30 New Year's Resolutions You'll Actually Stick to This Year

If you struggle meeting goals, just move the goalposts.

30 New Year's Resolutions You'll Actually Stick to This Year

The holiday season means several things, chiefly parties, parties, and more parties—followed by a whole lot of New Year's resolutions. And if you feel like some of those resolutions are insurmountable ("I'm going to get a six-pack!" "I'm going to visit a new country!"), you're not alone. In fact, according to one study out of the University of Scranton, just 8 percent of people end up actually sticking to their lofty life-changing proclamations.

In other words, instead of trying to carve a set of abs someone could climb like a ladder—or planning a $10,000 trip around the Mediterranean—try setting your sights on these 20 New Year's resolutions that you can actually keep. Even better: they're small commitments with very big payoffs. So good luck! And to ensure you stick to these lofty goals like glue, be sure you avoid the 25 Biggest New Year's Resolution Mistakes.

Stand for an hour each day.

new year's resolutions standing desk

Spending eight hours (or more!) hunched over a keyboard is—and surely this will shock you—horrible for your spine. Every second you spend at your desk causes increased pressure on your spine, which can lead to disc degeneration or a dreaded case of pinched nerves. So, this coming year, vow to stand up at your desk more. Dedicating just ten minutes of every hour to standing up creates more than an hour each day that you're not sitting. And for more ways to quickly improve your overall health, steal these 15 Best 60-Second Health Hacks.

Drive less.

traffic in chicago

Gas costs money. Insurance costs money. Tickets and taxes and repairs cost money. Yes, driving is enormously expensive. It's also enormously dangerous: Per Federal Highway Administration figures, there are more than 37,000 vehicular fatalities in America per year. And then there's the environmental impact. Thanks in no small part to the sheer number of cars on the road, our climate, you may have heard, isn't exactly in great shape. In short, every minute you spend off the road is a minute well spent. So this year, vow to get around without driving—either via public transit or carpool—just one day per week.

Ask for a raise.

new year's resolutions ask for a raise

Sure, it's a terrifying ask. And sure, your request may ultimately amount to nothing. But at the end of the day, that's all it is: A question. If you approach the situation right, worst case, you spent thirty minutes in a mildly uncomfortable chat—and best case, you leave the room with a fatter paycheck. And if that sounds daunting, well, Here's Exactly How to Ask for a Raise.

Get a new pillow.

girl sleeping in the daytime.

Really, when's the last time you got a new pillow? Well, if it's been more than two years, you should remedy that—stat. The National Sleep Foundation recommends you swap headrests every 24 months; otherwise, you continually expose yourself to years of built-up fungi and bacteria. (Also, getting a new pillow can work wonders on any neck or back problems that may plague you.) Of all the New Year's resolutions you can make, this one may very well offer the highest ROI. For ideas on what to pick up, check out the 10 Best Pillows For A Better Night's Sleep.

Drink more water.

new year's resolutions drink more water bottle

Common knowledge dictates that we should drink eight 8-ounce cups of water each day. And if you think you're all set, chances are, you're not. In fact, according to a recent study out of the CDC, 43 percent of Americans drink less than four cups of water each day. That's simply not enough. Make a conscious effort to drink more water, even if it's just one cup when you wake and one before you go to bed. Every drop counts.

Practice the 80-20 rule.

breast cancer prevention, salad

Losing weight is, year after the year, America's number-one New Year's resolution. And year after year, people stick to it—before giving up, because major lifestyle changes are a total pain. Thing is, to lose weight, you don't need to give up your favorite foods. You don't need to spend 15 hours a week in the gym. No, instead, just implement the 80-20 rule.

Here's how it works: When you portion out a meal, put out about 80 percent of what you'd normally eat. Then, wait 20 minutes. (It takes about that long for your brain to "catch up" to your stomach.) If you're still hungry, eat the remaining 20 percent. If you're full, don't. There are roughly 358,029,487 factors that cause weight gain and prevent weight loss, but few are as significant and detrimental as the routine act of continuing to eat after you're full. And for more ways to minimize your waistline, steal these 20 Weight-Loss Techniques Successful Dieters Share.

Cook more often.

ways to stick to diets

When you eat out—particularly at fast-food or fast-casual chains—you have precisely zero way of knowing what, exactly, goes into your food. There very well could be unhealthy fats and oils in each dish, all of which contribute to weight gain. By cooking in your own kitchen, you can control every ingredient that goes into your meals—and your body. This year, make dinner at home at least one night a week. And who knows: You may find cooking to be a blast, and end up doing it even more.

Commit to a language app.

new year's resolutions learn a language

Is there anything sexier than a foreign language? Answer: Nope. In fact, if you take it from CNN, nearly three-quarters of Americans find multilingual folks more attractive than monolingual ones. Of course, learning a language from scratch is easier said (or rather, not said) than done. But there are apps out there—like busuu or Babbel—that make the process a walk in the park. Simply downloading and checking one out could set you on your way to becoming an instantly more attractive beau. For ideas on which tongues to pick up, consider The 20 Most Difficult Languages in the World to Learn.

Take your coffee black.

new year's resolutions drink your coffee black

A cup of black coffee has fewer than 5 calories. A cup with cream and sugar can have up to 100—and that doesn't even account for the excess fat and glucose in your diet, which can contribute to heart disease and diabetes. Also, drinking black coffee can help prevent cavities, according to a study in the Journal of Conservative Dentistry. In other words, the only logical reason to not switch to black coffee is because you can't stand the flavor. So try switching to a light roast, something like Starbucks's Veranda blend: It's naturally sweeter—and naturally more caffeinated.

And drink less coffee, too.

brain boosting habits over 40

Figures from the National Coffee Association indicate that 64 percent of Americans have a daily coffee habit—up a whole 7 points from just two years ago. And the most recent U.S. Health Department guidelines indicate that three cups a day is around the ceiling of how many you should drink. Consuming too much coffee can result in everything from iron deficiency to—no surprise here—increased blood pressure. Swap one of your cups a day for an alternate caffeine source, like black tea.

Be more polite.

new year's resolutions smiling barista

And while you're picking up your daily (now pitch black) coffee, get in the habit of saying "Please" and "Thank you" to your barista. According to research from the American Psychological Association, the exchange of even the most minimal verbal interaction can nearly double mood—for both parties—in the short term. What's more, it takes literally no effort. So please do this more often. Thanks!

Take the stairs.

new year's resolutions take the stairs

If you're in a building that has one, chances are, you're taking the elevator. Well, maybe don't. For one thing, taking the stairs burns 9 calories every hour. And for another, according to a study in Physiology & Behavior, ten minutes of stair-walking provides any energy boost equivalent to that of a cup of coffee—a perfect way to tackle that mid-afternoon slump and get a workout in.


better parent over 40

What if we told you there was a way to, in one move, slash your blood pressure, stress, and anxiety, and improve your sleep quality? What if we told you it only requires one 10-minute commitment per day? You'd jump on that, right? Well, get ready to jump: Such a panacea actually exists. All you have to do is meditate, a task so effortless and with such outsize benefits it's a wonder you're not already a devotee. And if you find yourself having trouble keeping your mind stead during the practice, here are 10 Ways to Focus Better During Meditation.

Increase your minimum credit card payments.

new year's resolutions pay more credit card

Falling into a credit cycle where you make the minimum payment each month sure is tempting. We get it: Now's not really the best time, and you can just deal with it later, and, and, and… But you're only digging yourself into deeper debt.

Let's say you have an interest rate of 15 percent on a $2,000 balance. If you make minimum monthly payments of $50 (a standard 2.5 percent), it will take you 56 months to pay off that balance, assuming you don't saddle the card with any additional charges. However, if you increase your payments by just $25 extra each month, you'll shave that down to 33 months—and when it's all said and done, you'll have saved more than $500 on interest payments.

Save 5 percent of each paycheck.

Coins in jar

Financial experts recommend you save 20 percent of each paycheck (that's in total, across all retirement accounts and rainy day funds). Yeah, okay. If you're not that great at setting aside money as is, losing access to a full fifth of your paycheck can sting a bit. But 5 percent won't hurt that much—and if you're lucky enough to work at a company that will match that 5 percent, look at that: You just achieved a savings rate of 10 percent, at no extra cost. Who doesn't love free money?

Call your folks at least once a week.

new year's resolutions call your folks

It pays to listen to your mom—especially when she mentions how little you call. According to research in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, hearing your mother's voice fires your brain's receptors for oxytocin (the hormone that helps keep stress down). Plus, a little call will make your folks smile. So vow to pick up the phone just once every seven days, even if it's just for a few minutes.

Have "date night" more often.

new year's resolutions date night more

You don't need a special occasion—like a birthday, Valentine's Day, or "Hey, congrats on the promotion"—to run out on a date. This year, make an effort to take your favorite person out for an amorous spin. Shoot for at once a month at first. And it doesn't have to be some fancy, crazy-expensive white tablecloth dinner. To spark your romantic imagination, check out the 50 Best Date Ideas for Married Couples.

Cut back your social media time.

new year's resolutions less social media

According to a study from media research firm Mediakix, the average American spends 116 minutes each day on social media. It breaks down like this: 40 minutes on YouTube, 35 minutes on Facebook, 25 minutes on Snapchat, 15 minutes on Instagram, and just one minute on Twitter. If you cut each of those in half (so, about 5 fewer movie trailers, plus 17 fewer minutes looking at what your senior year crush is up to), you free up an entire hour each day.

Exercise just four hours a week.

new year's resolutions couple exercising

Now that you've freed up an hour each day, you have seven hours each week to do as you please. Use one or two of them to hit the gym. Don't be one of those people who clogs Equinox in January and then neglects to show up for the remaining 11 months. And if you need an extra push to get there, check out the 11 Ways Smart People Motivate Themselves to Exercise.

Adopt and care for an animal.

man with kitten new year's resolutions

Adopting a pet seems like a huge commitment. But let's frame it this way: It's a lot less a commitment than adopting a child. Plus, taking in a new kitten or puppy can provide outsize benefits, from reducing your risk of heart attack, to cutting back your cortisol levels, to fostering new friendships (and not just with your new furry friend).

Actually go to the dentist.

Dentist Patient

As reported by the New York Post, six in ten American adults are too afraid to go to the dentist. Guys, come on. There's only one thing that's going to happen: Your teeth and gums will be cleaned to spotlessness. Dental experts recommend you go twice a year, but, if you're starting from a baseline of zero, one visit will be totally fine.

Read (and finish) a dozen books.

new year's resolutions read more

According to the Pew Research Center, the average American reads, "in part or in whole," a dozen books per year. Well, this year, there's no need to go above and beyond; just be a touch above average. Vow to be on the "in whole" end of the spectrum by actually finishing all 12 books you pick up this year. Plus, there are innate benefits: Reading fiction has been shown to increase empathy, creativity, memory, and overall cognitive function. And if you're slammed, don't worry, you can quickly power through any tome by checking out The Expert's Guide to Speed Reading Any Book.

Augment your wardrobe.

new year's resolutions dress better

We're not talking about a major overhaul. But a few tiny, relatively inexpensive additions—pocket squares or tie bars for men, for example, or some seriously stylish hair clips for women—can go a long way toward making 2018 your most stylish year yet. And, fellas, for more ways to send your style into the stratosphere, check out these 17 Amazing Style Upgrades for Men.

And then Marie Kondo it.

best tips for dressing well in your 40s

Everyone would love to live a less cluttered life. One of the easiest ways to do that is to beeline to your closet and purge all non-essentials. The tough part, of course, is deciding what "non-essential" actually means. Some experts suggest eliminating every piece of clothing you haven't worn in the past year. But we think that's a bit draconian. Instead, go back two years. If you haven't worn that ratty-collared shirt in 24 months, face it: You won't wear it in the future. (And no, it similarly won't be "part of a Halloween costume some year!")

Sleep an extra hour each night.

new year's resolutions sleep more

The average American sleeps just shy of 7 hours each night. But the doctors are right: Eight hours of sleep is essentially free magic. That extra hour can do reduce your chance of illness, boost your creativity and memory, and even eliminate those perpetual under-eye bags. So this year, vow to go to bed just an hour earlier. And if you need some help hitting the hay, be sure to check out these 11 Doctor-Approved Secrets for Falling Asleep Faster.

Cut back on beer.

new year's resolutions drink wine instead of beer

Let's do some math. One beer amounts to about 150 calories. So if you drink 15 beers each week—according to data from the World Health Organization, that's how much the average American consumes—you're piling on an additional 2,250 calories each week. In other words, each year, you're consuming an extra 52 days worth of calories. That's nearly two months of empty (i.e., nutritionally useless) calories! By cutting your beer guzzling back to 7 beers per week, you can, at the very least, get that figure down below one month. Or, consider switching to wine: It's astonishingly healthy.

Cut back on soda.

new year's resolutions cut back on soda

See above. The math is the same—a 12-ounce can of soda has about 150 calories—only you don't get the benefit of a buzz.

Cut back on candy bars.

Granola bar that is one of the best high-protein snacks.

It's tempting to reach for a candy bar during a mid-afternoon blood sugar crash. But most candy bars are laden with sugar and unhealthy fats. Worry not: You don't have to give up sating your sweet tooth. Instead, swap your candy out for a healthier—yet equally tasty—option, like ThinkThin's protein nut bar, which only has 2.5g of saturated fats, and ranked on the 12 Best Protein Bars for Candy Lovers.

Get a hobby (or two).

person playing a guitar

A study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine revealed that people who have a hobby or two are significantly happier and more fulfilled than those who stick to a sleep-work-exercise-TV lifestyle. Learn an instrument. Go rock climbing. Or try any of these 40 Best Hobbies to Take Up in Your 40s.

Donate more.

new year's resolutions volunteer more

Every dollar counts. And if you can't give cash, remember: Time is money, too. And many organizations—from shelters to animal rehabilitation clinics—are in dire need of extra hands. Even an hour every week or two goes a long way. This year may be the year where you live your best life—but it can also be the year where you help others live their best life, too. And if you're looking for places to give back, check out these 17 Quirkiest Charities That Give Back in Creative Ways.

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Ari Notis
Ari is a senior editor, specializing in news and culture. Read more
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