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Want New Year’s Resolutions to Stick? Crowd Out Bad Behaviors

Woman walking on a park path with her dog.
Stock-Studio/Shutterstock

The New Year is right around the corner, and with that means assessing our habits—the good and the bad. Here’s a different approach: try implementing positive behaviors, which will naturally leave little room for the bad ones to exist. Don’t believe us? Read on.

New Year’s resolutions fail because they’re a long list of…well, slightly overwhelming feats. Lose 50 pounds, find a job you love, buy a house, write that book, the list goes on and on. It’s good to have goals, but setting too high of a standard can set you up for failure.

We’re not saying you can’t dream big—definitely dream big! But at the same time, put some energy towards increasing positive habits, ones you can incorporate into your life today. Succeeding with little steps will boost your self-esteem, and thus lead to more success.

So how do we diminish the bad behaviors? By ignoring them. That’s right— pretend they don’t exist. Focus on the healthy lifestyle choices you want in your life, and the rest will work itself out. (Really, it’s that easy).

After all, you can’t spend your evening sitting around eating junk food and watching Netflix if you already filled up all that time with something more in line with your goals, right? Crowd the behaviors you don’t want to engage in right out of your life by replacing them with positive behaviors, so there is no room left for the negative stuff.

Eat More Salad and Veggies

This is a reasonably simple New Year’s resolution to adopt. Salad is available at almost all restaurants, even McDonald’s! You can also buy pre-packaged salads from the grocery store if you don’t have time to wash, spin, and chop lettuce.

What are you accomplishing? By filling up on salad, you have less room for junk food. Also, the more salad you eat, the more you’ll crave it (it sounds ridiculous, but microbiome research strongly indicates that what we eat cultivates a desire for more of whatever it is we’re eating). So next time you reach for that bag of chips, grab that bag of spinach leaves first!

Over time, you might notice a few pounds dropping off here and there. Or you might experience a healthier, more energetic glow. Don’t worry; these are the natural side effects of consuming all those extra greens and veggies.

Find a Fitness Activity You Love

Sure, we can all join the gym and set the best intentions: I’ll go five days a week! But in the end, if you don’t love the gym, it’s tough to get your butt there.

Instead, why not find a fitness activity you love? Then you don’t have to beat yourself over the head to go; you’ll naturally want to exercise because it’s fun.

Here are a few ideas to help you recreate your fitness goals for the coming year:

  • Dance Class: If you’re bored with Zumba, try something different, like jazz, ballet, ballroom, swing, even tap dancing!
  • Aerial Dance/Yoga: This is an all-body workout that helps bring your inner child to life. Hang upside down, swing like a monkey, and take your workout into the air. Fun!
  • SUP Yoga: Stand-up paddleboard yoga is growing in popularity. You do yoga on a paddleboard (yup, right in the water). It’s crazy fun, and who cares if you fall in?
  • Rock Climbing: You might think you need upper body strength to start this activity, but don’t worry, you’ll get strong from doing it (everyone has to start from somewhere, right?). Join a local club and take your kids along, too!
  • Ice Skating: Many rinks offer lessons for all ages (including adults!). What a great way to work out while having fun with your family!
  • Hiking: Find some local trails, pack some snacks, and enjoy the fresh air. You can even join a local hiking club—the ultimate motivation to get up and moving!
  • YouTube Videos: If you don’t have time to exercise, then flip on your TV. There are countless videos out there, from dancing, yoga, ab-workouts, you name it. These YouTube Channels allow you to work out for FREE!

Read More Books

Man reading a book for pleasure.
VGstockstudio/Shutterstock

We all complain about wasting time on social media or binge-watching too much Netflix. And yes, those are tough habits to break.

Instead of going cold turkey (or trying to), start by expanding your literary entertainment options. Head over the library, or join an online book source, like Goodreads. Or even download some audiobooks to your phone or tablet.

You can also get inspired by writing down a list of books you want to read this year. Try coming up with a theme for each month, such as memoir, travel, sci-fi, history, young adult, mystery, etc. Joining a local book club is a great option to help stay on track with your literary goals. If you don’t have time for an in-person club, consider joining an online book club.

By having plenty of reading options at your fingertips, you’ll be more inspired to pick up something and to put down your phone. If you’re reading on your phone, make sure to enable a social media blocker so you can devote quality time to the story.

Gamify Your Savings Plan

If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is money-orientated, we suggest finding an easy and fun savings app! You want to focus on the positive aspects of savings, versus feeling grumpy about budgetary cuts.

Try to find an app that has concrete goals, with definitive milestones popping up along the way. Over time you’ll see your money start to grow, showing you that every little bit does help. This, in turn, will inspire more financially responsible decisions, such as thinking twice before making an impulse purchase: “Do I really need that sweater, or should I just sock this money away into my savings account?”

Here are some popular options to check out:

  • Qapital: There are several options for savings, such as rounding up to the nearest dollar and moving the money to a specified savings account. You can even team up with others to reach a common goal (like “Disney Trip!”).
  • Digit: This app follows the trends of your spending, and then automatically moves small amounts over to savings. It’s a no-brainer when it comes to savings!
  • SmartyPig: Set up automatic payments, see pictures of your goals, and track your progress. It’s easy and free!

Have More Fun

Perhaps one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to find a better job. Or to make more friends. Or spend more quality time with the kids.

The root of all of these goals is the same: to enjoy life more fully.

Instead of focusing on each particular thing you dislike about your life, why not direct your energy towards creating more opportunities for fun? For example, if you hate your job but feel limited by other options, focus on ways in which you can make your current job more enjoyable and lighthearted. Schedule staff activities, listen to music while you work, or see if you can work from home—allowing you to take breaks to step outside and get some fresh air (or squeeze in a workout video).

Are you struggling to be present with your kids? Schedule in some exciting trips—such as a hike, a trip to the museum, or even an overnight trip to a new city. Sometimes breaking out of the box of your usual routine is just what you (and everyone else) need to feel more alive.

Here are a few other ideas to spark a bit more fun in your life:

  • Game night
  • Camp outside under the stars
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Family yoga
  • Comedy classes
  • Painting classes
  • Pottery classes

New Year’s Resolutions don’t have to be concrete, rigid, or all-consuming. Think about positive habits that you can add to your overall lifestyle—something that will be easy enough to start and maintain. Eating more salad, signing up for tap dancing classes, and downloading a money-saving app is a great way to get started.

Just remember, the easier and more fun it is, the more likely you’ll stick with it!

Jill Chafin Jill Chafin
Jill Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »

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