As we begin the new year, we look forward to invigorating changes, from breathing new life into our relationships or careers to tackling personal goals.
At the top of the list for many of us is a promise to improve our appearances. According to recent statistics, 45 percent of Americans cite losing weight or getting “in shape” as their resolution for the new year, so we are not alone if we gravitate toward health and fitness when resolving to improve our lives.
But this is not the only form of personal development—and it is far from the most important. There are myriad ways to enrich our lives that transcend eliminating sugar or joining a gym. Our physical health is important, and yes, we should certainly incorporate healthy habits into our daily rituals. Not to mention, it is natural to gravitate toward tangible goals—like adjusting how we eat and move—as benchmarks for personal growth. Nonetheless, it is a valuable exercise to stretch ourselves beyond our natural tendencies and to find ways to enrich our lives in other ways, too.
This month, challenge yourself to devise resolutions that cultivate growth in areas beyond your physical health and shape. To inspire conversation and reflection on this topic, here is a list of fifteen non-diet, non-fitness New Year’s resolution ideas.
01. Spend less money.
Resolve to save as much as you can instead of impulsively spending on coffee, happy hours, and clothing. If spending is your natural tendency, resolve to make saving and frugality an acquired habit. This does not mean you have to shun any and all fun like shopping at your favorite stores. All it requires is a mindset shift in the way you approach your finances. To get started, host a household “no spend” challenge.
02. Read two books each month.
Ditch the Netflix binges and dive into books. Audio books and e-books count. The only rule: One of the books has to be fiction! For inspiration, check out Modern Mrs. Darcy or our list of inspiring books to read in your twenties and thirties.
03. Cook more than half of your meals at home.
A few nights a week, cook at home instead of eating out or ordering takeout. Plan to start small, so you don’t overwhelm yourself. For instance, if you currently eat out or order takeout six nights a week, pick three nights to cook instead. This will be beneficial for your health and your wallet, and you may learn that you really enjoy cooking.
04. Prioritize sleep.
Studies consistently show that Americans are chronically sleep-deprived, falling far short of the 7–9 hours required to optimize health, mental clarity, and longevity. Huffington Post founder and sleep enthusiast Arianna Huffington has built an empire around promoting the benefits of getting enough sleep, starting with her book Thrive. In the book, she shares the disturbing truth that “sleep deprivation reduces our emotional intelligence, self-regard, assertiveness, sense of independence, empathy toward others, the quality of our interpersonal relationships, positive thinking, and impulse control.” Resolving to sleep a full 7–9 hours per night is a fantastic way to prioritize your health in the new year.
05. Host one meal in your home per month.
Resolve to throw open your doors to friends, family, and neighbors whenever you have the chance. If you are concerned your culinary skills aren’t up to par, order pizza or serve drinks and appetizers. The key is to cultivate a habit of saying yes to having company, to welcoming people into your home and life. This is a habit that will strengthen your relationships and bring you—and others—joy.
06. Say “no.”
Quell your tendency to give an unfettered “yes” to every commitment you are asked to tackle. Instead, cultivate a new habit: Before you say “yes” to an opportunity, state that you need to think about it first. This will afford you the margin you need to sort through your own thoughts, free of pressure and external influences. If you need encouragement in this journey to conserve your yeses, pick up a copy of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less on your next trip to the library.
07. Do a digital detox.
Pick one month to fast from all forms of social media. This can kickstart a long-term habit of reducing screen time, breaking that instinctive pull toward technology. If the thought of disconnecting from email, texting, and social media for an entire month is intimidating or even impractical for you, start small and choose one day to try it. If it helps, inform your family and friends that you intend to remain “unplugged,” so they can support your goal.
08. Spend time outside every day.
Spending any amount of time outside is great for our health. Resolve to spend at least a few minutes outside every day. To encourage this habit, create a beautiful outdoor space for yourself, whether it involves placing rocking chairs on your front porch, or simply lining potted plants along a window with a pretty view of the street outside your apartment.
09. Plan a trip.
Traveling enriches our lives in numerous ways. If an international trip isn’t in the budget this year, plan a weekend trip or, better yet, a local day trip. For inspiration, check out our Travel with a Local column for ideas of regional attractions.
10. Attend a cultural food festival.
Follow your city or town on social media to track local cultural events, like food festivals. These events offer a fun opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and experience the flavors of other cultures. Make sure you try something you’ve never eaten before!
11. Smile more.
No one smiles too much. Develop a habit of smiling at strangers you pass on the sidewalk instead of deliberately looking away or whipping out your phone to avoid eye contact. You can spread joy and encourage community simply by signaling to someone that you see them and that they are worth your time and attention.
12. Entertain yourself without your phone.
When you have downtime, like waiting in a coffee line or commuting, resist the temptation to pull out your phone and mindlessly scroll through Instagram. Instead, sit still and look around. Not only is this better for your neck and your eyes, but you will learn a great deal by observing your surroundings, catching pieces of conversations, and seeing beautiful things—like a tree in full bloom or a city skyline—that you otherwise would have missed.
13. Find an alternative wind-down method to Netflix.
While Netflix can be a fun way to wind down at the end of the day, it is possible to overdo screen time. Find a trusty alternative to your nightly routine of catching up on shows. Reading a novel, drinking tea, listening to music, taking a hot shower, or writing in a journal are healthy self-care alternatives.
14. Buy a journal and write in it regularly.
Even if just a few sentences a day, cultivating a habit of journaling regularly can enhance your mental health. As one source notes, a consistent journaling habit can reduce anxiety, improve memory, boost self-esteem, and enhance mental clarity.
15. Diversify your Pandora stations.
Music has the power to lift our moods, encourage contemplation, or energize us before a workout. Mix things up by listening to a music genre that you’ve never given a chance. If you love country music, try setting up an indie rock Pandora station. If you routinely turn to Top 40 hits, try out some classic oldies or a Frank Sinatra radio station for your next dinner party.
This month, seek out an accountability partner (or two), and take a confident step outside of your comfort zone by thinking beyond fitness- and diet-related resolutions. Whether you resolve to skip the screen or take a trip, host and cook or hunker down with your long-neglected reading list, alternative resolutions can set the stage for incredible personal growth in 2019.