New Year’s resolutions help evaluate, assess, and realign goals pertaining to physical, emotional, and mental health; financial stability; or learning new skills or hobbies. Leaving the holiday season of excess and relaxation armed with a thought-out plan for the next 365 days can keep you on track to being the “you” that you most want to be.

...okay, so as magical as becoming the “best you” sounds, the reality is that most New Year’s resolutions are dropped by the second week of February. Making resolutions for the new year is a long-practiced tradition dating back to Babylonian times, but this well-intentioned custom is often better in theory than in practice.

There’s no problem with dreaming big, but smaller, more attainable goals have a better chance of sticking around for the long haul. If you’re looking for some new year inspiration, consider one of these small but meaningful resolutions to take into the second year of the tumultuous 2020s.

Drink More Water

woman drinking water

Staying hydrated is essential for all bodily functions, yet research shows most Americans are chronically de-hydrated. Chronic dehydration can lead to a myriad of preventable health problems, and the issue is only exacerbated by a diet high in sodium, caffeine, and alcohol.

While it’s probably not realistic to shoot for two liters a day starting January 1st, you can slowly increase your water intake by setting a goal to drink one full glass of water when you wake up and before you go to bed.

Switching out soda for seltzer water, flavoring the water with cucumber or lemon, and setting reminders on your phone can all help encourage you to stay hydrated.

Less Screen Time

little man made of chargers

Quarantine has kept most of us glued to our devices, but they might be doing us more harm than good. Unplugging periodically benefits our physical, mental, and emotional health. Sounds easy enough, except for the fact that smartphones and other devices are specifically designed to be addictive, meaning this habit can be harder to break than others.

Try easing into screenless time by reserving one or two days a week to unplug. Whether you choose screen-free Sundays or tablet-less Thursdays, regularly taking a digital detox can do wonders for your body and mind.

Meatless Mondays

noodles and veggies

Those who eat a plant-based diet generally eat less fat and fewer calories, get more nutrients, and have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes than their carnivorous counterparts. Additionally, meals centered around fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are usually less expensive than meals with chicken, beef, or pork.

If chicken nuggets are your favorite food, don’t torture yourself by quitting meat cold turkey. Instead, try Meatless Mondays one or two times a month, slowly building up to every week. These quick and easy vegetarian dishes are a fantastic place to start.

Cut Calories Where It Counts

bagel, green beans, soft boiled egg

New Year’s resolutions to lose twenty pounds by spring break are unrealistic and often encourage unhealthy and unsafe weight loss practices. Weight loss is essentially a matter of maintaining a caloric deficit (burning more calories than you consume), but long-lasting change happens over long periods of time, not overnight. Rather than burdening yourself with undue pressure, consider cutting calories in small but meaningful ways.

Try these easy food hacks to cut back on calories without leaving yourself starved, hangry, and miserable:

  • Switching soda with flavored seltzer water
  • Shrink usual portion sizes by four or five bites
  • Drink less alcohol each night
  • Add one fruit or vegetable to each meal
  • Decrease the number of times you eat out per week
  • Opt for low-calorie options where possible (e.g., Halo Top Ice Cream)

Make Your Bed Every Morning

made up bed with lamp on bed side table

This might seem like a menial task, but taking the extra two minutes to make your bed each morning has been shown to increase productivity, reduce stress, and encourage the continuation of (and adoption of new) habits. Yep, it turns out our parents actually knew what they were talking about when they nagged us to make the bed. Who knew?

To help the habit stick, try committing to making your bed as soon as your feet hit the floor first thing in the morning. We’re not talking hospital bed tight—simply smoothing the comforter over the sheets before heading to the bathroom or kitchen is enough to reap the benefits of this two-minute trick.

Take More Photos (and Print Them Out)

couple looking at photo album

In the age of social media and camera rolls, photo albums have become a relic of the past. Why waste time printing out photos when everything’s going digital? Reasonably sound logic, of course, until a hard drive crashes, a social media account is lost, or a phone is irreparably damaged. Aside from the undeniable sentimentality of flipping through old album pages, storing photos in print is also a much safer way to preserve priceless memories.

Believe it or not, you can still pay to have your photos “developed” à la 2003 at most CVS, Walgreen, and Walmart locations. Rather than letting your precious memories collect dust on a SIM card that may or may not be readable in 20 years, keep it old school and make physical albums. 'Cause if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Give Yourself a Break

dimpled white mug that says coffee break with saucer and spoon

2020 was the year of working from home, which ironically turned out to be even more taxing than working from the office. Wearing PJs to work seemed pretty appealing, but the comfy dress code was quickly overshadowed by longer hours, video conferences, and a dangerous blending of “work time” and “me time.”

Save yourself from burning out as we enter the new year by giving yourself a much-needed break. For every hour you spend WFH, try taking a 5-10 minute break to take a lap around the house, interact with your pets or kids, or drink a glass of ice water. It might seem counterintuitive to step away from your work to improve it, but the science speaks for itself.

Learn New Things

person's hands folded over laptop displaying a course of some sort

The novelty of the internet might have worn off a long time ago, but the sheer abundance of knowledge available at our fingertips has only grown more impressive over the years. No question needs to go unanswered with scholarly articles, online books, and over one billion websites accessible by a few mouse clicks or thumb taps.

Commit to curiosity in 2021 by setting a goal to learn at least one new thing a day. No tests, no exams, no pressure—just learning for the sake of learning. If you’re going to be looking at your phone anyway, it might as well be productive. Fine-tune your social media feed, sign up for e-mail newsletters and subscriptions, and use the App Store to your advantage.

Limit Your Single-Use Items

metal water bottle with metal straws and brush on pink background

Making the subtle switch from disposable plastic to reusable items is the win/win/win to top all win/win/wins. These small changes help prevent further environmental damage, declutter the home, and save money. While saving the planet might be too lofty of a goal for 2021, switching from bottled water to filtered tap water is as easy as a turn of the spigot.

From buying in bulk to rethinking food storage, swapping out single-use items for durable, reusable ones is way easier than you might think.

Start a Gratitude Journal

black and white polka dotted  journal that says "enjoy the little things"

When making a New Year’s resolution, why not make one that checks all of the boxes? From better sleep habits to improved interpersonal relationships, healthier eating patterns to lower stress levels, our last easy-to-follow New Year’s resolution suggestion is as simple as writing five words or less a day.

Keep a notebook by your bed and jot down a few words about something you’re grateful for, big or small, every night before going to sleep. Keeping a gratitude journal is a small, meaningful way to change your approach to life’s problems, stressors, and dilemmas in the new year. Breathe. You got this.

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