Every New Year’s Day comes with a wave of people bravely declaring their intentions to change their life. Ah, the New Year’s Resolutions! Ironically, they are often recycled from the year before – top five include losing weight, buying something significant – like a car or a house, unattainable amount of travel destinations, or books to read, or films to see. The key to sticking to your intentions is to start small and focus on quality vs quantity. Diving head first into the new lifestyle of yours gets overwhelming, so you have a cheat day. And then comes the guilt, so you find an excuse to postpone going back to your chosen resolution. The more radical the change, the more hesitant you become. So here is a list of New Year’s resolutions actually worth making, along with tips on easing yourself into it.
Keep your travel destinations realistic. Instead of setting a goal of visiting a number of countries, pick one you always wanted to visit. Plan a trip you can afford, and make sure it’s worth going on. General rule is, the further the destination, and the more expensive the tickets, the longer you ought to stay there. Another thing to consider, is what you actually want from your trip. Don’t go somewhere just because you saw a bunch of filtered pictures on social media. If you’re not a beach person, don’t force yourself – there are plenty historical destinations, volunteering missions, action holidays, or an opportunity to get away from the world by spending a weekend wrapped in a blanket in a cabin somewhere.
• Resolutions focusing on your loved ones.
Consider spending more quality time with family, like sitting down for dinner every once in a while, not just for Christmases and birthdays. Treat your partner to something, or start a
If your resolution is about your loved ones, try to focus on experiences instead of buying them things. Sure, a surprise toy or a bottle of wine is nice but how long will that last?
You could make a home-cooked meal for your partner, book a weekend away for the two of you, take them to see a band they love, or book them onto a workshop relevant to their interests. If you want to treat your parents, they might like theatre tickets, film festival passes, or a spa day. Your kids are almost guaranteed to enjoy a day in a theme park, trampoline park, water park… you get the idea. It doesn’t have to be expensive, either – consider a picnic in a park, or a night in with a karaoke screen, a crafts night to raise money to charity, or a bike ride.
• Fitness goals
First of all, if you’re trying to change your life with exercise, I would recommend finding an activity that engages your mind. Climbing, for example, involves a lot of problem-solving, quite literally. If you’re climbing outdoors, you also have a safety checklist every time you get ready to send – tying in correctly, making sure you have sufficient equipment, or in case of bouldering, placing pads in an appropriate position. Boxing certainly gets you thinking about your body movement, not to mention your opponent’s – that applies to pretty much any combat sport. Circus arts require plenty of concentration – positioning aerial silks correctly in relation to your body, engaging the right muscles in a handstand, rehearsing a new juggling pattern or balancing on a unicycle.
Second, rather than focusing on weight loss itself, focus on specific goals within your chosen activity. Are you trying to be flexible enough to do splits? Or maybe you want to execute a perfect chaturanga. How about reaching the next bouldering grade this year? Doing a perfect drop on silks or a front balance on lyra. Squatting your body weight. Run for 5 miles straight. Try to approach the goal realistically, creating a feasible plan to achieve it. It might be a good idea to consult a trainer or a teacher in your chosen field of fitness, and seek for advice in online groups as to how to orchestrate your plan, setting intermediate goals along the way.
Last but not least, fitness activities are almost universally more fun when done with others. You could involve your friends, parents, or sibling – or, failing that, make new friends! Running clubs, yoga studios, climbing centres, circus schools – all fantastic for finding training buddies.
If you haven’t practised it before, don’t expect to become the master of meditation in one sitting. Meditation is often not what you imagine, and it takes regular practice to become more aware of your mind. There are apps and videos that guide you through as little as 5 minutes a day, giving you tools to observe your own thought process. There are also Buddhist centres and meditation workshops you can attend in person, where it’s possible to ask any questions from the person leading the session. Once you gain some knowledge and practise for a while, you might even consider going to a silent meditation retreat.
• Getting rid of bad habits
Whatever the goal, I would caution against stopping your bad habit in its entirety as the clock strikes midnight. Be strategic. Prepare for withdrawal symptoms. Whether it’s quitting smoking, alcohol, or coffee, wasting money on clothes, or staying up late, make the change slowly, letting your body get used to the smaller amounts of coffee or a more rational sleep schedule.
Be as honest with yourself as you can. Figure out your triggers, and try to minimise their presence in your life. Don’t hesitate to ask for help – overcoming alcohol addiction can be made easier if your friends know not to give you a bottle of vodka for your birthday, and asking your spouse to keep snacks out of the house could prevent a binge-eating episode.
Lastly, these days you have substitutes available to make the transition easier – non-alcoholic beer, nicotine patches, chicory, or green tea, to name a few.
• Diet changes
Try to create a permanent change rather than sticking to a crash diet. If you’re trying to eat healthier, start by defining what it means to yourself. More vegetables in your diet? Portion control? Plentiful breakfast? Once you defined your goal, start to gradually introduce the new element into your nutrition plan. Let’s say you are trying to cut out a particular product out of your diet – this includes becoming vegan and vegetarian, getting used to sugarless coffee, or eating less chocolate. As mentioned above, start by cutting the amounts slowly, and don’t be afraid to use substitutes. If, on the contrary, you’re trying to add something new to your diet, you might want to seek inspiration by browsing for recipes online, or even going to a cookery class. If you want to get into the habit of taking supplements such as protein powder, iron tablets or omega 3 oil, you might want to set yourself a reminder on your phone. Or two.
• Sustainable living
Like with most items on this list, this one is about starting small. Once you start to learn about your impact on the environment, it can be incredibly overwhelming. Slipping up is completely natural, but don’t go beating yourself up. Leading sustainable lifestyle can actually be more challenging right now, with so many things set up in favour of convenience.
Pick one thing at the time, and try to stick to it until it becomes second nature. We can’t erase our impact on the planet entirely, but every little counts. Reusable carrier bags are a great way to start. Buying in bulk saves money and doesn’t use as much packaging. If you can afford to spend time on it, consider making home meals and portioning them into reusable containers. Shopping for fruit and vegetables at markets and corner shops reduces the amount of plastic in your life. Recycling furniture, books and clothes is a good way to reduce waste, and it works both ways – someone might benefit from your old bedside table, and you can find absolute gems at charity shops.
Whatever your goals are, I hope you find a way to achieve them in the next twelve months!