Article originally published on https://www.countryliving.com
A go-to (diet-free) list of achievable changes you can make in the new year.
This year, your New Year’s Eve, like all of the 2020 holidays, will likely look different. You might be spending the evening watching New Year’s movies or playing a New Year’s game at home with your family rather than going out for a glitzy night on the town. It’s been a hard year for all of us, so we get that you might be tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions this year. But one way you can celebrate the passing of the dumpster fire that’s been this last year and celebrate what’s to come is to write out a few new goals for 2021. But we know you’ve see all those resolution lists before, the ones with all the complicated cleanses, intense workout plans, and sincere intentions to do your best and make new healthy habits. Those tend to make you feel overwhelmed, and by January 20th, you’re ready to get back to the same old, same old. But change doesn’t have to come all at once. Why not subscribe to the motto, “Progress, not perfection” this year and pursue a few goals in small steps. What follows is a list of resolutions that aren’t rocket science, but can work within your busy lifestyle, create more freedom, stimulate creativity, and ultimately cultivate connection with those you love and the community around you.
1. Write Snail Mail
2. Drink More Water
A lot of us don’t drink the amount of water we need each day. And yet here we are, another year, and another year of wanting to drink more water, but not really knowing where to start. Start small by replacing 1-2 drinks a day with water. Maybe you replace your second cup of coffee with a glass or two of water. Next, rather than get an insanely large water bottle to hold all of your daily water (that feels overwhelming), buy something fun and exciting, that you are excited to drink from, like this water bottle from Ban.do. Keep the amount of water to a reasonable amount so that while you may have to fill it up a couple of times a day, you’ll get a chance to kill two birds with one stone with an opportunity to stretch your legs as well as refresh your water bottle/cup. Level up your resolution by trying some healthy add-ins like fresh lemon or lime, fruit, or cucumber.
3. Try Something New Each Month
Who says your resolution has to be sticking to just one thing. As they say, “Variety is the spice of life.” Well, spice up your new year by setting a goal to try something new each month. If you are a foodie, it could be a new restaurant, recipe, or ingredient. If you tend to get stuck in a rut, maybe changing up your route to work or changing up your hairstyle could be one of the new things you try. Again, start small, and work up to signing up for that pottery class or Barre class (unless that’s what you’ve been hankering to try). Get creative and don’t forget to get your friends and family involved.
4. Theme Verses
If you’re a person of faith and stuck on what to study, a great way to get in the word or work on your memorization is to find a theme or word to direct your focus for the year. Think of words like love, peace, and trust, or something specific to what you are curious about or dealing with and search out all the verses that contain that word. Words like peace have more than a hundred verses that could keep you busy for at least the first half of the year. Find yourself a good concordance and dictionary, as well as a good Bible commentary and dig into the verses you find. You’ll be amazed at the end of the year how much your faith has grown.
5. “Lazy Genius” Something in Your Life
In her popular podcast—and now book—The Lazy Genius Way, Kendra Adachi teaches us how to be a “genius about the things that matter, and lazy about the things that don’t.” That’s something I think we can all get behind, right? From meal planning, what to wear, and organizing holiday traditions, her ten Lazy Genius ways will help you clarify what matters in your life, what needs a little hacking, and what you could care less about. This year, try lazy genious-ing one area of your life. One concept she talks a lot about is “Decide Once.” And it really is that simple. Decide once what you and your family are going to eat on Wednesdays. Maybe it’s pizza or Italian or something from the Instant Pot. Decide once that you are always going to wear black pants on Fridays. It’s really up to you! Decide once and you won’t have to worry about that thing anymore and you can now spend time on all the other things crowding your brain.
6. Support Local Restaurants
After an especially tough year for the restaurant industry, it’s now more important than ever to support your favorite local spots. Unfortunately, many are having to close their doors after years in the business and communities are losing staples long loved. So consider it a community building resolution along with a goal that’s easy to get behind. Try to purchase directly from the restaurant as much as possible, because a lot of second and third party delivery apps take a large cut of the profits that make a big dent for smaller family owned restaurants. Budget some extra money this year and make it a point of becoming a weekly or bi-weekly regular somewhere or pick a new spot each week to help your local restaurant community stay flourishing.
7. Make Monthly Playlists
Want a soundtrack to your year? Document your favorite songs each month by saving them to a monthly playlist on Spotify. As you hear a song that impacts you or you find yourself listening to on repeat, add it to the playlist. The lists will be eclectic on their own, but by the end of the year, you will have an amazing collection of songs to pull from to create a yearly top songs playlist. You’ll enjoy the memories of looking back to each playlist and hearing the mood of each month of the year and all the new artists you discovered.
8. Pay Off Some Debt With a Spending Fast
If you’re looking to pay off some debt this year, consider checking out Anna Newell Jones’s book The Spender’s Guide to Debt Free Living. She explains that one of the things that helped her get out of debt was doing a spending fast for a year. While it may feel daunting to fast from all extra spending for a whole year, think about doing it for a shorter amount of time like one month or for a particular area of your budget. It could be fasting from your take-out for a month and only cooking at home. You’d probably be surprised at what you save. Or fast from expensive coffee drinks. Look at your budget and see what non-essential area seems to eat up a big portion of your paycheck each month and get creative around what you might fast from. The key to the spending fast, however, is making sure to use the money you saved and aggressively pay down debt with it.
9. Walk a Mile a Day
The thing about this New Year’s resolution is that you might already be doing it. This doesn’t mean go out for a specific walk or run for a mile or more each day, while that could be what you want to aim to work towards. But to start, find a good pedometer, or a pedometer app for your phone (if it doesn’t already have one), and see if you can cumulatively walk a mile a day. For some of you, this is a breeze and you will need a little more of a challenge. Monitor your average mileage or steps over a week and make a challenge based off of the results. For the rest of you, getting movement into your daily routine might be a little more foreign. Getting closer to your mileage goal is all about getting creative about how to get your steps in. Try parking at the back of the parking lot at the grocery store, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Take the long way to the break room for your water or coffee break. And then there’s always running in place. Remember it all adds up and in no time you’ll be walking more than a mile a day.
10. Put Away, All The Way
They say the farthest distance is from the laundry basket to your closet. Right? Or maybe that’s just me. But seriously, if you similarly fall into the trap of folding laundry only to get it halfway to its home, then this year to change that. Start by forgetting your old laundry system. Kendra Adachi of The Lazy Genius Podcast recommends dividing your clothes before they get washed into piles of their final destination rather than their color. Once a destination is washed and dried, make it a point to fold or hang within an hour to avoid the dreaded wrinkles. Then it’s a matter of not letting your clothes enter the Bermuda Triangle between being folded and put away. Aim for a goal of completing this a few laundry cycles in a row. And don’t be shy about rewarding yourself if you meet your goal. Bonus! Laundry can be fun!
11. Journal One Line A Day
If you’ve always wanted to keep a consistent journal, whether it’s about your day or to record your daily gratitude, but feel overwhelmed by the thought, this is your year! A five-year version like this One Line a Day journal allows you to establish the rhythm of journaling and capturing a few thoughts from the day, but in quick bursts. It’s easy to capture a few memories from the day as you go to bed or reflect on a few things you are looking forward to each morning. You’d be surprised at how this simple habit will help you capture memories, express your emotions, and find contentment in the things you have.
12. Shed Some Weight by Decluttering
As we sat in our home this year, we discovered we had gained a lot of unnecessary weight, and not the kind you would think. No, not body weight (no body/weight shaming here!) but STUFF! Looking around our homes we couldn’t help but notice all the clutter we’d accumulated in the hustle and bustle of our on-the-go lives. Once we sat down for a little (okay, a long) while, we realized that we really didn’t need half the stuff we were living with. So if you’re like most of us and want a little breathing room this new year, spend some time going through a room in your house and see what could be donated or sold in order to create a little more minimalism in your home. It can be overwhelming at first, so just go one space at a time. Find your local Goodwill, thrift store, or non-profit that is currently taking items, and make sure to check and see what they are accepting. The freedom you feel from a decluttered home will be worth all the effort.
13. Start Meal Planning One Meal
You’ve pinned the pins. Purchased all the matching reusable containers. You even went as far as downloading a cute meal planning sheet from your favorite blogger. You did one week of meal planning but then events popped up mid-week or meals got derailed by a hankering for take-out. It’s true: It takes a while to get the hang of meal planning and find the right rhythm for you and your lifestyle. So this year, rather than try to overhaul every meal, try to meal plan just one. For those of you trying to reform your lunch time takeout budget, maybe your goal is planning a few take-to-work meals a week. If you struggle with eating breakfast, your goal could be meal planning a few grab-and-go options you buy and prep for each week, like hard boiled eggs, frozen waffles, egg bites, and prepackaged avocado for avocado toast. If dinner is your hang up, you don’t need fancy meal planning printouts. Keep a note in your phone and update it each week as you go shopping. This will help you keep the habit and keep food from spoiling and unused. Pro-tip: Plan in nights for eating out and leftovers, and once you have the ingredients for each meal in your house, don’t feel locked into a meal on any given night—feel free to mix and match per your tastes, but do make sure to use what you have.
14. Send Birthday Cards
Sure, you could write a Facebook post for your friends and family like everyone else, but this year go the extra mile and send actual birthday cards instead. Be on the lookout at different shops or paper stores that have fun cards or birthday cards on sale and create a collection to pull from throughout the year. Level up by making your own cards. You can buy simple blank cards and create your own artwork and personal birthday message.
15. Print & Hang Some Pictures
You don’t have to complete the gallery wall of your dreams, but this year get one step closer by picking a few favorite photos to print. Start with just a few. It can be overwhelming looking through your whole photo roll on your phone or combing through files on your computer, so take a cue from your Instagram feed. What were your favorite photos you posted this year? Go find your top ten or twenty and print them in various sizes and print them at one of the many online photo printers like Artifact Uprising or Mpix. If you want to up your resolution game and complete a photo book, places like Blurb and Snapfish often have great deals on creating coffee table-worthy photo books so your photos can finally live outside the digital world. Bonus: They also make great gifts!
16. Take Safe Trips
If you’re not feeling like hopping on a flight just yet, then it might be time to start planning your next road trip. U.S. Travel Association is currently promoting their “Let’s Go There” campaign with tools to help you plan your next trip. One option is to make this the year you visit more National and State Parks with your family. Get a National Parks Passport Book, and fill it with stamps as you visit each park, monument, and historic area. Seeing the country by car will be a unique way to take in the amazing variation of landscapes, cuisines, people, and landmarks along the way that you would definitely miss if you were 32,000 feet above it.
17. Stay in Touch
If there’s one thing 2020 has shown us, it’s that there is no excuse not to stay in touch with those we love. With so many ways to connect, from text, to email, to Zoom and MarcoPolo, to a good old-fashioned phone call (!)—if we have to be apart, there are so many ways to get in touch. And another thing we’ve learned is how much a quick text from a friend or a short Facetime with a grandparent can go a long way toward helping us feel not so alone and fill us up with love. Go into this with a goal of connecting with 1-3 people per week. Start small and be consistent. Try zeroing in on a different family member and friend each week and get creative with how you connect. Send a YouTube video or a song link you think they would love over messenger, prep your respective dinners together over Zoom, or create a Bitmoji and have conversation only using Bitmojis. Remember that reaching out to your favorite people will brighten their day, no matter if they can get back to you right away. Ultimately, the last thing you want for any of your friendships is to look down at your phone and see that the last text you sent was a year ago!
18. New Hobby
You’ve had all year to practice your sourdough skills and master your favorite TikTok dance, so what new hobby are you going to master—or let’s be real—attempt, this year? You could try your hand at gardening. And if you are worried about not having a green thumb, start with a small herb garden or a bed of perennials for project that is a little more hands off and more about just keeping them watered. If you’re looking for something to keep your hands busy and give you a little zoning out kind of therapy, try one of the many knitting or embroidery kits out there. No one says you have to be a pro at the start, nor do you have to do it the hard way. Easing yourself into a hobby will help you stick with it if it ends up being something you enjoy doing.