Ah, the New Year’s resolution—for some, the idea of setting a year-long goal is invigorating and motivational. For the rest of us, well, we’re lucky to make it to the first week of February. Failed resolutions happen for a variety of reasons: Perhaps you were a tad ambitious with your commitment (not that you can’t do anything you put your mind to, superstar!). Or maybe you started feeling like your resolutions were more like punishment, especially if they’re restrictive and focus on things you shouldn’t do.
While we won’t disagree that a new year is a great time for some new habits, traditional New Year’s resolutions can be a recipe for disappointment. “Focus on nourishing your body rather than restricting it,” health coach Ashley Pratt says. The fresh start is the perfect opportunity to reframe your mindset into a more positive and empowering perspective, which can ultimately lead you into actually achieving some of your health and fitness-related goals.
1. Show Daily Gratitude
We’ve all had those tough years when it seemed like nothing went right. For the new year, try keeping a gratitude journal in which you write down a few things you’re thankful for on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just a few bullet points of the good happening in your life. “This will help keep things in perspective and remind you what actually matters to you,” Pratt says.
To take this idea up a notch, take a good look in the mirror and say something good about yourself before walking out the door. “Getting into this habit will help that daily inner dialogue become more positive and supportive,” she adds.
2. Get Outside
You’ve most likely heard about the mental health benefits of spending time in nature. So why can it be so hard to actually get outside? There are a ton of ways you can incorporate outdoor time into your daily routine; you just have to find a way that works for you. Maybe that means you commute on foot once a week or maybe you trade the gym for your local playground. You could make a routine out of strolling through your local park every weekend, join an outdoor sport for a little exercise, or get sweaty with your four-legged pal. Whatever it is, we guarantee spending more time outside will lift your spirits and get you that much-needed vitamin D.
3. Pause More
Ferris Bueller said it best: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Taking a few short breaks throughout the day can help us feel more centered and clear our minds, according to family and marriage therapist Emily Cosgrove. During these few minutes of downtime, drink a glass of water, focus on breathing, or step outside. Whatever you do, leave the phone and back away from the computer.
“The intention of time in solitude is to be present,” she says. “Connect with yourself and notice what’s within and around you. Meditation can not only help with this, but it also reduces stress and anxiety.” So whether that means you pick up meditation as a regular practice or you just block off a few minutes every day for yourself, find time to take care of No. 1—you.
4. Listen to Your Gut
Our New Year’s resolutions often tell us what we should and shouldn’t do. Run more, eat less, don’t spend money on happy hours… wow, this year is already sounding so hard. If you find yourself setting the same restrictive eating guidelines you did last year, try passing the mic to your body this time around. Consider adding more nutritious food to your diet or try intuitive eating, which doesn’t involve calorie counting or banned foods but instead encourages you to listen to your body about what it does and doesn’t need.
Similarly, if you feel pressure to work out but your body is begging you for a rest day, don’t feel shameful for listening to it—recovery is a huge part of any fitness or weight-loss goal, so soak up those stretch sessions guilt-free.
5. Move Your Own Way
“If you hate running, why is your New Year’s resolution to train for a marathon?” says personal trainer Tara Laferrara. “If you don’t find movement you enjoy, you’ll never stick with it. Have dance parties in your kitchen. Play outside with your nieces and nephews. Walk on your lunch break with your coworkers.”
If you’re unsure of what kind of exercise you’ll enjoy, dedicate the first few months of the year to trying new workouts. It doesn’t have to be what’s trending or what you think it should be, it just has to be what you enjoy. Once you find it, we bet you’ll be surprised by how often you’ll want to “exercise.”
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6. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
The start of a new year is a chance to try new things and make new memories, but it’s also important to remember that real change happens when we challenge ourselves to get uncomfortable. “It doesn’t have to be a big leap to start: If you haven’t worked out for six months, don’t force yourself to go to Spin six days a week. If you’re terrified of heights, you don’t have to go skydiving,” Laferrara says.
But just getting yourself moving and thinking in ways you’re not necessarily comfortable with can end up going a long way. Whether it’s finally starting that French course you’ve been putting off or getting to your first yoga class, you’ll be surprised at what you can discover about yourself and where your new habits may take you.
Kathleen Wong is a Honolulu-based writer. If she’s not writing, you can find her at the beach.