It’s that time of year again: the one where we all start thinking about what’s wrong with us and making promises we probably won’t keep (and definitely will feel badly about later) about how we’re going to change it come January 1.
Okay, that’s a bit pessimistic, but how many of us really benefit from the same-old cycle of New Year’s resolutions, year in and year out? How many years in a row have you made the same resolution, knowing you won’t be any closer to it in December 2016 than you are right now?
Here are 11 great resolutions from real-life experts — actual people who’ve had success with them in their own lives. They range from the fun and easy to the tough but well-planned, and any one of them would leave you in better, happier shape a year from now.
Clean Up Your Mailing Lists
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Take the time at the beginning of the year to go through your mailing lists and unsubscribe from all but the essentials, Lisa Gasson of New York suggests. It’s a good way to clear out inbox clutter, and also to reduce shopping temptation from constant emails from merchants. Try using Unroll.me to unsubscribe easily and keep things manageable going forward.
Read More, Go Online Less
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Take some of the time you spend mindlessly poking around on the internet and spend it with an actual book, says Megan Hamilton of Ontario. That’s her resolution for the coming year, and she’s solicited suggestions from friends for recent favourites to add her her library list.
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After a couple of tough years for the her own health and that of her family, Carol-Ann Cole of Newfoundland and Labrador decided to cut out the little things she couldn’t control, including those to do with the lives of other people. "I try now to not gossip -- well, maybe just a little juicy stuff, ha ha -- and just live each day happy and healthy,” Cole says. "So far it’s working and I feel so much happier and contented."
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Dry skin getting you down? That’s worth a small resolution all on its own, especially during Canada’s dry winters. "After making big, thought-out resolutions -- and then feeling stress and guilt about not keeping them -- about 15 years ago, I resolved to put lotion on everyday after showering,” says Erika Serviss-Low of the Yukon. “Easy to do, no guilt, and -- after scratching my skin raw and frantically searching for lotion by mid-day -- life changing."
Theme This Year's List
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Jenny Hinko Polischuk of Alberta picks a theme for her family for each year and focuses on that instead of a specific resolution. "Our theme was to 'CHOOSE HAPPY’!,” she says of their 2015 theme. "I got it printed in vinyl and put it up on a wall in our kitchen. I also found a great print on Etsy and framed it. To kick it off we brainstormed as a family situations where we consciously have to choose happiness. We put that up in our mud room about 3 feet high so my little women could see it."
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Instead of picking a resolution that restricts or removes something, pick something that adds joy to your life. "I do ones that make me feel good, not that are challenges,” Julia Cain of New Jersey says of her resolutions. "'Say yes to travel,' for example, which will be a continuing resolution this year, or 'snuggle with babies as much as possible.’"
Break It Up
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If you do want to make a list of things to accomplish this year, break it all into a very specific itemized list—maybe 101 items for the year, or a number that makes sense for you. "those worked really well because they were incremental and accumulative,” says Lisa Schmeiser of California of her itemized lists for the year, "so by the end of the year, I had momentum and completed tasks on my side."
Think Big... And Small
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"One of my students gave me great advice: Make three tiers of resolutions,” says Vanessa Vakharia of Ontario. Make the first tier something easy to immediately implement, like wearing eyeshadow or flossing daily. Get a bit higher-concept for tier two: a promise to run regularly, for example. And then think big for the third, like finishing your degree or planning a major trip. "I think it's a good way to level goals out so that you can get instant gratification, which motivates you to work towards those higher level goals,” she says.
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"I don't know if they're resolutions, but every year I go back and assess how I'm doing as far as becoming the person I want to be,” says Carolyne Whelan. Think about how you respond to strangers, your friends and family, how you treat yourself, and the way you move about in the world. "Obviously there is a lot of tweaking, but since it's all a learning process with a wide curve, every year just presents the opportunity to be closer to the person I want to spend all my time with,” she says.
Do More Of What You Love
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What’s something you enjoy, that is easy to do and adds a bit of light to your day? Pick something, then do more of it! "A few years ago, my only resolution -- after years of the same 'lose ten pounds, learn Spanish, write a novel' flailed if not failed -- was 'sing more,’” says Paige Conner Totaro of Virginia. "I did and it felt great. The next year it was 'dance more.’"
Work For It
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Is there something you need to do, even want to do, that you keep finding a way to get around or avoid or not actually work on? Stop doing that, and just do the work—every day, over and over, says Jennifer Polk of Ontario. You’ll get a lot more done if you put the energy you spend worrying, procrastinating, avoiding, and over-planning into just doing. "Everything's better when you do the work,” she says.