Forget the same-old goals you'll abandon by February 1. Try these fresh new ideas instead.
Year after year, we tend to recycle the same resolutions—lose weight, save money, go to the gym—and often with little success. Instead of making broad promises that are nearly impossible to keep, this year, why not try a goal that's a little more achievable. We asked health experts for the promises they wish people would make to themselves for the new year. Here's what they suggest.
Be a Little Nicer... to Yourself
“Whether we are aware of it or not, we tend to be our own harshest critics,” says Jessica Matthews, senior adviser for wellness education for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and ACE-certified health coach and behavior change specialist. Shifting from negative self-talk like, “I wish I was X” or “I’m not good enough” to positive internal dialog, where you regularly try to acknowledge your own accomplishments and the attributes that make you uniquely you, can improve your health and well-being, she says. It can help to write those things down each day in a journal or just on sticky notes around your home or office (or to even say them out loud to yourself).
Aim to Be Present
Whether you’re spending time with loved ones, exercising, or working, try to stay more present and create moments of being versus doing, says Khajak Keledjian founder and CEO of INSCAPE, a meditation app and studio in New York City. What’s the difference? When you’re “doing,” you're just going through the motions without putting much thought into them—like most of us are day-to day. Being present, on the other hand, means that your actions become a bit more intentional and slower. “You put more focus into what you are doing and really feel what you are doing,” Keledjian says. So instead of racing through eating dinner because it's the next thing on your to-do list, try to remember the meal and the conversations with family—until it becomes a habit.
Eat While You're Eating
This year, try to ban screens while you're eating, says Mike Roussell, Ph.D., author of The MetaShred Diet. “Focus on your food and stop the mindless eating, and you’ll be more satisfied with your meals, feel fuller, and eat less calories overall as a result,” he says. In a small study of women who ate out about five or six times a week, researchers taught half the group mindfulness practices. That group ended up eating about 300 fewer calories each day and also lost almost four pounds in six weeks.
Figure Out What You Really Want
“I wish that people would start the new year (or any beginning) with the goal of tapping deeper into their intuition and being very clear on what they want to create in all aspects of their lives: work, life, and love,” says Liv Young, founder of Box + Flow fitness studio in New York City. This requires something that's hard for many of us: being quiet and still so you can determine what exactly you want. “Listen to your heart and trust your gut,” Young suggests. “When we stop and are still and think deeply about what is important, things start to manifest.” And you may even see that it’s time to let go of things that aren’t working for you, whether that’s your job, a relationship, or something else.
Explore Mindful Movement
If you feel compelled to make an exercise resolution, consider a slightly different approach than setting a goal around weight loss or logging a certain number of minutes of exercise each week, Matthew suggests. “Focus on making the movement you do more mindful and, in turn, more meaningful,” she says. It doesn't matter if you run, lift weights, do yoga, or something else. Simply try to “immerse yourself in the experience, utilizing it as an opportunity to be fully present in the moment and to reflect on and express gratitude for all of the amazing things your body and your breath enable you to do,” she says. This way you work toward improving not only your body, but also your mind and spirit.
Plan Meals By Thinking Protein First
“This is a simple, action-oriented resolution that has the power to modify the composition of every meal that you eat,” Roussell says. When you think about any meal, first decide what your protein will be. You’ll probably find that everything you eat tends to be heavier on the veggies and protein and lighter on the carbs when you do so, Roussell says. And since protein drives fullness and satiety more than carbohydrates or fats do, your meal will also be more nutrient-dense and calorie-controlled compared to one planned around starch like pasta.
Meditate for at Least a Minute a Day
Many people struggle to meditate. So start small, with a single minute each day, and know that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to meditate. “A meditation practice centers on consciousness awareness—simply bearing witness to what is happening around you as well as within you, without feeling the need to change anything about the moment,” Matthews says. “Allowing one full, uninterrupted minute every day to simply be fully present in the moment serves as a welcomed invitation to truly examine and reflect on your own thoughts and feelings, without judgment or expectation, and to tap into what speaks to your soul.” Over time, you can increase how long you meditate daily—on the days when you have more than a minute.
Take a Walk After One Meal a Day
One walk may seem like nothing, but 80 percent of Americans do not meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exercise guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise a week. Studies show that even something as simple as a walk can positively affect your health. “If you do it right after a meal, you will have the added benefit of improving your body’s ability to use and process the carbohydrates in that meal,” Roussell says, which can improve insulin resistance.
Give Mindful Eating a Try
You have probably heard about mindful eating before. But what the heck is it? “Truly think about what you eat every time you put something in your mouth,” says William Yancy, M.D., director of the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center. “Pause in what you are doing to eat something, portion it out, then sit down to eat. Really taste and enjoy the food.” You’ll likely be satisfied with less, which helps you manage your weight long-term.
Push Your Regular Workout a Little Harder
Resolving to exercise more is fine, but upgrade that resolution for bigger benefits. “Don’t just exercise—exercise hard and long enough to get somewhat out of breath,” Yancy says. Use the talk test: If you can carry on a full conversation without pausing to breathe, then you’re not trying hard enough. But if you can only get one word out in between breaths, you may be going too hard. Somewhere in between—short sentences between breaths—is a good aerobic intensity, Yancy says.