Avoid Frenemies
This resolution may sound odd if you’ve never had a frenemy, but if you have, then you know how much time and energy they can sap from you. They’re mean, cruel, and worst of all, they pretend to be your friend, and you just can’t seem to cut them loose. Well, this is the New Year, and you’re done wasting time on people who don’t deserve you! Stop talking to the gossip, stop dieting with the skinny girl, and stop competing with the shop-a-holic. Drop these harmful acquaintances, and delete them from Facebook, too!
13. Spread Love and Joy
No-one wants to be around someone who’s always complaining, frowning, sad, and dull. Granted, we all feel blue sometimes, and need to vent to a friend, but if you’re the type who tends to whine and complain a lot, then you may need to re-evaluate your communication habits. Now’s the time to decide to spread joy and humor, rather than gossip and rumor! Smile more! Be happy!
14. Volunteer Your Time
There are so many worthy causes out there, from childhood literacy, to ending animal cruelty, to combating homelessness. As busy as we all are these days, it’s so much easier to just write a check or drop a few dollars in a donation bin. But it’s so rewarding to volunteer your time, not just your money! Set aside a few hours every two or three months to deliver hot meals to seniors, or clean up a city park, or work with animals. You’ll be glad you did! It also looks great on a resume and a college application, which can’t hurt, either… But if you just can’t find the time, then donate blood, or go ahead and grab your checkbook…
15. Watch Less TV
Where will you find the time to keep most of these fabulous resolutions? Stop watching so much television! Most people watch about four hours of television each day, and that doesn’t include time spent on the Internet playing video games or using Facebook! Allow yourself a couple of hours of TV per week for your top three shows, then turn the TV off, and keep it off! Studies have shown that the simple act of switching off a TV can stimulate you to exercise and actually helps you sleep better! Besides, do you really need to watch another season of The Bachelor or American Idol?
16. Read More
There are so many amazing books out there and now there are so many ways to get a hold of them. Of course you might be busy and running around all the time, but find time. You could read on a bus or a train on the way to work or even for 20 minutes before you go to sleep! All you have to do is pick a book and get started. The hardest part is choosing one, but once you get a good one you won’t want to let go.
17. Do Something Exciting
Pick somewhere you’ve never been to and go. Go skydiving. Run a marathon. Just go do something! People always talk about what they want to do and where they want to go and they never act on it. Here is your chance to act on it! Grab a friend, family member, or significant other and just do something. It doesn’t have to be in January or even the first few months, but start planning and by the end of the year do at least one thing that you never thought you’d do.
18. Be a Better Friend
A lot of times resolutions are all about us, but why not think of other people? If you’re the type of person who is always working or always with a significant other, it might be time for you to spend more time with your friends. If you really don’t have time to go out with them, try giving them a call every once in a while. You never know, you might get closer to some people this way. Try asking more about their lives than talking about yours; it will definitely get noticed.
19. Spend Less Time on Facebook
It doesn’t have to be Facebook, it could be any social media, just stay off of it! It’s hard to stay off when it’s so easy to get to on your phone and computer or people are always talking about what they saw on Facebook or Twitter, but try. This doesn’t mean cut it out completely, but there’s really no need to have it consume your life. Why not try only checking it twice a day or not everyday? If you already do this then of course you don’t need to change your behavior, but if you’re on a social media site countless times a day, it’s time to log off.
There are so many important things we can do for ourselves, and so many great ways to do them! I’m not sure why we’re inspired at the beginning of each New Year to do them, but it’s an opportunity, so take it! Which of these resolutions are you going to make? Or is there something else you want to do instead? How will you keep your resolutions? Please let me know!
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This article was written in collaboration with editor Lydia Sheehan.