New year, new you … right? Well, it can be a bit trickier than that. Faced with the frenzy of a brand new year, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of new possibilities. It’s also easy to overdo it and sabotage yourself by creating unrealistic goals.
If you’re like us, you’ve long been shrugging at new year’s resolutions. They’re often unrealistic and are likely forgotten before your Christmas tree hits the curb. What’s worse is that a year from now, if you haven’t achieved your goals, you may be left feeling pretty bad about yourself. It seems like a no-win, right? But maybe we’ve just been going about it all wrong. Maybe we should be setting some goals for the year ahead, but instead of making too many resolutions or trying to achieve the impossible, we should celebrate our strengths and focus on small changes.
Most important is maintaining reasonable expectations. If my resolution is to lose 25 pounds this year, I’m unlikely to achieve that. Not because this amount of weight loss would be impossible, but because it’s just a random number. Weight is just a number that makes too many people feel terrible about themselves. Instead, I can resolve to make smaller changes that will make an immediate impact on my life. I can plan out at least three meals a week that I am going to prepare myself using fresh ingredients like vegetables and lean proteins. I can also plan to exercise a few times a week. No, I don’t have to start training for a marathon, but I can find ways to take care of my body, whether that’s making time for a weekly yoga class, checking out that new fitness studio in town, or taking my dog for longer walks. Maybe these changes will help me lose weight. Maybe they’ll simply make me feel better emotionally and more energized physically. It’s so easy to imagine a stranger waiting for me at the end of 2018; she’s long and lean and her diet is absolutely devoid of sugar and simple carbs. Instead, I need to be picturing me, this me, the one who has never, not once, met a cake I didn’t want to devour. But maybe I do stand a little taller and look a little better, because I’ve made a few small changes that make me feel better.
In a list of 15 healthy goals for 2018, Newsweek includes some commonsense changes we can all make to our daily lives. Here are my five favorites:
- Eat more fish.
- If you’re already trying to focus on making healthier meals, throw fish into the mix once a week. Really, it’s so easy to cook, and it truly is “brain food.”
- Give up soda (even diet).
- Regular sodas are essentially liquid sugar, but even the diet stuff is harmful. Recent studies show that diet soda increases the risk of stroke and dementia.
- Go to bed early.
- We already know that poor sleep is linked to all kinds of maladies, like heart disease, obesity and depression, but even with the best intentions we can often get in our own way. Ever climb into bed nice and early, then realize you’ve been staring at your phone for an hour? Disconnect and snuggle up under those covers. Let your body—and your phone—recharge.
- Read more.
- Get yourself a library card and check out some books. Reading can even improve your social skills.
- Hit the gym.
- If you still need a reason to get yourself over to the Studio at Beacon, how about this one: Physical activity can improve your memory and slow aging.
Another great way to improve your life without having to make unrealistic goals is to focus on gratitude. In “How to Keep Your Resolutions,” David Desteno writes, “Reflect on what you’re grateful to have been given. Allow your mind to step into the shoes of those in need and feel for them.
Take pride in the small achievements on the path to your goals. Doing so will help ensure that every future New Year’s Eve will have more to celebrate than to regret.”
That sounds like pretty great advice. Love yourselves and each other and have a very happy new year!