Everyone is familiar with the unrealistic and far-fetched New Year's Resolutions, like loosing X amount of weight, quitting X bad habit, saving money, traveling to X country, and having more time and less stress. The problem with many popular New Year's Resolutions is that they are too broad, and the excitement and motivation that comes with looking at the year as a fresh slate for self-improvement quickly fades as many of us slide back into our old habits. Here's a list of tried-and-true simple changes and activities that can help get you toward some of those larger goals.
1. Drink more water.
Water is such a simple and easy way to boost your health and mood. Dehydration can lead to headaches, poor digestion, muscle fatigue and cramps, weight gain, feeling more tired, and wrinkled and dry skin. Drinking 8 glasses may seem like to much, and maybe you'll be able to do it for a week or so, but it's unrealistic for many people. Try drinking a full glass of water before each meal and before drinking your morning coffee. This is an easy way to add a steady three glasses each day. Once you master this routine, try adding another full glass after each meal. Is water just too boring for you? Add a squeeze of lemon.
2. Turn off the television.
People complain to me all the time about being too busy and not having enough time, and many of these same people are ones who have about five regular TV shows at any given time. If you find you're one of these people, try cutting back a bit. Instead of having a slew of shows you feel obligated to every week, pick just one to keep up with and save the others (maybe ones available on Netflix) for when you have chunks of free time. If you spend at least an hour each day in front of the television, try cutting back. Pick a day or two to go completely without TV. These are easy and simple ways to give you more time to yourself and to spend with others.
3. Park farther away, and walk.
Many years ago I saw an episode of Oprah's talk show and she advised everyone, if you're physically able to, to park farther away from whatever store you're going to. Ever since, I have followed this advise. This is such an easy way to burn a few more calories. Some people will circle a parking lot for ten minutes trying to find a spot right near the front of the store--which is a complete waste of time. Avoid that intense, consuming pang of guilt for not putting your basket back in its designated spot and walk a bit more to return it after unloading.
4. Just say no.
If you find you're one of those people who just can't say no--whether it be to a night out when you really don't feel like going out or something unnecessarily stressful to add to your plate--try to learn to say no sometimes. If you're conflicted about whether or not to say yes, ask yourself: Does this matter to me? Am I going to regret saying no? Saying no to what doesn't really matter to you will give you more time to do what you really want to.
5. Carve out some time for unplugging.
Most people are guilty of being on their phones constantly--whether it's posting to social media, responding to emails when you're off the clock, or responding to constant text messages. Do you really need to send a Snapchat of yourself while at dinner with friends and family? Do you need to live-tweet some event or show instead of simply enjoying it? Although it's unrealistic to ask everyone to stop doing these acts completely, unplugging could be a way to help make you feel more present. Pick a designated day (maybe a Saturday or Sunday) and turn your phone off and put it away in another room. If you can't do a whole day, try five hours at least.
6. Find your wallet-draining vice.
It's easy to put "save money" as one of your New Year's Resolutions, but finding specific, consistent ways to do this is the best way to secure some extra money in your wallet. Find what it is that you consistently spend too much money on, whether it be overpriced coffee from a coffee shop or your daily lunch out, and try to cut back. If you can't possibly desert your coffee addiction, try going only once or twice a week for your beloved latte instead of every day. Invest a bit in the right ingredients and make the rest from home. If you spend too much money eating out, try to make your own lunch at least a few days a week--this can help save you money and help you eat healthier. Making these changes will also make your splurges out feel like more of a treat.
7. Find your gluttonous vice.
I'm a firm believer in treating yourself. If you're a potato chip person, don't give them up for good. If you're a chocolate lover, why would you ever, ever, want to give it up? However, there's easy ways to cut back and find a substitute so you're not over-indulging every single day. If you eat chips daily, try substituting the chips with fruit or a healthier cracker or gluten-free chip a few days a week. If you enjoy milkshakes, try making a healthier smoothie from home. Make a list of your gluttonous vices and identify a satisfying, healthier substitute for each. This will allow you to have a healthier option in mind if you find yourself feeling guilty for over-indulging.
8. Meal prep.
It is ideal gumbo weather here in New Orleans, and gumbo is the perfect food to make a big batch of. If you have a busy work week coming up, make a batch of something delicious over the weekend that will keep for most of the week (or even in the freezer for an easy, defrosted meal). You can also do this with snacks, like cutting up fruits and vegetables to make for a quick snack or meal addition. This will make for easy meals and will save you from both slaving away in the kitchen when you don't have the time and from spending more money eating out.
9. Do something you've always wanted to do.
Many New Year's Resolutions include the phrase "travel somewhere" or "go bungee jumping," but you may not have the time or money to make that trip to Europe this year or to do something daring and adventurous. Instead of feeling guilty for not following through with this resolution, try simply doing some things you've always wanted to do. Have you always wanted to learn how to make homemade buttermilk biscuits? Is that restaurant that you've heard everyone rave about for years still on that never-ending list of places-I-need-to-try? Is there a secret family recipe that you want to finally learn how to make? Create a list of small and easy things you've always wanted to do, and do them!
10. De-clutter your closet.
If you finally got some new socks, jeans, and sweaters for Christmas, go through your drawers and closet and get rid of ones that are barely hanging in there or that don't have as flattering a fit. Getting rid or donating older, worn items once you've found proper replacements will help eliminate some clutter and is an easy way to update your wardrobe.
11. Start a gratitude journal.
I started one of these last year and am so glad I did. A gratitude journal is much less daunting than starting a daily regular journal--there's less pressure involved and it's easy to maintain (although regular journals are wonderful, too.) I keep my gratitude journal in my nightstand and write bullets of what I'm thankful for that day. It sometimes reads something like this: that shrimp poboy I had for lunch, walks with my pug--Sir Henry Winston, homemade strawberry margaritas, daily phone calls with my mom, C.D. Wright's poems, bubble baths. A gratitude journal requires barely any time or energy, and it will allow you to appreciate "the little things." Simply write the date and a few things you're thankful for each day.