New Year’s resolutions are like prom dates; they’re fun to abide for a night, and maybe the two of you will “get lucky,” but the moment that Monday lunch bell rings, they’re old news.
This year, let’s not hang our heads in shame when the promises we make to ourselves fall by the wayside. Instead, let’s vow to make changes we can all get on board with.
"Good health happens when the physical, emotional and social or environmental parts of our lives are in balance," Amy Crawford-Faucher, a family physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told CNN. "When people resolve to 'lose weight,' they are actually saying, 'I want to feel and look better.'”
We all have something we’d like to do better, whether it’s a desire to be more active, less messy, more creative or less attached to our smartphones (antisocial much?). To help you along, we’ve compiled a list of 14 habits, goals and routines to adopt for the New Year.
1. Get specific about your weight-loss goal
It’s one thing to say, “I want to lose weight.” It’s a whole other thing to say, “I’m going to lose weight by jogging Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and by only eating fast food once a month.” Make specific goals for yourself. They don’t have to be big; simply walking home from work instead of taking the bus is a step in the right direction.
As Judith Beck, president of Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, noted in a 2010 issue of Psychology Today, “motivate yourself every day by reading a long list of reasons that you want to lose weight every morning. Pull out this list at vulnerable times of the day, as well.”
Meet your goals in increments. Instead of vowing to lose 15 pounds by July, vow to lose 2 or 3 pounds each month. “The key to resolving this is being specific,” Melissa Burkley, an associate professor of social psychology at Oklahoma State University, told Time. “Making your resolution more concrete allows you to better monitor it. If you fall behind, you know.”
2. Get your finances in order – and keep them that way
First of all, don’t spend money you don’t have. Has that credit card balance added up? Shred the plastic. Making too many compulsive purchases? Realize you don’t need half the stuff you think you do. Eating out too much? Get a cookbook and visit a grocery store.
Also, start saving. Set up an automatic monthly transfer from your paycheck into your savings account.
Don’t think you can do it on your own? Check out mint.com. It’s a fun way to keep your expenses in check.
3. Clear out the clutter
Clutter and stress go hand-in-hand. That week’s pile of mail on the dining room table is actually a bundle of stress. That staircase riddled with stacks of clothes, laundry detergent bottles in various states of emptiness, and workout gear? Also stress. Clear the clutter.
Take the time to purge your apartment or home of things that no longer serve you, and organize the things that do. Set up three large boxes in your living room. Separate everything by things to “keep,” things to “donate” and things to “throw away.”
Invest in tools to help you get organized. A simple book shelf or closet organizer is a good place to start. Get a shoe rack and a clothes hamper. It’s much easier to get out of the house in the morning when you know exactly where your house keys are and don’t have to go diving into a pile of dirty laundry to find them.
4. Be more positive
“Positive thinking doesn't mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life's less pleasant situations,” Mayo Clinic notes. “Positive thinking just means that you approach the unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. You think the best is going to happen, not the worst.”
Being positive can do wonders for your psyche. It can also have a desirable effect on your overall health. Studies have shown a correlation between positive thinking and increased life span, lower rates of depression, better resistance to the common cold, lower levels of stress and better coping skills during adversity.
It’s as simple as looking in the mirror and saying, “I love my hair today!” instead of, “That zit on my cheek is hideous!” Give it a shot! You’ve got nothing to lose, right?
5. Turn your smartphone off more often
Aps are addicting, games are fun, and has anyone else noticed how other people’s faces just aren’t as interesting as my smartphone screen?
If friends constantly call you out on your iPhone addiction, maybe your New Year’s resolution for 2014 should be to put the phone down and just … talk. We get it; the second that cell phone glows with a new message, it’s hard to stifle the intrigue. But really, it can wait.
Engage with the people around you and pledge to give the messages and emails a rest. Give yourself a time frame; “For the next hour, I will not pick up my phone for any reason, other than if Grandma calls.”
At the end of that hour, when there’s a lull in the conversation, allow yourself to quickly check those awaiting text messages. See if any require your immediate response; if they don’t, let them wait! It won’t kill the person on the other end. We promise.
6. Support local mom-and-pop shops
Consumers hold power. Small businesses rely on them! Get to know the small business owners in your neighborhood and support their shops. It’s a great way to get involved in your community.
“The tangible benefits of shopping Mom and Pop are well documented: You skip the drive to the mall or superstore, hence saving carbon emissions, and those fruit-stand peaches use about one-tenth the energy to produce than the ones shipped across the globe to the Wal-Mart,” Bloomberg Businessweek notes. “Studies show shoppers at local produce markets have many more conversations than shoppers in chain supermarkets. Besides being less lonely, it’s surely more relaxing when your kid is munching on a carrot proffered by the farmer instead of screaming for Starbursts at the superstore checkout.”
7. Be more honest
Be honest with yourself. Be more honest with others. Just, be more honest! Honesty goes a long way in relationships. Even if you have to be the bearer of bad news, it’s best to get something off your chest.
8. Donate regularly to a charity
It’s just a good thing to do. Life is a series of expenses -- student loans add up, urban rents have skyrocketed, gas is never cheap -- but if you can cut out just one night a month of going out for drinks and dinner, you’ll be able to spend that $40 or $50 on something good.
9. Watch less TV
It’s simple: read more. Reading will expand your vocabulary, and give you something else to talk about at dinner parties other than the dog or the weather.
Maybe you’re not a novel kind of person. In the age of social media, where 140 characters seems like a lifetime of words, it’s hard to have the attention span for something with 300 or more pages. We get it.
Instead, subscribe to a weekly magazine or two. The Atlantic, Wired, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair all have great long-form articles that will keep you entertained and informed.
Or, why not get a book of poems? Or short stories?
10. Get a hobby
It doesn’t have to be an expensive one. Do comic books tickle your fancy? What about board games? Or how about bird watching? Visit a local hobby shop or search for hobby groups in your area.
11. Get more fresh air
It’s important to get outside more often. According to Prevention, kids who get more “vitamin G,” a shorthand way of saying more time in green spaces, have less stress, perform better in school and have fewer ADHD symptoms.
"We may also exercise and socialize more in nature -- activities with proven health benefits," Frances Kuo, director of the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois, told Prevention.
Find ways to spend more time outdoors. Pick up gardening, or get a dog. A dog is as good an excuse as any to take a walk around the park. Or, find day trips you can do outside the city. Even a winery will do!
12. Don’t neglect chores
You’re too old to leave dirty dishes in the sink or to let the windowsills collect dust. Chores aren't fun, but at this stage in your life, it’s time to suck it up. If your place is cleaner, you’re more likely to want to host friends and family for dinner, or invite others over for a weekend cup of coffee or drink. Not to mention that keeping a tidy home is better for your health.
13. Get more sleep
You will never regret a good night’s sleep. Beyond improving under eye circles and boosting alertness, adequate sleep is essential to a healthy lifestyle. Plenty of rest is known to boost memory, spur creativity, reduce inflammation, improve performance at work and school, lower stress and improve attention, among other things.
College was for late nights and hangovers. Adulthood is all about balance.
14. Eat healthier
We don’t need to remind you of the benefits of eating healthier. Make a choice to develop better eating habits.
A simple rule of thumb is this: When you look at your plate, you should see multiple colors -- greens, oranges, purples, blues and yellows. Eat your greens, control your portions and, most importantly, dare to try new things.
Philip Ross joined IBTimes in March 2013. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from New York University and a B.A. in International Development Studies from the University of...