The 9 Healthiest New Year’s Resolutions You Can Make
Pick one of these worthy resolutions you can stick with.
By Alyssa Sparacino
Medically reviewed by Anju Goel, MD
If you ever made New Year’s resolutions, you’re not alone. One PLOS One 2020 study noted that around 44% of individuals in the U.S. would probably make a New Year’s resolution for the following year.
At times, people who make New Year’s resolutions aren’t always able to maintain them. About 77% of individuals with the resolutions may give them up in less than a month.
Still, it can be hard to keep up the enthusiasm months after you’ve swept up the confetti, but it’s not impossible. Here are some resolutions to try with tips that can make them easier to stick with for the long run.
Start Practicing Healthy Habits
You know what that means: eating healthier and starting an exercise routine. The goal of becoming healthier is perennially among the most popular resolutions.
Taking on healthy habits sounds easy enough, but it can be difficult to commit to. “You want results yesterday, and desperation mode kicks in,” said Pamela Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women. “Beware of the valley of quickie cures.”
Still, you can succeed if you don’t expect overnight success. For changes in your diet, start slow by introducing new healthy foods one at a time to see which ones you might enjoy most.
Also, include exercise into your schedule based on a combination of physical activity you enjoy and any recommendations from a healthcare provider. One starting point might be figuring out how you can work your way up to meet the guidelines of 150 minutes of exercise per week.
Finally, plan for bumps in the road: A support system can help. “Around week four to six…people become excuse mills,” said Dr. Peeke. “That’s why it’s important to have someone there on a regular basis to get you through those rough times.”
Stay in Touch
Feel like old friends (or family) have fallen by the wayside? It’s good for your health to reconnect with them.
One study found that, out of 9,392 adult participants, 12.3% of adults aged 18-79 years old were reported experiencing social isolation. The same study noted that, in general, a lack of social bonds can damage your health as much smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure.
In a technology-fixated era, it’s never been easier to stay in touch—or rejuvenate your relationship—with friends and family, so fire up your favorite social media and then follow up with in-person visits.
Quitting smoking might be the resolution to pick if you’ve been smoking. However, you’ll want to work hard to stick to your decision to quit.
“It’s one of the harder habits to quit,” said Merle Myerson, MD, former Director of the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Program at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals, in New York City.
If you fear that you’ve failed too many times to start quitting or to try quitting again, just talk to anyone who has quit smoking. You’ll find that multiple attempts are often the path to success.
One way that may help you succeed is creating a quit plan, which includes:
- Picking a quit day and your reasons for quitting
- Letting loved ones know that you are quitting
- Identifying your reasons for quitting, smoking triggers, and places to seek immediate help
- Removing smoking-related reminders
- Finding coping strategies
- Setting up rewards for different quit milestones (e.g., smoke-free for 24 hours or one week)
Ultimately, being prepared to quit can aid in the success of quitting for good.
Besides quitting smoking, you can save money by making other healthy lifestyle changes. If possible, walk or ride your bike to work or explore carpooling or rideshare options. (That means more money in your pocket and less air pollution.)
You can also cut back on gym membership costs by exercising at home or during lunch at work. Many free fitness apps and online workout videos can get you sweating.
Take stock of what you have in the fridge and make a grocery list. Aimless supermarket shopping can lead to poor choices for your diet and wallet.
Try to Control Your Stress
Stress isn’t always a bad thing, and stress can actually be helpful for short periods. But chronic stress can increase your risk of—or worsen—anxiety, depression, diabetes, heart disease, and more.
“Long work hours, little sleep, no exercise, poor diet, and not spending time with family and friends can contribute to stress,” said Roberta Lee, MD, former Integrative Medicine Specialist at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City and the author of The Super Stress Solution.
Still, stress is something that we’re all bound to experience at some point.8 “Stress is an inevitable part of life,” added Dr. Roberta. “Relaxation, sleep, socializing, and taking vacations are all things we tell ourselves we deserve but don’t allow ourselves to have.”
So, adding more ways to relieve stress in your life that work for you, like going for a walk or doing meditation, can be helpful.
Choosing to volunteer can do some good for your mood. “We tend to think our own bliss relies on bettering ourselves, but our happiness also increases when we help others,” Peter Kanaris, PhD, Coordinator of Public Education for the New York State Psychological Association, told Health.
That’s in part because happiness can be good for your health. Researchers have noted that people who are happier:
- Have better heart health and immune systems
- Live longer lives
- Engage in healthier behaviors
So, it might be worth adding volunteering to your list of resolutions: “Someone who makes this sort of resolution is likely to obtain a tremendous personal benefit in the happiness department,” said Kanaris.
Commit To Learning
Regardless of your age, heading back to the classroom can help revamp your career or introduce you to new friends.
Having more education might even boost your brainpower. Better late-life cognitive functioning and a lower risk of developing dementia have both been associated with higher education.
There are other benefits to going back to school too. “You are gaining a sense of accomplishment by gaining new knowledge, and you are out there meeting people and creating possibilities that were never there before,” said Kanaris.
You can also commit to self-teaching, subscribing to online courses, or downloading free apps in an area you’re interested in learning about.
Cut Back on Alcohol
While much has been written about the health benefits of a small amount of alcohol, too much tippling is still the bigger problem. Drinking alcohol in excess affects the brain’s neurotransmitters and can increase the risk of depression or memory loss.
Even more: Chronic heavy drinking boosts your risk of liver and heart disease, hypertension, stroke, mental deterioration, and even cancers of the mouth, throat, liver, and breast.
The bottom line? It’s best to start drinking less—or not start in the first place if you’ve never consumed before.
Get More Sleep
You probably already know that a good night’s rest can do wonders for your mood—and appearance. But sleep is more beneficial to your health than you might realize.
A lack of sleep has been linked to a greater risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. And sleep is crucial for strengthening memories (a process called consolidation).
Therefore, aim to get quality sleep and more of it by exercising sleep hygiene or good sleep habits. These habits can include actions such as:
- Going to bed and waking up at consistent times daily
- Having a comfortable bedroom atmosphere (i.e., one that is dark, quiet, and relaxing)
- Getting exercise during the day
A Quick Review
It’s common for people to make New Year’s resolutions, but it’s also common for people to break them. Fortunately, there are resolutions you can make with ways that can help you stick to them.
You can focus on changing your diet and exercise routines, but you can also focus on other aspects like saving money, going back to school, or monitoring your stress. Just know that the best way to approach any resolution is to make a plan and take your time to make progress.