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20 Easy New Year's Resolutions You'll Actually Stick to in 2020

You won't fail with these realistic New Year's resolutions to make your 2020 great.

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 five new countries!"), you're not alone. In fact, according to an oft-cited 1989 study out of the University of Scranton, just 8 percent of people end up actually sticking to their lofty life-changing proclamations. The problem: These aren't realistic New Year's resolutions.

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. And while these are small commitments, they have very big payoffs. Good luck—you got this.

Read (and finish) a dozen books.

latina woman reading a book on the couch

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, strengthen your memory, and improve overall cognitive function.

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 pillows 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.

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 of sleep has tons of benefits, including boosting your mood, improving your heart health, and sharpening your brain function. So this year, vow to go to bed just an hour earlier.

Cook dinner at least once a week.

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? 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 than done. But there are apps out there—like Duolingo—that make the process a walk in the park. Simply downloading and checking one out could set you on your way toward becoming an instantly more attractive beau.

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. Don't let that be you! Dental experts recommend you go twice a year, but if you're starting from a baseline of zero, one visit will be totally fine—and make a massive difference.

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—bad for your health. Every second you spend at your desk can increase your risk of depression and slow your metabolism, among other potential consequences. So, this coming year, vow to stand up at your desk more. Dedicating just 10 minutes of every hour to standing up creates more than an hour each day that you're not sitting.

Devote one day per week to not driving.

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. In short, every minute you spend off the road is a minute well spent. So this year, vow to get around without driving just one day per week. You'd be surprised at how quickly you can adjust to public transportation.

Ask for a raise.

black man meeting with white redhead woman in an office

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, the worst case scenario is that you spent 30 minutes in a mildly uncomfortable chat—and best case, you leave the room with a fatter paycheck. What have you got to lose?

Drink two more cups of water every day.

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 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average American adult drinks just under five cups per 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.

Take your coffee black.

close up of woman drinking black iced coffee

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 has tons of health benefits. 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: It's naturally sweeter—and naturally more caffeinated.

And drink one fewer cup per day.

brain boosting habits over 40

Yes, it's good for you, but U.S. Health Department guidelines indicate that three cups a day is around the ceiling of how many you should drink. And many Americans, perhaps yourself included, are drinking way more coffee than that. 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.

Meditate for 10 minutes every day.

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.

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. But you're only digging yourself into deeper debt.

Math isn't our strong suit either, but stick with us: 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.

young black man smiling while writing something down and looking at his laptop

Financial experts recommend you save 20 percent of each paycheck (that's in total, across all retirement accounts and rainy day funds). And yeah, that would be nice, but it's not always feasible. 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 your 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

If you're lucky enough to have living parents, consider weekly check-ins. It pays to listen to your mom: According to 2010 research in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 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. Assuming you're able, vow to pick up the phone and reach out once every seven days, even if it's just for a few minutes.

Exercise just three hours a week.

young black woman exercising on the elliptical at the gym with two other young people in the background

The recommended amount of exercise you need per week varies depending on who you ask, but for most of us, the answer is—more than we're getting now. Try committing to three hours per week, since just two-and-a-half hours can have a dramatic impact on your overall health. If that sounds daunting, consider breaking it up in a way that fits your schedule: Maybe you spend an hour at the gym twice a week, and do 30-minute workouts at home on two other days.

Cut your beer consumption in half.

close up from below of four beers being toasted by young men

Americans drink a lot of beer. Let's do some math. One beer amounts to about 150 calories. So if you drink 15 beers each week, 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. By cutting your beer guzzling back to seven beers per week, you can, at the very least, get that figure down below one month.

And your soda consumption.

close up of cola being poured into glass filled with ice

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. Think about all the empty calories you can eliminate just by sticking with water half the time.

Donate or volunteer at least once a month.

young latino volunteer receiving donation of blankets and clothes from woman

Every dollar counts, but 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. An hour every week or two goes a long way, but at the very least, make a commitment to donating or volunteering once a month. This year may be the year when you live your best life, but it can also be the year when you help others live their best life, too.

Ari Notis
Ari is an editor specializing in news and lifestyle. Read more
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