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17 New Year’s Resolutions Smart People Make Every Year

You'll be relieved to know that not a single one of them is: "Lose weight." Resolve to do just a few of these and your year will be a success.

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“I’m going to plan out my meals for the week every Sunday”

Lots of people resolve to “eat healthy” in the New Year but unless you break that down into an actionable goal you’ll be headfirst into a bag of chips in no time, says Nathalie Beauchamp, a therapist and functional medicine practitioner. One of the best ways to really change your eating habits for the better is to plan out your meals in advance. That way you’ll know exactly what you need to buy at the store and you’ll be less tempted to give in to the siren call of Ramen after a long day, she says. “Meal planning will help you turn healthy eating into a lifelong habit,” she says. Need more ideas? Try these 27 inspiring New Year’s resolutions you’ll want to keep.

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“I will do a ten-minute HIIT workout three times a week.”

Like all health resolutions, simply joining a gym isn’t going to get you in shape. You’ve got to commit to a specific workout and schedule to make it doable, Beauchamp says. She recommends a type of exercise called high-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short. Basically, you do any activity that will skyrocket your heart rate for short intervals of time (like jumping rope or sprinting), followed by a short period of active recovery (striding in place or walking). A popular method uses 20 seconds of activity followed by 40 seconds rest; the key is to go as hard as you can during the “work” time. Repeat these intervals for ten minutes—that’s all the time needed to see serious metabolic benefits.

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“I will lose 5 percent of my body fat.”

Weight loss resolutions are the number one goal people make every January but focusing on this one number can lead to frustration and failure, says Stephanie Lincoln, a licensed mental health counselor, eating psychology specialist, and certified personal trainer. Instead of focusing on pounds lost, which can be from water or poop or muscle as well as fat, focus on losing body fat, she explains. “Working on losing body fat will help you be healthier by preserving muscle and is a more realistic goal, especially for people over 40,” she says. You’ll still be losing weight but this way you make sure it’s coming from the parts of you that you actually want to get rid of. You can have your body fat tested at many gyms or universities. Home scales are another option but they can be very inaccurate.

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“I will try one new healthy food each week.”

Focus on all the foods you can’t or shouldn’t be eating and you’ll feel deprived, frustrated, and rebellious. But if you change your focus to adding new, healthy foods to your diet then it will be easier to ditch the junk food in favor of a fun culinary adventure, says Lindsey Toth, a registered dietitian with Swanson Health. Another smart resolution would be to take a healthy cooking class if you feel intimidated by cooking new things at home. Bonus: This will help you avoid the 14 worst ways to start the New Year.

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“I’m only going to watch one hour of TV a day.”

All our screen time is a problem not so much because of what we are doing—winding down in front of a good show is a great way to relax—but because of what we are not doing. If you’re planted in front of the TV or computer then you’re not walking, cooking, talking to loved ones, exercising, cleaning, studying, working, or doing any of the other daily activities that contribute to good health and sanity, Lincoln says. You don’t have to cut out entertainment entirely but resolve to limit it to a specific amount of time and you’ll be amazed at how much time you suddenly have to accomplish all your big goals, she says. Don’t just channel surf, pick a couple of shows to watch each week and then you’re done.

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“I’m uninstalling Facebook and Instagram from my phone.”

“Take a week and just monitor how much you spend on social media—I bet it’s much more than you realize,” Lincoln says. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like aren’t bad in and of themselves but like watching TV they keep us sedentary and, even worse, focused on comparing our lives to others’. Uninstalling the apps off your phone will keep you from mindlessly scrolling when you’re bored and if there’s something you really want to see, you can always sit down at your computer and log in.

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“I will have 10 percent of my paycheck automatically transferred to savings.”

Resolving to save more money is another popular New Year’s goal but it’s too vague, says Kathy Longo, a certified financial planner with Flourish Wealth Management. Make it doable and specific—like putting away a moderate dollar amount from each paycheck, she says. One smart way to take the sting out of giving up your hard-earned cash is to not see it in the first place. Having the funds taken straight out of your paycheck and automatically deposited into a savings account will ensure you’ll stick to your goals.

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“I will build an emergency fund that covers at least 3 months of my living expenses.”

A recent survey found that nearly half of Americans don’t have enough money to cover just a $400 surprise expense, much less deal with a much larger financial catastrophe like a job loss or a health crisis. Fortifying yourself against this danger by resolving to establish an emergency fund is one of the best goals you can make this year, says Charisse Mackenzie, an accredited financial fiduciary and president of Saturn Wealth. Here are more financial resolutions to make in 2019.

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“My partner and I will have a ‘budget date’ every Saturday.”

Sticking to a family budget when the rest of the family isn’t on board is a recipe for financial failure, Longo says. So when you resolve to make a budget and stick to it—a very smart goal—make sure you’re including your significant other in the process and your children if they’re old enough, she says. Make it fun by going through your expenditures and budget for 15 minutes each week, followed by an affordable date night, like a free concert in the park.

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“I’m going to join a singles adventure group this year.”

For those looking to find a committed, loving, long-term relationship, it’s critical that you focus on what you can do to make it happen, says Amy L. Stark, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author. One thing everyone can do is to resolve to put themselves out there more, as the more activities you do, the higher your chance of meeting someone with similar tastes and values, she suggests. “Instead of focusing on ‘finding love,’ focus instead on improving your social networking and find things you enjoy doing,” she says. Look for singles, church, service, education, sport, or hobby groups that meet in your area.

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“I will read one book from a different genre every month.”

Setting a goal of broadening your interests and becoming more educated and informed is always an excellent idea, says Stark. It’ll make you a better conversationalist, and hone your sense of humor. Check out the 50 ways to have your healthiest holiday season ever.

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“Here’s my month-by-month plan to earn a promotion this year.”

Asking for a raise or a promotion can be a very smart resolution—as long as you go about it the right way, says Steve Saah, executive director for Robert Half Finance & Accounting. Simply throwing your wish out into the universe isn’t going to cut it, nor is trying to exert mind-control over your boss into doing your will. Instead, talk to your superiors about your professional goals and ask for what steps you need to accomplish to reach them. From there, make a detailed plan with deadlines and specific goals to help you get there. Lastly, post it where you can see it and have regular check-ins with your boss to make sure you’re meeting expectations.

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“I’ll be in bed by 10 and lights out by 10:30 p.m. every weeknight.”

When it comes to achieving your resolutions, there is one underlying goal that is necessary for accomplishing pretty much any goal: Get enough sleep! While individual needs vary, experts recommend getting seven to eight hours of shut-eye per night. Making sure you get this will help you have more energy, be more focused, have less stress, and have improved willpower—all traits that you need to achieve your other resolutions like exercising three days a week, writing a book, or quitting sugar, says Samantha Brody, ND, author of Overcoming Overwhelm: Dismantle Your Stress from the Inside Out.

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“I will start each day writing a priority list”

To-do lists are a staple of our modern multi-tasking world, after all, how else would you keep track of the five million things you need to get done every day? They’ll work even better if you make a master list of your priorities—like spending time with family, teaching your children, learning a new skill, cooking a nutritious dinner, practicing self-care, or having a clean house—and then write your to-do list in order of these priorities. This way you won’t find yourself having spent all day putting out small fires for other people’s emergencies while your needs and those of your loved ones go unmet, says Ana Jovanovic, PhD, a psychologist with Parenting Pod. Here are the resolutions you shouldn’t make because they’re impossible to stick to.

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“I will be less critical of others.”

People often think that by putting others down they make themselves look better in comparison but this isn’t true, says Fran Walfish, PhD, a family and relationship psychotherapist, and author. Not only does criticizing others’ looks, career, or life choices not make you look cooler to other people but your own brain doesn’t even believe it—instead of making you feel better about yourself, you’re simply training yourself to look for the negative in everyone, including yourself, she says. Resolving to be more accepting and understanding can go a long way in helping you love and accept yourself as well; you’ll feel happier overall.

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“This year I will go to Costa Rica, learn to box, and frame my art.”

To feel happier and increase your chances of success, instead of writing a list of negative resolutions—”I will stop wasting money” or “I won’t eat junk food”—focus more on your bucket-list type of resolutions, Walfish says. Make a list of things you want to do before you die and then resolve to do two or three of them this year. “Your attitude makes a big difference in your success,” she says. “These are things you’re actually excited to do this year, things you’ll be so proud to have accomplished, and things that will make our lives better, more interesting, more stable, more fun.” Start the New Year right with 31 productive things you can do every day in January.

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“I will not beat myself up if I don’t achieve my resolutions.”

Wait, isn’t the number one rule of resolutions to not give yourself the option of failure? Isn’t the whole point that if you succeed at nothing else in the New Year, you will do this one thing? Actually having this type of perfectionist thinking can make you less likely to achieve your goals, Walfish says. If you miss a day in the gym or go off your diet, don’t waste time feeling guilty or ashamed, just recognize you’re human and get back to it the next day. “You must learn to cut yourself some slack and accept yourself, flaws and all,” she says. Next, find out more resolutions to consider to make 2019 your happiest year yet.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, MS, is an award-winning journalist, author, and ghostwriter who for nearly two decades has covered health, fitness, parenting, relationships, and other wellness and lifestyle topics for major outlets, including Reader’s Digest, O, The Oprah Magazine, Women’s Health, and many more. Charlotte has made appearances with television news outlets such as CBS, NBC, and FOX. She is a certified group fitness instructor in Denver, where she lives with her husband and their five children.