Resolving to do better next year by cutting back on this, quitting that, and promising yourself you'll be more affable can seem hollow and passé come March or April when work is killing you, patience is running thin, and life is simply running its course.
Instead, consider New Year’s resolution ideas such as paying it forward, engaging in self-care, and even small (but mighty) things, such as practicing daily gratitude and decluttering. And they needn't necessarily be activity-based; goals can range from those that inspire happiness to the professional, highly personal, and everything in between.
We’ve put together a list of 50 New Year’s resolutions that you can pick up, put down, and reengage in anytime you feel the urge. Plus, they'll inspire you to live your best life while looking forward to the year ahead. By choosing to complete one (or more) of these intentions, you're officially well on your way to furthering your own happiness and fulfillment.
Carve Out Me Time
This could mean taking singing classes to get over the fear of performing in front of others, for example. Especially if you feel like you have tons of commitments that aren’t always for you, carve out some solid "me" time in the year ahead by trying a new hobby—or resurrecting an old one—such as cooking, making art, or reading a good book.
Make New Friends
Okay, we admit that it's not always easy to make new friends (especially in your 30s), but there’s no reason to stop trying. Join a local social group on Meetup, or volunteer your time to an organization in need—others may also be trying to meet new people, too, which can alleviate some of the pressure.
Create a Budget
While coming up with a budget isn't necessarily the most fun thing to do (unless you're a numbers person), not knowing where your cash has gone, and being unable to cover your monthly expenses, is even less so. Use an online management tool or app, such as Mint and Clarity Money, or use a spreadsheet template to help set short- and long-term goals. Budgeting for social gatherings and incidentals (unexpected dinners out, new clothes, a locksmith's visit) means you won't have to change old habits too much.
Foster New Work
Even if you’re not looking for a new job right now, it’s still wise to keep sharp in case you see a posting that interests you. Revisit old profile pics and update them, edit and add skills to your résumé, network, subscribe to job alerts, and create an online folder where everything job-related is kept in one place. Keep your professional standing in good health now, and be well prepared to nail any job application and interview.
A clean home is a happy home; quell anxiety, overwhelm, and stress by tidying up and decluttering everything around you. Tackle the refrigerator, cabinets, and messy drawers, desks, and closets. Toss everything you haven't used in six months, donate what you don't love or need, and get ready to celebrate the new year with new clarity and peace of mind.
If left unchecked, stress and anxiety can go unnoticed for some time, and later manifest themselves in physical and emotional ways. Instead of waiting for them to rear their ugly heads, learn stress management and reduction techniques now. Some meditate, others practice yoga, and many exercise to combat stress.
Many people spend a good portion of their lives saying, “I’ll be happy when...” Don't wait to be, or get, happy. Instead, keep healthy habits, focus on staying positive, practice gratitude, and let go of too-stringent or unattainable ambitions while acknowledging there may still be achievable goals you'd like to attain during the upcoming year.
Catch up With Family
Take time to appreciate loved ones via a simple phone call, even if they live just down the street. Check in with those close to you, especially older relatives, if only to say you love them and are grateful for their presence in your life. Not only will it make a sister's, grandparents', or cousin's day, strong family ties contribute to happiness and physical health.
Stop the FOMO
Social media, huge event calendars, and self-imposed guilt only add to one's FOMO (aka Fear of Missing Out). But who wants to start the year off feeling miserable, less connected to others, and stressed out? This year, look within and realize that while there's always something going on, you can't do everything and be everywhere all the time (how exhausting). Take some "me" time to relax and recharge instead of dragging yourself out to a rager for the fourth time this week. Or, if you're too good at saying no, start saying yes to people who ask you to do things—even if you don't think you'll have fun.
Nurture True Friendships
Having many acquaintances is nice until you realize that a super-small portion of them will have your back through thick and thin. Resolve to spend your precious energy on, and free time with, only those you care most deeply about—and those who reciprocate. True friendships are about quality, not quantity.
Relish Your S.O.
It's a worthwhile New Year's resolution that keeps on giving all year long. (Sending love notes works, too) Reserve time on your calendar for several date nights per month—and don't be too attached to what you wind up doing. Remember that staying home can be just as good (if not better) than going out.
Whether you give back once or repeatedly, taking time to volunteer, practicing random acts of kindness, and donating to charity organizations empowers us and opens us up to new experiences and opportunities. Research viable non-profits that align with skills and/or your spirit of giving, and plan to pay it forward, this year and the next.
Satisfy Your Wanderlust
Stop waiting for the "perfect time" to take a trip. Pick a destination and get there in the year ahead. Whether it’s a staycation, solo excursion, girls’ trip, or romantic getaway, you’ll come back refreshed and toting meaningful memories you won't soon forget.
This year, make health a priority: Grab a calendar and schedule doctor's appointments—including a physical, pap smear, dermatologist's visit—and two teeth cleanings. Need help finding a specialist? Zocdoc helps you find doctors within your health plan, book (and stay on top of) appointments, submit insurance claims, and fill prescriptions.
Find a Side Hustle
Whether it’s to earn extra cash or to follow a passion that your day job doesn't satisfy, taking a second job, aka side hustle, could be a great way to indulge your deeper, more fulfilling interests. At the very least, you’ll learn more about work/life balance and develop some pretty major time management skills.
Troll museum and gallery websites to learn about upcoming art exhibitions, score tickets to a play or ballet, take in an orchestral performance, and over the course of next year, teach yourself to appreciate the finer things in life. Cultural activities inspire creativity and teach you open-mindedness and tolerance—something we all can get behind.
Shun Social Media
Too much social media can be a bad thing—especially when you start comparing your real life to someone’s seemingly picture-perfect online life. So plan to take a step back this upcoming year, whether spending a day (or more) social media-free or simply reducing the number of times you check your apps in any one day.
Mark Twain had it right when he opined, "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today." Begin by taking a few minutes to make a list of the things you were going to do tomorrow—and yes, do at least one of those things today. And start imagining how you'll feel if you actually tackled all the stuff you've been putting off. Make a New Year's resolution to stop procrastinating, whether it's vowing to have those conversations you've been avoiding, doing laundry on a more regular basis, or clearing your email inbox.
All successful people practice gratitude to feel healthier, happier, and more at peace with themselves—and they do so daily. Fostering gratitude means writing down a few things you're thankful for—and why. You could also begin your days by vocalizing what you’re grateful for or meditate on your gratitudes in silence. Cultivating this habit in the new year can even help you sleep better and be kinder to others, according to The New York Times writer, John Tierney, who researched the "attitude of gratitude," back in 2011.
There's actually scientific evidence that being kind makes you feel calmer, healthier, and happier—and it's also contagious. Make the world a better place by resolving to do one kind thing (or more!) for a stranger every day or month. Random acts of kindness can include buying coffee for the person waiting in line behind you or paying someone a nice compliment. To help make it a daily practice, download a free Kindness Calendar from RandomActsofKindness.org, a nonprofit that invests its resources into making kindness the norm in schools, workplaces, and beyond.
Try A New Workout
Getting stuck in an exercise rut can be the reason we stop making it a regular part of our lives. This upcoming year, make it a habit to try a new routine at the gym or one you’ve seen on ClassPass. Worst-case scenario? You didn’t love it—but you still got your heart rate up.
In life, change is one of the only constants. Learning to accept it can be difficult, especially if you're change-averse. Remember that change is what allows us to grow and become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Make a resolution to embrace the unknown and think more positively about any changes that occur.
Remember Important Dates
Have you ever found yourself saying, "I'm awful at remembering birthdays"? If so, make a concerted effort to acknowledge other peoples' milestones as you would your own. Anniversaries, promotions, births—anything you yourself would celebrate—are all fair game. Record special dates inside the free Google Calendar and Countdown+ Event Reminders Lite apps. Once you're reminded, call, send a sweet text or mail a card. (And yes, there are apps that even do that for you, too.)
Drink More Water
Healthy adult females and males should drink roughly 11 cups and 15 cups, respectively, of water every day. If you're way under this amount, start drinking more water in the new year. If you’re not a huge fan of plain H20, infuse it with cucumber and/or fruits and herbs for added health benefits and great taste.
There are only 24 hours in a day, so spend the new year maximizing the number of things you're able to get done: Work on developing your time management skills, research productivity hacks and apps, and turn off that phone.
Treat Yourself Kindly
Mistakes and bad days are both inevitable. If you find you're apt to browbeat, rather than show yourself kindness, spend the next year working to reverse this negative habit—it only breeds anxiety and depression. Practicing mindfulness, regular exercise, healthy eating, and ample sleep all help to foster self-compassion.
Reflect on your current dreams and aspirations. Now ask yourself if they're truly as big as they can be. Create your next, positive life phase by training yourself to think beyond what you imagine you can achieve. Cast doubt aside, concentrate only on what you love and that which makes you most fulfilled, and open yourself up to new possibilities in the coming year.
Meditating has nothing to do with religion or philosophy and everything to do with cultivating a healthy mindset and reducing stress. And experts say meditation is a lifesaver, especially when you're undergoing trying times. Start the new year off right by setting time aside to meditate each day; apps like Headspace, Calm, and Buddhify can help.
While takeout is super-convenient, it's not that affordable or healthy. Cooking meals yourself means you'll know exactly what's in them, and whether ingredients are fresh (and healthful). Make a New Year's resolution to cook more, or learn how, and save some major cash in the process.
Follow a Skincare Routine
Glowy skin doesn't just appear overnight—it's the result of years of proper care. This year, work with a dermatologist or skin expert to create a custom skincare routine—or identify your skin type and find the products that work best.
Conquer a Fear
What things do you typically avoid like the plague? Whether you loathe speaking in public, detest snakes and spiders, or you're scared of some imaginary tragedy that has yet to happen, fear isn't something to hold onto—especially since it will always return and prevent you from living your best life. This year, resolve to face fear head-on and release yourself from its choking grasp.
We never really know what’s going on in someone else's life. So before you get mad at a friend for canceling plans or mutter under your breath when a stranger does something to annoy you, teach yourself to pause and summon some compassion before huffing and puffing. (And remember that it's probably not about you.)
For adults, reading books is crucial to our self-development. But whenever we get busy, that good book is often the first thing we neglect in favor of more pressing tasks. This year, make a list of your must-read titles—and vow to finish them all. And speaking of reading...
If you're lucky enough to work from home, congrats. But if you're like the rest of the U.S. workforce, you're spending an average of 4.35 hours a week and over 200 hours (that's nearly nine whole days) a year commuting to and from work. Instead of letting precious time go to waste, listen to audiobooks and podcasts to boost your productivity while improving your overall experience.
Become More Decisive
Nobody's perfect, and not every decision can be, either. This year, stop over-analyzing everything. Instead, commit to end the habit of indecision and spend less time second-guessing yourself.
Channel Your Inner Child
Playfulness is grossly underrated. Especially if you have a particularly draining day job, resolve to make time for play. Adults who play games better maintain their social well being, hone their cognitive functions, and even keep platonic and romantic partnerships healthier than those that don't regularly engage in fun activities.
Keeping it moving doesn't necessarily mean you have to sweat through a high-intensity Tabata workout. Rather, it simply suggests one should be mobile—not sedentary—to get that blood flowing every single day. Moving your body on a daily basis boosts endurance and cardiovascular health, and is even great for your mind. Next year, vow to increase movement by walking rather than driving somewhere, for example, and try to hit 10,000 steps a day. Bottom line: Increase your physical activity and you'll experience obvious health benefits.
It’s not just how long you sleep but also the quality of your rest. Vow to develop better sleep hygiene so the z’s you catch aren't hindering your health but duly preparing you for the day ahead.
Give up a Vice
While smoking, drinking, and eating to excess are the usual suspects, other bad habits (running from your problems, self-sabotaging, constant worrying) can fly under the radar, and rob you of your happiness just the same. Resolve to carve out time to identify and understand your bad habits, whatever they are, and finally break them for good.
Although humans are social beings, learning to be solitary and do things alone isn't always second-nature. It's perfectly okay to keep yourself company and forego socializing to get familiar with numero uno. Flying solo, whether it's to see a movie, dine out, or go on vacation, helps build independence and self-confidence. This year, try forcing yourself out of your comfort zone and do something you wouldn't normally do without your squad in tow.
Care for Something
Sure, we all need to practice self-care to live our best lives, but what about nurturing something other than yourself? If you're not currently the parent of a plant, pet, or some other living thing, then spend the upcoming year trying it out. A 2016 study revealed that taking care of pets, for example, decreases anxiety, promotes a sense of safety, and increases confidence. According to Psychology Today, certain houseplants, too, have been shown to improve well-being, raise productivity, and lower blood pressure.
Keep in Touch
These days, not everyone stays in the same place for long. When friends and loved ones move to faraway places, or even relatively nearby, it can be unsettling and sad. During the next year, especially if you're due for a catch-up, make better efforts to stay in touch. Now, modern technology (Talky, Viber, Skype, and WhatsApp) makes it easy to video chat one-on-one to simulate an "I'm just next door" feeling.
According to a 2010 study by Harvard University, we spend nearly half of our lives not living in the present moment. (Obviously, being present can be a herculean task for even the most woke individuals.) So resolve to slow down this year, practice mindfulness, and go easy on the multitasking, or you could miss some amazing things happening right in front of you.
Develop an Abundance Mindset
Too often, life becomes a "keeping up with the Joneses" race to the finish. But why put yourself under undue pressure? Vow to switch your current state of scarcity to one of abundance. Here's what we mean:
In Steven R. Covey's 1989 book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," the author talks about "abundance mentality" (believing there is plenty for everyone), which is contrasted with "scarcity" (everyone's fighting over what they need). Developing a sense of abundance enables us to feel plentiful, creative, and inspired—rather than angry, overwhelmed, and powerless.
Yes, patience is a virtue, but it's one that can be notoriously difficult to foster and maintain, but science says that waiting for things only makes us happier. So take the next year to learn how to be patient with yourself and others. For starters, work to identify your triggers, know why they make you impatient, and practice some deep breathing.
A lot of us (women especially) have the habit of apologizing for passively uttering "I'm sorry," even when we haven't made an error and/or when things aren't our fault. This year, learn to save your sorry's for when they’re absolutely necessary—and for whenever you really mean it.
Pessimism is so over; Make a New Year's resolution to always see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you're not particularly good at being optimistic, whether due to inherited pessimism (yes, it's a thing), past hurts, or just a general malaise regarding the future, then good news: You can actually train your brain to adopt a "glass-half-full" outlook to better cope during, and after, times of hardship.
Get Yourself Seen
The existential concept of "being seen" basically enables one to harness the vulnerability in exposing our true selves to others in order to foster greater self-confidence. Shed that hard outer shell and instead, try letting friends and loved ones "in" by sharing intimate (not necessarily painful, although that's allowed) details of your life. You'll be surprised to find that many others have had the same experiences, and in turn, they'll feel comfortable sharing more of themselves with you, too.
Love Yourself Unconditionally
Loving yourself just as you are, without restrictions (and not for who you will become one day) is challenging for most people. Resolve to love yourself this year and beyond, by practicing self-care, healing old wounds, exiting toxic relationships, forgiving yourself for mistakes and indiscretions (perceived or otherwise), and accepting yourself in the here and now.
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