New year, new-and-improved you? Not so fast. In a recent survey from Forbes Health/OnePoll, just 20 percent of respondents said they keep themselves accountable when it comes to sticking to their resolutions.
If you can relate, we assert that the problem isn’t you but the impossible resolutions you’re making. Odds are you’ve got good intentions, but you’re either leaping too far outside your comfort zone or getting too hung up on perfection. Or both! The secret is to choose a change that fits into and enhances the life you’re already living. We asked friends, family, and colleagues for easy shifts (some daily, some one-and-done) that have made a real difference to them. Take one and pass it on.
Promotion-proofing my inbox
“This year I challenged myself to a ‘no-shop November’ and started deleting my Gmail promotions inbox two or three times a day to resist temptation. (I don’t have the stamina to sit down and unsubscribe to everything.) It’s been super easy to maintain and feels wonderfully subversive. Best of all, I cut my Amex bill in half for the month, which is a great incentive to keep it up.” —Jennie T.
Emulating my friends
“A few years ago, I made a list of the top qualities I appreciated in my closest friends (e.g., an excellent hostess; doesn’t gossip; nonjudgmental; funny) and worked to see if I could adopt those traits myself. I now have less black-and-white thinking, and I find myself being not quite as gossipy or mean.” —Emma A.
Finding our indoor voices
“I implemented a rule: no calling out to family members from downstairs or across the house. Nobody likes to be yelled at from afar. At worst, the volume recalls the feeling of somehow being ‘in trouble.’ At best, it just feels like an intrusion, followed by the inconvenience of having to stop what you are doing to come out to the banister to ask the person to repeat their question that invariably gets lost between floors.” —Pilar G.
Getting lost in a book
“I resolved to read at least a book a month, and I have exceeded my goal. It has brought me joy, helped me focus less on my phone, and reminded me how grounding it is to hold paper in my hands.” —Damion S.
Fine-tuning my workout
“I invested in a personal trainer to make sure I exercised in a way that made sense. They worked around and with my physical limitations and made sure I didn’t get hurt. I’m a year-plus in, and the gym is now my place for me time. I miss it when I miss a day.” —Eliza L.
Silencing my inner music snob
“I made a resolution to stop dissing music I don’t like, because it really upsets people when other folks knock stuff that means something to them. It’s not fair, not okay, and doesn’t make me come off as kind or cool. The one exception? Phil Collins. I will shit on him at every occasion and shame the world around me for listening to him.” —Alex C.
Being still in my body
“I did 30 days of yoga the January after giving birth. It made me feel way better physically and mentally. I’ve learned to be more present in my body and in the moment. I offered to assist in a yoga class at the high school where I worked, and then the parents’ association paid for me to do a 200-hour training. Now I’m officially a yoga teacher.” —Elizabeth G.
Feathering my nest
“This year, I challenged myself to make my bed each morning, no matter what, because messy beds equal messy thoughts. It helps me jump-start my day in a productive way; plus, my neat-as-a-pin bed has become the perfect backdrop during my Zoom meetings (where I even get comments on how stylized it is). This newfound daily chore takes less than a minute to do, but it rewards me each time!” —Cassie S.
Showing myself the money
“I made a resolution to become more financially literate and stop burying my head in the sand when it comes to money. I realized that personal finances don’t need to be scary. I started scheduling a monthly check-in where I look at my accounts, add to my savings, and do a deep dive into what I’ve spent. Now I even listen to the occasional money podcast.” —Rosie H.
Getting off my butt
“The single most impactful change I’ve made was getting a standing desk. My legs got sore for a few weeks, and I had to take breaks to sit, and now I can stand all day. My posture is better, and I’ve slowed the continental drift of my butt. Studies basically all say that sitting kills you, so hopefully I’m slowing my eventual death as well.” —Lexi N.
Rescheduling my skincare
“I was going to bed too often without washing my face or using Retin-A, so I made a resolution to wash my face and do my skincare before dinner rather than waiting to do it right before bed. This way, I’m not tempted to go to bed without skipping any steps. Worked like a charm for me. I feel better about my skin and don’t see the rosacea flares I used to get. Only time will tell if the Retin-A habit is paying off.” —Lisa G.
Saying no to notifications
“I turned off all social media notifications. I got tired of red-dot fever—I’m not built for always-there communication. It’s been liberating.” —Dave L.
Eating with empathy
“After learning about the lives of dairy cows, I decided to stick to a no-rules vegan diet. For me, that means eating fish, eggs, and dairy on special occasions—an excellent cheese plate at a restaurant, ice cream on a summer night, that sort of thing. I am not perfect about it, but I’m pretty successful, and that makes me feel great. It’s a slightly more peaceful life, and my skin looks better.” —Megan C.
Resigning as social secretary
“I got tired of doing all the work in my friendships, so last year I resolved to stop being the instigator of my social life. No more organizing for me. If someone wants to hang out, they can take a turn planning it. I’ve stuck with it and have no regrets. And my social life has changed—I’ve stayed active, but I’m hanging out with different people who actually contribute.” —Kristen S.
tarting the day with a breath
“People hate breathing exercises, but doing them really does keep your anxiety down. My resolution was to just take a minute or two and focus on my breathing before bolting into my day in the mornings. When I inhale, I release my belly completely (without holding in my stomach to look thinner) and on the exhale, pull my navel to my spine. It’s a great way to set an intention for the day.” —Ammo O.
Tending a tiny garden
“A couple years ago, I got a houseplant and resolved to keep it alive. I chose a peace lily, which is super hard to kill. I only have to water it every 10 to 14 days, when the leaves look wilty. It’s enormous now, and the greenery in our apartment makes such a difference. It makes me happy and relaxed to look at it. For really minimal effort, the return has been huge.” —Rachel S.
Embracing small wins
“I made a resolution to stick with Pilates. Unless I’m traveling or have Covid, I’m there at least once a week. When my dog died in May, it gave me a reason to leave the house. I could be in a room with people but not have to talk. It helped change my mindset about goals. I am a zero-or-100 person. If I don’t have a big win, I give up. I realized my body doesn’t work that way—I’m meeting goals incrementally. The best part? I’m trusting my body more. I’m stronger, and less scared of losing my balance when I climb up on a stepladder.” —Gloria Y.
“One of my goals for 2023 was to learn how to be okay spending time by myself. It’s been a bumpy road, but I did manage the Herculean task of sitting at a bar alone for two glasses of wine (with a book, of course). It was a bit awkward at first, but I came away feeling proud of myself. Here’s to the possibility of having a full meal alone next year.” —Cassie H.
Wobbling for balance
“I had a balance board that was gathering dust, and I’d read about how balance is important as you age. So I started standing on it after I do a HIIT workout— that’s my cue, so I don’t forget, and it means I do it twice a week. My rule is that I have to balance on it for at least 16 seconds and do that twice. I know, very arbitrary! It’s not based on anything except that it usually takes me a few tries, so it’s just hard enough, but not so hard that it takes more than a few minutes.” —Michelle S.
“If I don’t have time in the morning to work out, I squeeze in a five-minute YouTube meditation to center my thoughts and tame any stress overflow during a busy week. I lie on a yoga mat in my room right when I wake up, and I feel extremely relaxed afterward. Anything I was worrying about seems a lot less important.” —Morgan B.
“After feeling like the pandemic had impacted my friendships, I made a resolution to be consistent about being in touch. In the case of one long-distance friend, Tiffany, we decided on something simple. We met freshman year and have always bonded over music, so we started a ‘Song of the Month’ text exchange. On the first of each month, we recommend a song we like to each other. Even though we talk only once or twice a year, I feel connected when I play ‘her’ song. It often leads me to discover new artists—ones that I will always associate with my friend.” —Carl K.
Naming three good things
“Every night before we go to sleep, my fiance and I share three specific moments that we’re grateful for. It could be a great meal, seeing friends, taking our dog to the park, a workout, calling our parents, a good hair day, or a win at work. It makes us realize how special the small things can be.” —Sara K.
Staying in sometimes
“I try to please my family and friends by going to parties, restaurants, bars, and clubs, but sometimes, I just really don’t want to go. Instead of being hard on myself, I resolved to stop doing social things that I’d rather not do. Now I just say, ‘No, thank you’ when I don’t feel like it. Life is too short to waste doing things you don’t like.” —Aaron R.
Boiling it down
“I used to make long lists of things I was going to do, then beat myself up for falling short, so I resolved to stop setting myself up for failure by making resolutions. I still feel guilty about not doing them, like I’m not being intentional about my growth. This year, I’m going to reframe it as one thing I want to do for myself: Prioritize my physical and mental health.” —Deniz G.
Sticking with the splits
“When I was 5, I was the only girl in my ballet class who couldn’t do the splits. Two decades later, I decided to remedy that. I love yoga but often lack in motivation, so training and stretching with something specific—and fun—in mind has really helped. I’m not quite there, but am determined to make 2024 the year of the splits!” —Sofia L.
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