New Year’s Eve is a magical holiday — one in which people all over the world delight in the infinite possibilities of the coming year. For many, it’s a tradition to make a list of New Year’s resolutions, or personal promises to let go of bad habits, enforce healthy changes, and accomplish certain goals. Whether you want to finally stop smoking, lose some extra pounds, become a published novelist, be a better friend, or find your soulmate, the new year can often feel like a brand new world in which anything and everything is possible.
However, while resolving to improve yourself and your lifestyle is certainly admirable, it’s important to know the difference between the New Year’s resolutions that will actually serve your overarching purpose and the New Year’s resolutions that will likely do more harm than good — no matter how well-intentioned they are. And, considering 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions will fizzle out by February (via Business Insider), knowing how to make resolutions that will stick is crucial. Here’s a look at some resolutions you should consider making this new year — as well as some you should definitely leave behind.
Don't make this New Year's resolution: "I'll work out every day."
Making a commitment to exercise is perhaps the most popular New Year’s resolution. However, it’s also the resolution with the most potential to fizzle out within just a few months.
Part of the reason fitness resolutions tend to end before they ever truly begin is due to unrealistic expectations New Year’s resolution makers set for themselves. For example, a person who feels inspired to get in shape in the new year might resolve to exercise seven days a week. But, according to experts, placing this expectation on oneself is a surefire way to feel tired and uninspired by the end of January — which could subsequently lead to giving up on the resolution altogether.
“If your resolution is to increase your fitness level, do so gradually,” nutritionist Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, told Everyday Health. Palinski-Wade continued, explaining that pushing yourself too hard at the beginning of the year could even present possible health concerns. “Starting a strenuous fitness routine out of the blue can lead to excessive muscle soreness and even injury, and can be taxing on your health if you have any medical conditions,” the nutritionist revealed. It’s important to know what really happens to your body when you exercise too much.
Make this New Year's resolution: "I'll find a fun physical activity to enjoy."
Of course, physical fitness and health should be a priority in all of our lives. However, becoming the healthiest version of yourself isn’t something that will happen overnight, no matter how hard you push yourself in the gym. In other words, the whole “no pain, no gain” concept shouldn’t be applied to your personal fitness journey in the new year — especially if you desire a long-lasting, effective change.
Speaking to Eat This, Not That, Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum advised, “For exercise, do things that are fun.” The doctor, who authored From Fatigued to Fantastic! continued, saying, “Schedule these [exercises] to be done with a friend, so that you actually show up. For example, walking in the park [and] shopping are good exercises.” Added Dr. Teitelbaum, “Resolve to cut out things that feel bad.”
So, there you have it, folks — dreading the gym is officially out of style this new year. Remember to have some fun with your New Year’s resolutions!
Don't make this New Year's resolution: "I'll never pick up a cigarette again."
According to AddictionCenter.com, nicotine addiction is the single most common addiction facing Americans today. As the website explains, approximately 50 million Americans are addicted to some kind of tobacco product, “including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and snuff.”
For non-smokers, quitting smoking cold turkey — or, in other words, quitting at once rather than gradually — may seem like the most sensible thing to do. However, for those dealing with an addiction to nicotine, resolving to never pick up another cigarette again as a New Year’s resolution may do more harm than good.
As the BBC explained in a September 2018 report, only four percent of people who decide to quit smoking cold turkey are still smoke-free after a year’s time. Moreover, giving in to temptation and picking up a cigarette may subsequently cause a person trying to give up their bad habit to feel like a failure, therefore damaging their morale and lessening their confidence in their ability to quit smoking for good.
Make this New Year's resolution: "I will make a conscious effort to stop smoking."
Many experts and former smokers agree that quitting smoking cold turkey is neither the healthiest nor most effective route to take if you plan on giving up your smoking habit for good as a New Year’s resolution. According to Dr. Steve Schroeder, most smokers aren’t able to rise above their nicotine addiction once and for all the first time they try, so it’s important for aspiring former smokers to not let a relapse stand in the way of success.
“Recent data show that it often takes up to 30 quit attempts before someone finally stops,” Dr. Schroeder revealed to Business Insider. He continued, advising, “[If] you don’t succeed, don’t feel like it’s all over. Keep trying.”
Dr. Michael Fiore of the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin told Business Insider that reducing the amount of cigarettes smoked per day might be the most efficient path to a tobacco-free life. “Gradually reducing cigarettes has been tested in a number of scientific studies and has been shown to be one of the effective ways to quit smoking,” the doctor revealed. For those wanting to stop with the cigarettes, here’s what happens to your body when you quit smoking.
Don't make this New Year's resolution: "This is the year I'll finally get married."
The holidays have a way of putting even the most independent-minded people in the mood for love. Whether you’re single and looking for someone to snuggle with on snowy winter nights or you’re itching to take your relationship to the next level, the warm, fuzzy feelings the holidays bring might inspire you to settle down and tie the knot this new year. However, making a New Year’s resolution to get married isn’t exactly an attainable, reasonable goal.
“In the case of a loving relationship or marriage goal, instead focus on improving your social networking, finding things you enjoy doing, working on loving yourself,” psychologist Dr. Amy Stark wrote in a post on her website. Stark continued, explaining, “Deciding on your own that it is time to marry does not always work for everyone around you.”
In other words, resolving to get married in the new year will likely only set you up for disappointment. Unless you’re already engaged to your partner and actively planning your wedding, it’s best to avoid putting pressure on yourself to exchange vows by a certain date.
Make this New Year's resolution: "I'll engage in healthy relationships this year."
While resolving to get married this new year should probably be avoided, making love a priority for the coming year is totally reasonable. That said, instead of spending hours adding pictures of decadent wedding cakes — like these stunning royal wedding cakes — with unique cake fillings and flowing, princess-like gowns to your Pinterest board, making a resolution to seek out healthy relationships in the new year will likely prove more beneficial, as well as infinitely more attainable.
Dating expert Stef Safran recommends making a New Year’s resolution to be more open-minded while dating. “Decide what areas you might be open to meeting someone that, last year, you wouldn’t give a chance to,” Safran recommended to Bustle readers.
As Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Bregman told Bustle, making an effort to stop comparing new romantic prospects to your ex partners is a New Year’s resolution every single person should add to their list. “This kind of negative thinking can become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Rabbi Bregman explained. He continued, advising, “Instead, if you were treated badly in the past, you should now invest your energies into reflecting on the type of person you’d like to be with in the future.”
Don't make this New Year's resolution: "I'll pay off all my debt this year."
Financial freedom is a universal goal on most people’s lists — however, this is especially true when the time comes to make New Year’s resolutions. In fact, according to the New Year Financial Resolutions Study from Fidelity Investments, nearly 70 percent of Americans resolved to improve their financial situations for 2020.
While the new year often sparks a desire to start anew, people with old debt hanging over their heads will likely find it impossible to feel as if they’re starting the year with a clean slate. If you happen to have credit card bills or pesky student loan debt hanging over your head, you might find yourself resolving to get rid of it all in the coming year. However, according to financial experts, this often is not an attainable goal.
Certified financial planner Kathy Longo told Reader’s Digest, “Although it’s possible to make improvements in either reducing debt or increasing savings, you need to set realistic goals otherwise the New Year’s resolution is doomed to failure.”
Make this New Year's resolution: "I will change my financial mindset this year."
Making your finances a priority in the new year is definitely encouraged — as long as you do so in a way that makes sense for you and your particular lifestyle, and isn’t a New Year’s resolution that’s simply setting you up for certain failure.
April Caldwell, a holistic money coach, told Forbes that cultivating gratefulness for what you already have it an important step in the financial freedom journey. “It can take time to reach our goals and where we want to be; in the meantime we need to see the abundance around us,” Caldwell revealed. She continued, explaining, “[Expressing gratitude] helps to make people more aware and intentional with their choices, ultimately creating a better financial situation.”
Financial coach Ramit Sethi told CNBC Make It that if you want to change your financial state, you must first change your financial mindset. “If you describe yourself as bad with money,’ guess what — you’re probably going to be bad with money,” Sethi explained, suggesting instead to say, “I haven’t yet learned the skills of managing my money, but I’m going to.”
Don't make this New Year's resolution: "I will get a new job that makes me happy."
As revealed by a TopResume survey, 65 percent of professionals have made a New Year’s resolution to leave their current gig and score a new job. However, it’s important that you not view quitting your job as a singular step to happiness.
According to career coach Kathy Caprino, while resolving to find a new job with a healthy work environment is a “fabulous goal,” it likely won’t happen unless you first address the aspects of yourself that landed you in your current position — stuck in a job you hate. As Caprino explained, people subconsciously gravitate toward the same negative patterns and situations in which they were raised, which often leads to taking a position in a damaging professional environment, or working under the wrong boss.
“These individuals often continue to … replicate the same type of dysfunction they grew up in,” Caprino wrote in an article for Forbes. She continued, “Sadly, until we are able to heal what has hurt us from the past, we’ll continue to perpetuate the very challenges that we most want to run from.” So, while there are certainly signs you need to quit your job, you need to thoughtfully examine your own personal reasons to avoid future unhappiness at work.
Make this New Year's resolution: "I will take responsibility for my happiness and ask for help."
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to purchase a figurative one-way ticket to happiness. You can resolve to quit your soul-sucking position and find a new gig, but if you’re counting on a new job to make you a happier person in the new year, you likely need to reframe your perspective.
Technically, your happiness is no one’s responsibility but your own, as you alone choose how you react to certain situations and circumstances. However, as career coach Kathy Caprino explained in an article for Forbes, holding yourself responsible for your happiness does not necessarily mean you have to go it alone. According to Caprino, while some people are able to hold themselves personally accountable for making sustainable changes to reach their goals — like their New Year’s resolutions — and achieve happiness, many folks require the help of an outside support system (or an accountability partner).
“We don’t generally make big change alone or in a vacuum,” Caprino explained in Forbes. She continued, writing, “Most of us need some great outside help and an ongoing accountability structure to keep going towards our highest growth just when we want to bail.”
Don't make this New Year's resolution: "This is the year I'll make it big!"
The promise of a new year carries a particular sense of infinite potential, one that perhaps inspires you to believe that anything is possible. And, while there’s no shame in chasing even your loftiest goals, it’s neither healthy nor reasonable to declare this year the one in which you’ll finally achieve your biggest dream.
Whether you want to be a world-renowned novelist, famous actress, country superstar, news reporter, or Bachelorette like Becca Kufrin and Hannah Brown, putting pressure on yourself to achieve your largest, overarching goal within a year’s time will likely only lead to major disappointment later down the road. That said, career coach Kathy Caprino recommends dreaming big, as long as you’re also injecting a healthy sense of realism into your larger-than-life New Year’s resolution.
“If you want to achieve a lofty goal such as ‘I will finally write my book,’ first understand what you’re committing to in terms of time, money, focus, and actions that will make this goal a reality,” Caprino wrote in an article for Forbes. She advised, “Break the process down into realistic steps and stages, with dates, metrics, and milestones.”
Make this New Year's resolution: "I will make and achieve reasonable goals."
According to The New York Times, most New Year’s resolutions fail for one of three reasons: They’re based on what outside influences want for you (and not what you want for yourself), they’re neither defined nor specific enough, or you don’t have a reasonable plan of action for achieving them. In the case of resolving to achieve your biggest, most long-lasting, overarching dream, the latter of those possible reasons is likely your greatest enemy. After all, when you’re laser-focused on the destination, it’s difficult to pay much mind to the journey.
As Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, explained to The New York Times, the smaller goals required for greater success shouldn’t be overlooked. Instead, they should be celebrated. “Focus on these small wins so you can make gradual progress,” Duhigg told the paper. He continued, explaining that paying more attention to these smaller victories will work to ensure long-lasting, overarching success. “If you’re building a habit, you’re planning for the next decade, not the next couple of months,” added the author.
Don't make this New Year's resolution: "New year, new me."
We’ve all heard the expression, “New year, new me.” However, while the phrase may be totally worthy for a hashtag or Instagram caption, the whole “new year, new me” concept actually promotes a pretty unhelpful perspective, according to experts. In fact, adopting “new year, new me” as a New Year’s resolution is a shining example of what psychologists have dubbed “false hope syndrome,” or the act of assuming you can make major, long-lasting lifestyle changes with ease and within a wildly unreasonable timeline (via the American Psychological Association).
As Steve Salerno wrote in his book Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless (via Time), “[People] think some magic words, some avowed promise, will magically transform their lives, when we all know that the real transformational work is tough, grueling, and usually involves sacrifice and unpleasant choices.” Salerno continued, writing, “We are a culture that is addicted to resolutions and affirmation and rosy rhetoric … and meanwhile, nothing actually changes.”
In other words, while the phrase “new year, new me” might roll off your tongue with ease, it completely undermines the hard work required to actually improve your life.
Make this New Year's resolution: "I will be better than I was last year."
At the risk of sounding like an off-brand Dr. Seuss, the year is new, but you are still the same you — no matter how many times you click your red ruby slippers together and repeat “new year, new me.” That said, while the new year doesn’t present some magical ability to completely change the person you are, each day carries the potential for purposeful personal improvement.
As psychotherapist Karin Sieger wrote in a post on her website, “Meaningful change cannot be hurried and shoe-horned into calendar days or weeks.” In other words, self-improvement is a journey, not something that can be achieved within a self-imposed time limit. Instead of resolving to become a different person, make a New Year’s resolution to be “better” than you were last year by improving your communication skills, getting organized, eating cleaner, healthier foods, etc.
According to social psychology professor Edward Hirt (via Indiana Daily Student), “The ultimate purpose [of making New Year’s resolutions] is to engage in a period of self-assessment and set some concrete plans and goals for change in the coming year.”
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