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, just 8 percent of people end up actually sticking to their 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 for more great advice on living your best life in 2018, check out all of our great lifestyle coverage.
Stand for an hour each day.
Spending eight hours (or more, you go-getters, you!) 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 yes, to is one step on Our Guide for Eradicating Lower Back Pain for Good.
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. Just brush up on the 13 Do’s And Don’ts Of Asking For a Raise before taking the plunge and you’ll be good to go.
Drink more water.
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. Plus, getting your daily dose of H2O is one of 15 Ways to Be A Higher-Energy Person Immediately.
Commit to a language app.
Is there anything sexier than a foreign language? Answer: Nope. In fact, according to 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.
Take 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, like Starbucks’s Veranda blend: It’s naturally sweeter—and more caffeinated.
Say more pleasantries.
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.
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.
Increase your minimum credit card payments by a hair.
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.
Call your folks at least once a week.
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 oxytocin—the hormone that helps keep stress down—receptors. 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.
Make “date night” a regularity.
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 Long-Term Couples.
Cut back your social media time.
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.
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. And if you need an extra push to get there, check out the 11 Ways Smart People Motivate Themselves to Exercise; don’t be one of those people who clogs Equinox in January and neglects to show up for the remaining 11 months.
Adopt and care for an animal.
Adopting a pet seems like a huge commitment. But let’s frame it this way: It’s a lot less 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).
Finish reading a dozen books.
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 to this task: 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.
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.
Sleep an extra hour each night.
According to Gallup, the average American sleeps just shy of 7 hours each night. But the doctors are right: Eight hours of sleep is essentially 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. (Hey, you gotta do something with the time you saved from cutting back on social media.) 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.
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.
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.
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.
Every dollar counts. And if you can’t give cash, remember: Time is money. And many organizations—from shelters to animal rehabilitation clinics—need the extra hands. Even an hour every week or two goes a long way. 2018 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.
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