By Beth Lipton
There’s a reason why 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail before February is half over: Resolutions that are too punishing, too extreme, or too negative are hard to stick to. And yet, as soon as the new year begins, so do the headlines and email offers and social media influencer posts promising “New Year, New You!” And nearly all of them have something to do with weight loss.
But we say: You are so much more than your weight. Plus, we happen to think the “old” you is pretty great already. Why must you be something new? Instead of punishing yourself, think of resolutions as tools to help you feel stronger, healthier and more energetic.
Here are 5 New Year’s resolutions that can help you feel better every day. (And they have nothing to do with weight loss.)
1. Be less extreme in your thinking.
Make a resolution to be less black or white in how you approach your healthy habits, says registered dietitian and nutritionist Sydney Greene. “When we make these strict, extreme resolutions to stop doing something, or to start doing something every day,” we’re setting ourselves up to fail. “And when we fail, we just go back to beating ourselves up, and it kills our self esteem, and our motivation.” Her advice? “Use words like ‘less’ instead of ‘never’” or ‘more’ instead of ‘always.'” In general, Greene says, just try being a little more gentle with yourself.
2. Add some variety to your eating routine.
Greene acknowledges that this might be difficult for people who like routine, “but when we eat more variety, feeling better just happens naturally.” You’re less likely to get bored and more likely to get a broader range of nutrients. But you don’t have to go overboard: If you eat eggs every day for breakfast, try something else one day a week. Or try to add something colorful to your plate once a day: Throw some spinach into your scramble or trade your crackers for carrots.
3. Get more sleep.
You feel better after a good night’s rest, and for good reason: Poor sleep blunts immunity, hurts work performance, and makes us more irritable. In the long term, lack of sleep makes us more susceptible to chronic illnesses like metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and more. Try giving yourself a regular bedtime and wake-up time (and sticking to it), creating a solid nighttime routine, or just keeping your phone out of your bedroom.
4. Work out, but do it your way.
“Instead of pushing yourself to always do the insane workouts or to have some kind of wonky routine because social media says you should, try finding what really works for you and feels good,” Greene advises. That doesn’t mean you can’t push yourself, but finding a balance between harder and more restorative workouts is important, as is taking a rest day.
“Find the joy in moving,” Greene adds. “Ask yourself what you used to do when you were a kid.” For example, if you loved bike riding as a child but don’t really enjoy indoor cycling classes, try riding outside again. “Move in a way that makes you smile and doesn’t feel like a chore,” she says.
5. Cut back on alcohol.
It isn’t unusual for people to turn to alcohol in times of stress. If you’ve been drinking more during the pandemic, you’re not alone; research shows that sales of alcohol have increased dramatically since it started. And while many people resolve to do a “dry January,” it might be more beneficial to simply reduce the amount that you drink overall. “In my experience, people will do dry January, but they haven’t really done anything to change their habits. It’s more of a challenge, and continues the black and white thinking,” Greene says. By resolving to reduce the amount that you drink, however, you create new habits for yourself.”
This could mean some days are alcohol free. Or that you have a glass of wine each night, instead of two or three. Over time, you’ll get used to this new normal, instead of powering through the jolt of giving up drinking altogether for a short time and then falling right back into the old routine.