You've heard 'em all before: exercise more, eat better, use social media less, and so on and so forth.
While you often go into the new year with high aspirations, it doesn't take long before you inevitably call it quits at one point or another. This year, take a different approach and go with one of these more achievable (but incredibly rewarding) New Year's resolutions instead.
“Pick something that resonates with you and aligns with your values so that you can stay motivated,” Nathan Brandon, Psy.D, tells TODAY.com. “Research shows that having a plan and setting achievable goals can increase the likelihood of success."
And if you’ve struggled with maintaining New Year’s resolutions in years past, know that you’re not alone. “Even though many set resolutions, some research has suggested that under 10% of those setting resolutions feel they are successful by year’s end,” Dr. Ray W. Christner, Psy.D., licensed psychologist, CEO of Cognitive Health Solutions, LLC and co-host of the “Psyched to Practice Podcast," tells TODAY.com.
To set yourself up for success, Christner says you should opt for "simple goals that can be done easily and that will have quick results."
Need some inspiration? We turned to the experts — registered dietitians, licensed psychologists, personal trainers and others — to come up with a list of the top New Year's resolution ideas. Whether you’re looking to manage your stress levels, cultivate better friendships, take charge of your finances or eat more plant-based foods, we’ve got something for you.
Pause on purpose daily
Each and every day, take a moment to reflect and breathe. “Taking time to engage in small pauses throughout the day can benefit our mental health and wellness, and it can actually help us be productive," Christner says. "Many of us are in the bad habit of working intensely for long periods of time, yet in actuality we will likely perform best and be more relaxed by interspersing periods of intense work with intermittent periods to pause on purpose."
Christner recommends setting aside two or three minutes every couple of hours. “This might involve taking a few deep breaths, standing up and stretching, reading over a favorite quote, or stepping outside,” he says, adding that each person may figure out their own way to reset and recharge.
Focus on why you're eating
This resolution can be helpful for those that are trying to step out of a diet culture mentality, according to Melissa Macher, RD. “We can get caught up in the ‘what’ in nutrition and completely forget about the ‘why’ behind it. For example, why do I feel the need to snack in the middle of the night? Why do I feel out of control with ___ food? Where is this coming from,” she asks.
Choose a “word of the year”
Embrace a word that resonates with you and make it your guiding mantra for the year ahead.
Lynn R. Zakeri, LCSW, tells TODAY.com that she implemented this after her sister-in-law died on New Year’s Day. “That day held more meaning and it struck me that I wanted to commit to something, for my own good, for a theme of the upcoming year. I have continued to do so,” she says.
When coming up with her word, Zakeri asks herself the following questions: "What is in my way and what do I need to continue to do? What do you want to do better for your own best interest?”
Focus on your financial health
“Financial well-being is a key component of overall health and can have a profound effect on our experiences, goals, and relationships,” Brandon tells TODAY.com. “Taking the time to focus on developing good money habits such as creating and sticking to budgets, setting savings goals, or paying off debt can help us achieve greater peace of mind when it comes to our finances."
Maybe 2023 is the year you finally seek the advice of a financial planner. Or perhaps, you build up an emergency fund for extra reassurance.
This isn't just about the money, though. “Studies have shown that having a strong financial foundation can lead to improved mental health, better stress management and increased overall satisfaction," he adds.
Yes, your food should be savored and not slurped up in a few seconds. “Mindfulness can be applied to eating and is associated with positive health benefits. When we appreciate our food, eat with enjoyment and tune into our appetites, we tend to feel better, and we often lose weight as a result,” Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, and author of "Finally Full, Finally Slim," tells TODAY.com.
She points to a study by researchers from McGill University, which "found that mindfulness-based interventions helped with weight loss while also limiting emotional eating, binge-eating, and anxiety."
If this is a new practice for you, Young says it's important to make sure you always sit down to eat. "Fill up a plate thoughtfully, sit down to eat, and savor each bite so you can be present and enjoy the experience.”
Throughout the year, you extend forgiveness to loved ones and strangers — but what about yourself?
“Nothing good comes from holding onto your regrets. Recognize and accept your past behaviors so that you can move toward a place of healing,” Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD, psychiatrist and founder of Within Health, a virtual eating disorder treatment provider, tells TODAY.com.
Take meaningful risks
Are you risk-averse? That’s totally OK. Though one reason you may be hesitant to take bold moves is because you’re not honing in what would truly make a difference in the quality of your life.
"Taking risks can lead to personal growth and development; it may also open up new opportunities or possibilities that you hadn’t considered before,” Jeanette Lorandini, LCSW, the owner and director of Suffolk DBT, tells TODAY.com. “As daunting as it may be, taking manageable risks can be beneficial in many ways.”
Some examples: Signing up for a leisure sports club that you may be nervous about joining; putting yourself back out there by joining an online dating site or attending an open house for a grad school program.
Let go of the toxic people in your life
If you someone is causing more harm than good, then it's time to cut ties. Sure, it's easier than it sounds, but it's worth it in the end.
“Allowing toxic people and their behaviors to remain in your life can prevent you from reaching your full potential, so it is important to let those relationships go in order to create space for healthier ones," Lorandini says.
Plan your meals each week
“Spending 30 minutes planning your meals each week pays dividends toward better health,” Kim Yawitz, RD, a registered dietitian and gym owner in St. Louis, Missouri, tells TODAY.com.
The proof is in the numbers: A 2017 study found that adults who planned their meals had better diet quality and a lower risk of obesity than those who improvised.
“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every week. I always tell my clients to rotate between two to three options at breakfast and lunch and to repeat dinner menus every few weeks,” she adds.
Sign up for workout classes on Sunday
Instead of simply squeezing in workouts when you find some time, make them a part of your weekly schedule. Whitney Berger, owner WhitFit NYC and a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer, likes plotting out her week of workouts on Sunday nights while sipping on a "nice cup of tea."
"Monday is a great day to start something and you’ll already have your schedule in place to motivate you to get going," she says.
Recognize what you can and cannot control
You’ve heard it before but this is a powerful statement to guide your way into the new year. “Let go of things beyond your control and focus on what you can, such as how you react to stressors, negative emotions or relapses,” Oliver-Pyatt says.
Talking to a trusted friend, therapist, or family member may help you decipher what's what.
Create a self-care 'menu'
“When we are in times of stress, we can’t always come up with these ideas, and choosing from a ‘menu’ can help with that,” Macher says.
At the start of the year, create a "menu" with different self-care activities for any (and every) stressful situation. For each activity, list out two options so you can tailor it to your mood that day. "Sleep is a good self-care option, but you don’t always have the ability to commit to an afternoon nap. So, your two options could be 1) turn off overhead lights, set a timer and do some deep breathing, and 2) take a 30-minute nap."
Cook more at home
Not only is eating at home a great way to save money, but Young points out that it can "save you lots of calories, sodium, and added sugar."
“Eating at home enables you to use ingredients you want like whole grains or brown rice instead of white rice and white pasta," she adds. Along the way, you'll also "learn about portion sizes" and how much food you can realistically eat in one sitting.
If you are a novice in the kitchen, Young suggests starting with something simple like grilled fish, your favorite vegetable, and a healthy starch like sweet potatoes or quinoa. Aim to cook two or three dinners a week, then go from there.
Respond to hunger and fullness cues
Let your body guide you instead of your plate.
Macher suggests using a hunger fullness scale when you eat: 1 means you're starving, 5 means you're feeling neutral and 10 means you're uncomfortable, unbutton-your-pants full.
“Take note of your rating before and after eating. Focus first on the hunger side of things — don’t let yourself get below a 3 on the scale,” Macher says. “After you feel you are responding to your hunger cues consistently, then move on to focusing on not going beyond a 7."
It works in reverse: "Learning to stop eating when you are comfortably full is 10x easier when you’ve learned how to respond to hunger first."
Write in a daily gratitude journal
Head to Target and buy a gratitude journal, folks. Or use your phone, if you must.
“Rather than trying to accomplish these big resolutions, doing something as simple as ending our days by focusing on the positive can have a great impact on us," Christner says.
Zoom in on three things you are most grateful for at the end of each day. “The goal is not looking at the ‘big events’ but rather to focus on the little things that we sometimes easily miss."
Do one daily act of kindness
Paying it forward does more than just make someone else happy — it also helps reduce our stress and improve our overall well-being.
"Some of the best acts are those that are simple, such as complimenting someone, holding the door for a stranger, letting someone in line ahead of you, paying for someone’s cup of coffee, smiling, giving a nice greeting, or even just being patient," Christner says.
Commit to the three basics: sleep, nutrition and exercise
Yep, the big three matter. “It is cliché, but truly ... it all comes back to that. Have you ever met someone you didn’t care for who had all three of these in their daily practice," Zakeri asks. Aim for eight hours of sleep, healthy food choices and regular exercise every single day.
"This keeps us focused on what we can control, it is something for ourselves, it gives us confidence in our health and longevity," Zakeri says.
Find a healthy work-life balance
Working from home has made it even more difficult to take a break from the "office." Still, it’s worth committing to as a New Year’s resolution (or any time of year, for that matter): “Balancing our professional and personal life can be difficult, but it’s essential to maintaining our physical, mental and emotional well-being," Brandon says.
In addition to creating boundaries between work and home, Brandon recommends "taking regular breaks throughout the day" to rest and recharge. It'll pay off in the long-run: Brandon adds that studies have shown that a healthy work-life balance can lead to improved job satisfaction, increased productivity and enhanced quality of life.
Cut yourself some slack
Extend the kindness that you show others to yourself in 2023. “Simply put, speak nicely to yourself, treat yourself with respect and don’t be too hard on yourself. Remind yourself every day: ‘I’m a fallible human. I might make mistakes, but if I do, I’ll figure it out and it’ll be OK,’” Christner says.
Christner recommends starting your day with that very reminder — a positive affirmation, if you will. “Using this self-talk as a mantra of sorts is a good way to keep it at the forefront of our thoughts.” If you do mess up, take a deep breath and repeat the quote a few more times," he adds.
Understand the urgency of things
Remember: It's probably not that important!
"Everything is right now, stress is high, and urgency is applied to emails, calls, and texts, and patience is gone," Zakeri says. To combat this sense of urgency, ask yourself, "Is this critical?" If not, "take a breath and pause," and know "it’s OK if it's done tomorrow.”
Consider this the corollary of the resolution above. “It’s important to set boundaries for yourself and for others to ensure that your emotional needs are being met,” Lorandini says. Doing so will help prevent relationships in your life from becoming too intense, potentially veering into toxic territory.
“This may include setting limitations on how much you’re willing to give of your time and energy to others, as well as saying ‘no’ when needed," Lorandini says. "Setting boundaries will allow you to be more intentional about how you’re spending your time and energy.”
Create a list of coping statements
This practical piece of advice from Oliver-Pyatt will serve you well in the new year whenever you face a tough experience. “Compile a list of coping statements for radical acceptance that you can turn to whenever you are struggling,” Oliver-Pyatt says. “Having these on hand can help you react to painful situations in a mindful way.”
Eat more plant proteins
It's "Veganuary,” after all.
Even if you don’t go fully plant-based, include more plant-based proteins in your everyday diet. “Replacing meat with plant proteins is a good way to improve health. Research found that eating more plants is associated with a reduced rate of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers," Young says.
It's easier than it sounds: Substitute red meat for chickpeas, lentils, nuts, and seeds a few times a week.
Ease into it and try to eat three plant-based meals each week. Set yourself up for success by stocking your pantry with cans of chickpeas or black beans. Then implement quick fixes like Young's go-to: "Sprinkle nuts and seeds on your salad instead of adding meat or cheese."
Focus more on one-on-one relationships
Make 2023 the year you cultivate deep, trusted friendships. “Sure, a group of friends is fun for memories and events and good times and shared experiences, but on a daily basis, it is the individual relationships that matter more,” Zakeri says.
Be intentional with your time and energy, making sure you invest in people who are also willing — and happy — to invest in you.
Clean up your social media
Now's a good time to evaluate your relationship with social media and how it impacts your mental health — and make changes as needed.
“Stop following people who you don’t know, don’t add anything to your growth and make you feel badly about yourself,” Zakeri says. “And on that note, decide how many minutes per day is too many to be scrolling." Set time limits on your phone to keep you accountable.
Find clothes that fit your current body
While many buy new clothes in a smaller size in an effort to incentivize weight loss, Macher urges people to steer clear of this practice. “Your body now is just as worthy of comfortable clothes as your ‘ideal’ body. Having clothes and even underwear that don’t fit properly can be sabotaging," she says.
Rather than trying to change a bad habit, you can use New Year’s resolutions as a way to feed your need for growth.
“We have many mediums to learn new things from reading a book to subscribing to a learning platform like MasterClass," Christner says. “Learning new skills can motivate us, prevent boredom, boost confidence, keep our minds flexible, and improve our happiness.”
Have a year of ‘action not reaction’
It's easy to get caught up in reacting to things that happen throughout the day rather than focusing on how you can make a change. “Working to focus on how we act versus react can help us stay focused and keep calm in stressful situations," Christner says.
Trade negative self-talk for action-oriented questions. Christner recommends asking yourself the following questions to be proactive, not reactive:
- Is this something that I really need to do something about?
- Does this require my action?
- Is there anything I could say or do that would make the situation better?
- If I wait, will this even still be an issue later?
Eat five or six prunes
Looking for a low-effort healthy eating resolution for 2023? Try this tip from Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, an inclusive plant-based dietitian in Stamford, CT and owner of Plant Based with Amy. “This is one of the easiest ways to benefit your bone health. Research shows that eating this number of prunes daily may help prevent bone loss."
Stop monitoring your workouts
This might sound like a counterintuitive piece of advice, but it's a necessary one for those who have become a little too obsessed with their fitness trackers.
“In some cases people can become obsessed with counting calories, steps or calories burned,” Berger says. “So many times I see people in my classes checking their Apple Watches or other wrist devices during class. Leave it home and stay present.”
Of course, if you find that your fitness tracker motivates you in a healthy way, then this resolution isn't for you.
Hit the weight room at least twice each week
If you want to feel stronger and healthier in the year ahead, Yawitz emphasizes the many benefits of spending more time in the “weight room,” whether it's at an actual gym or your living room.
“Lifting weights can help strengthen your bones, decrease your risk of injuries, lower your risk of diabetes, and improve your mood. Strength training also increases metabolism, so it’s a great addition to your routine if you hope to shed a few pounds in 2023,” she says.
New to weightlifting? “A few sessions with a personal trainer can help you make the most of your time in the gym and ensure you’re moving with proper form. Bodyweight exercises like push-ups and lunges are great alternatives if you prefer to work out at home.”
Power down at least an hour before bedtime
A good night's rest is key. “If you often struggle with falling or staying asleep, powering down your devices in the evening is a great place to start,” Yawitz says.
Phones, tablets, TVs and other devices emit blue light, which suppresses the production of melatonin and makes it more difficult to fall asleep. That’s why Yawitz suggests setting a timer to turn off devices and dim your lights at least one hour before bedtime. “You can read during that time, do a craft, stretch, take a bath or visit with family — as long as you keep the lights low.”
Have a plank competition with yourself
Looking for a New Year’s resolution you can do in a few minutes a day? “Every day or each week, add on 10 to 30 more seconds to holding your plank. This is so good for physical strength but also mental strength," Berger says.
To add some more structure to this goal, consider doing a plank in the morning when you wake up and right before bed. "Even if it’s just for a minute, this is a great routine to get into,” Berger says. “Planks are a full-body exercise, great for building core strength but they’re also amazing for focusing and centering.”
Slow it down with a restorative yoga class
Ready to say “om”? Take a restorative yoga class every week. “While we think of fitness as going hard, or challenging workouts, it’s also about maximizing our workouts and focusing on overall goals,” Berger says. “We forget to slow it down and allow our bodies to recover, which is important for muscle building.”
Make balance a priority
We’re saving this succinct New Year’s resolution for last: “Balance. Do what you need to do, then do what you want to do, and then, and only then, do what you should do,” Zakeri says. Easier said than done, but a valuable principle to hold close as we enter 2023.