by Emily Holland: New Year’s is a time for new beginnings and fresh starts…
The year ahead is a clean slate and allots you the opportunity to set goals and improve upon the year before it.
But setting resolutions can feel overwhelming. Sometimes you don’t know where to start or how to set yourself up for success so that you don’t throw in the towel by January 2.
If this sounds familiar, the suggestions below are a great place to start to better yourself and your life.
1. Add a Single, Healthy Habit to Your Daily Routine
Often when making New Year’s resolutions, you think of unhealthy habits that you want to rid yourself of, such as cutting out sugar or to drop certain people from your life. While these are both worthwhile goals, an easier way to attain them is to add a positive habit to your routine and watch as it naturally crowds out the ones that no longer serve you.
For example, instead of making a resolution to cut all sugar from your diet (which, let’s face it, is a pretty tall order), commit to eating more fruit. By adding more fruit to your diet, you may not crave processed sugar as much, finding it easier to cut back.
Another example is to make a daily habit of doing something social where you’re likely to meet like-minded people. Casting a wider net to make new friends will naturally crowd out the people you no longer want in your life. This is more effective than cutting everyone out, then sitting home alone wishing you hadn’t.
Think of a healthy habit you’d like to adopt. Make it as specific as possible. Then brainstorm ways you could incorporate this habit into your daily routine. Another way to go about this is to think of a habit you’d like to break (e.g., unhealthy snacking before bed) and then adopting a positive habit that could naturally crowd it out (e.g., eating a filling, healthy dinner that leaves you satisfied).
These small health habits may not seem like much at first, but, over time, their cumulative effect can bring you one step closer to reaching your health goals in the new year.
2. Reframe Your Relationship with Stress: Use It to Your Advantage
The majority of Americans would benefit from shifting their relationship with stress in the new year. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 79 percent of Americans (that’s eight out of 10) reported experiencing stress on a daily basis. Stress can certainly be unpleasant, but by reframing how you view stress, you can use it to your advantage.
Imagine taking advantage of stress to achieve goals instead of allowing it to delay them. This can be done in a few ways:
- Give stress a purpose.
- Use stress to motivate your behavior to achieve goals.
- Step back and assess why you’re feeling stress. (The root cause of your stress might surprise you.)
In addition to developing a healthy relationship with stress, it’s also vital that you manage your stress levels. Practice self-care, in whatever form that may take for you, to keep stress from building. (If left unchecked, stress can take a toll on you physically and emotionally).
3. Do One Nice Thing for Someone Else Once a Week
If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution that is almost guaranteed to make you feel better and is easy to put into practice, this one’s for you. Numerous studies have shown that when you perform small, altruistic acts of kindness, you benefit as much as the recipient does. A gesture as simple as texting someone a few words of encouragement can make someone’s day and takes less than 30 seconds.
Make a list of simple acts of kindness you can do once a week and stay consistent with it. Once you see the impact small gestures can have, you may want to aim for once a day. But start small as you’ll be more likely to stick with your new habit. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Surprise a neighbor or friend with a cup of coffee.
- Send a letter letting someone know you’re thinking of them. Everyone likes receiving a surprise card in the mail!
- Research volunteer opportunities in your area that require a weekly commitment.
- Cook dinner for a loved one or roommate.
- Call a friend and do more of the listening than talking.
- Check out these 99 simple ways to show kindness to others
4. Take on a New Hobby or Learn a New Skill
Whether it’s mastering the piano or joining a book club, your brain loves novelty. Not only do you feel a sense of accomplishment after trying something new, but according to a 2016 article by Harvard Medical School, it might also boost your brain power and slow cognitive decline. For best results, choose a challenging activity that gets you out of your comfort zone. In other words, the more nervous you are about a new experience, the better you’ll feel after you’ve accomplished it.
Moreover, the article suggests joining a class (e.g., learn a new language or attend a fitness class) to reap the cognitive benefits of a new experience—in addition to boosting self-confidence and improving social skills. If the class setting doesn’t appeal to you, think of a skill or activity you’ve put off. It’s human to be anxious about trying new things, but your new skill’s various benefits may be enough to convince you to take the leap in the new year. Below are a few other suggestions:
- Learn a new sport.
- Cook something you’ve never made before.
- Take up painting or enroll in an acting class.
- Volunteer your time.
- Read a book from a genre you know little about.
Keep in mind that it’s best to start small and then work your way up to the activities you find more anxiety-provoking.
5. Set Aside 10 Minutes for Self-Care Every Day
Self-care encompasses your emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health and is vital for your overall well-being. If you don’t take care of yourself, your body and mind will eventually do what it needs to do to let you know that it’s feeling abandoned.
Commit to honoring what YOU need in the new year by setting aside at least 10 minutes per day to tend to yourself. This will look different for everyone based on personal preference or need. For example, if you’d like to manage your anxiety in the new year, meditating for 10 minutes a day might be a good place to start. Or if you want to feel better physically, take a 10-minute walk in the morning to center yourself before your day unfolds.
Whatever you decide to do, stay as consistent as possible. Try to practice self-care at about the same time each day. (First thing in the morning or last thing at night works well with busy schedules.) Again, give yourself at least 10 minutes in the beginning and gradually extend your self-care routine over time. By the end of the year, you’ll surely feel the difference!
According to the American Psychological Association, you’ll be more likely to keep your New Year’s resolutions if you start small, adopt one new habit at a time, and are patient and compassionate with yourself. Keep these suggestions in the mind, and you might just have your best year yet.