21 Things to Do on New Year's Day to Start Your Year Off Right

Woman hiking in flannel shirt.

We The People

The onset of New Year's Day can come with planning perplexities. There's pressure to start the year off right, and you might be worried that if you don't do something spectacular, that could be a premonition of what’s to come. New Year’s Day—as originally founded—should be a simple holiday to reflect on the good things from years past and to set intentions for more good things in the year to come.

Though starting the new year meaningfully can feel like a burden, especially with unnecessary societal pressure, it also can be a mindful and positive experience. In an effort to pacify your New Year’s Day planning anxiety, we’ve come up with a list of 21 ideas fit for anyone in any emotional or physical (hangovers welcome) state.

Whether you're looking for a wellness retreat or need to spend the day in hibernation, as long as you do you, 2021 is yours for the taking. 

01 of 21

Take Note of Special Days to Come

Society will tell you that New Year's Day is the perfect day to set resolutions. But if resolutions don't work for you, or if you're coming up short on identifying them, try something a little more fun. Fill out your 2021 calendar by penciling in three to four special events you're hoping to experience or know are on your agenda.

02 of 21

Cleanout Your Closet

closet organizing

Design: Danielle Wurth, Photo: Diana Elizabeth

Can there be anything more cathartic than purging your closet? Don’t settle for anything less than clothes that make you feel like the best version of yourself. Get rid of the old and make room for new wardrobe pieces that will go with the ever-evolving you in the New Year.

Closet cleanouts are a perfect way to start off your new year: by making a generous clothing donation to your community.

03 of 21

Spend Time Cooking or Baking

Crinkle Top Brownies—Things to Bake When You're Bored
Half Baked Harvest

If you’d like to detox after the holiday binge, meal prep can the perfect way to start right. Spend time baking, chopping, and sautéeing in bulk. Make sure to include lots of greens to help ward off winter colds.

04 of 21

Outline Your Goals

woman writing in jounal

Hannah Olinger/Unsplash

New Year’s resolutions aren’t for everyone, but if you’re a goal setter, this day is your playground. Write out your resolutions including the dates you want to achieve them. Make sure each goal attainable and mark your calendar with progressing dates to get you there.

05 of 21

Plan a Feel-Good Day

While celebrating New Year’s can be joyous for some, for others it can be hard. Perhaps over this past year, life hasn’t turned out the way you’d hoped. Or maybe holidays are an especially difficult time for you (very common, by the way). If this is the case, planning a feel-good New Year’s Day can help prevent feeling down or alone.

06 of 21

Go for a Hike

woman hiking on mountain.

What better way to start off a healthy new year than a calorie-burning hike up to a beautiful lookout point to dream about the year ahead.

Don’t live near any hills or hiking trails? A brisk sunset walk can be just as refreshing.

07 of 21

Treat Yourself to Brunch

Women out to brunch.

Stocksy/Bonnin Studio

Whether you want to have a healthy start to your day or share a mimosa with friends, a nice long breakfast or brunch—solo or with friends—is a relaxed and delightful way to start the year. Depending on what’s available, be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.

08 of 21

Practice Yoga

woman doing yoga pose.

Stretch and elongate your body with an hour (or more) of yoga. It’s the perfect balance of mindful reflection and exercise to ease into the year.

09 of 21

Family-Fun Game Day

Start the year off with roaring laughter and entertainment by hosting a game or party day with friends or family. If you aren’t sure which games to select, Cards Against Humanity or Taboo can always please a crowd.

10 of 21

Refresh Your Social Media

Women on laptop and phone eating breakfast.

Stocksy/Carina Konig

Update your social media accounts by editing your bios, handles, and taking down any photos you no longer want publicly seen. A quickly refined rebrand can actually be a good way to set your intentions for the year—describe both the person you are and who you strive to be. Unfollow accounts that don't bring you joy and fill your feed with positivity.

11 of 21

Have a Movie Marathon

Two women watching TV on laptop.

Stocksy/Bonnin Studio

Let’s admit it, if there is one day of the year that a movie marathon binge is culturally accepted, it’s New Year's Day. Cozy up with the best Netflix shows of 2020 and reminisce.

12 of 21

Make it a Wellness Day

Make a refreshing start to the year with a wellness day. If the spas are closed or booked up, plan a morning to evening regenerating day. Start with an easy-to-make smoothie followed by morning yoga. Spend the afternoon cooking up a healthy late brunch, taking a long nature walk followed by soaking in a hot bath, then, exhale the past year away and inhale the year to come.

13 of 21

Practice Gratitude

Gratitude journal flatlay

Courtesy of Mia Ingui

As a way to lift your spirits, practice gratitude on New Year's Day. Call two friends or family members who made you feel special last year and thank them for it.

Start 2021 with one of our favorite projects from last year: a gratitude journal. Date the page and begin recounting all the things that you are grateful for. It is a great exercise for mindfulness and a positive start to your year.

14 of 21

Meditate

woman meditating

VISUALSPECTRUM/Stocksy

Meditation can be one of the most effective helpful tools in increasing serotonin, presence and perspective on life, so sit by your window to meditate.

If meditation doesn't work for you, simply observe the movement of the world outside or light a candle and study the flame. This can have an equally calming effect.

15 of 21

Pet a Few Cute Pups

Dog on a beach.

We The People

Whether yours or a neighbor's, spend time with animals as they are proven to be highly therapeutic. Take your dog for a long walk or cuddle up with your cat—enjoy their simple company.

16 of 21

Have a Cozy Day at Home

window seat

Katie Hodges Design

If you can’t manage to get yourself outside, whether for lack of warmth or energy, there are plenty of things you can do in the comfort of your own home. Cozy up with a few feel-good books or organize old photos into albums and relish in good memories.

17 of 21

Start a Great Book

Woman reading book in bed.

Stocksy/Addictive Creatives

Kick off your year with a reading goal. Start a new book that's been crying for attention on your shelf, or browse a bookstore for something that will inspire you in the new year.

18 of 21

Take a Bus Ride

Sometimes watching the world operate and pass by can give great perspective. Jump on a bus or other mode of public transportation and just see where it takes you. You may choose to get off or just ride the day away. Pay attention to the rhythm of the world around you or zone out with a great soundtrack.

19 of 21

Explore Your Neighborhood

Saunter throughout the day by taking a long walk, whether solo listening to an audiobook or with a good friend. Take your time re-exploring your neighborhood, people watch, and move your body. A night walk can be especially regenerating for a fresh start.

20 of 21

Head Out for Winter Fun

Ice skates in rink.

Unsplash/Kelli McClintock

Enjoy your crisp, sunny January day and try ice skating, window shopping, or snow tubing. You'll start off the year making tons of fun memories.

21 of 21

Spend Time Reflecting

You’ve got a whole 365 days ahead of you, so feel free to pace yourself and start the year off slowly with enjoyable yet relaxed activities.

Article Sources
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  3. Krishnakumar D, Hamblin MR, Lakshmanan S. Meditation and Yoga can Modulate Brain Mechanisms That Affect Behavior and Anxiety-A Modern Scientific PerspectiveAnc Sci. 2015;2(1):13-19. doi:10.14259/as.v2i1.171

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