7 Simple Goals (Not Lofty Resolutions) Everyone Can Stick With in the New Year

published Dec 17, 2021
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It’s almost the new year, which means preparing for an evening of festivities as the clock strikes midnight. Not only is it a time to celebrate, but the flip of the calendar is also an opportunity to review the past year and implement changes in the new one. However, before you make lofty resolutions that are hard to attain (and you may long abandon them come mid-February), think about adding goals you can actually stick with no matter what life throws your way during 2022.

“Some people may lose sight of their New Year’s resolutions when more pressing day-to-day priorities come up,” reminds Jennifer Hettema, PhD, a senior clinical director at LifeStance Health. In addition, she notes that it’s challenging to remain committed to some long-term goals while juggling family, work, and life stresses. So, before you make a long list of things you resolve to do next year, consider including some — or all — of these attainable goals in your lineup. 

Begin your day with intention.

It’s tempting to reach for the phone first thing in the morning and check emails or scan your to-do list. Although these actions aren’t necessarily wrong, set an intention to practice mindfulness and establish the tone for your day. Nira Shah, a psychotherapist and owner of Sia Wellness, suggests starting in the right frame of mind. “Add 20 to 30 minutes into your morning for an activity you can enjoy mindfully — enjoying coffee with a podcast, reading a book, watching the news, spending time with your family, meditation — anything but getting ready or working,” she says. Centering your thoughts can do wonders for your mental health, primarily if you work from home and tend to jump onto your computer first thing in the morning.

Permit yourself to clear your calendar.

Whether you keep your schedule on your phone or enjoy an old-fashioned pen and planner approach, rule your calendar, and don’t let it control you. When you are working and keeping up with the demands of loved ones, culling your schedule can be difficult, so prioritize what is essential for your long-term goals.

“Consider taking a minimalist approach to your calendar to align your time with your personal values,” advises Kayti McDaniel, a California-based online therapist and clinical social worker. She suggests asking yourself what’s important in the next season of your life and feeling the freedom to step away from obligations that no longer support your priorities. “By simplifying your calendar, you’re better able to protect your energy for people and activities that matter most to you,” she adds.

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Focus on getting quality sleep.

Rest is one way that the body and mind recharge, and many things like emotional state and performance are impeded when you don’t get quality rest. Sure, you may not be able to get eight hours of sleep each night, but five hours of deep sleep can be more refreshing than a restless nine-hour night, so commit to elevating the quality of sleep you get.

“A consistent wake-up time and bedtime will keep you in a good routine,” suggests Hon Yin, MD, a psychiatrist at New Frontiers Psychiatric in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Other tips from Yin include keeping your room temperature cool, using a weighted blanket, and investing in a well-designed mattress. She also suggests staying away from things that can hinder your sleep quality, such as ingesting caffeine, alcohol, and stimulating medications too late in the day. 

Pause before reacting. 

Just like any year, the next one will be filled with moments that may negatively affect you. Whether someone is plucking your last nerve or making you extremely upset, commit to waiting before responding. “Take a moment before you say or do something,” says Yin. “If it is worth saying or doing, it will still be worth saying or doing in the future. But once something is said or done, you can’t change the past.” The small act of pausing a few seconds to calm down may save actions or words that you can’t undo.

Streamline one repetitive task.

Life includes many activities that we do over and over again. For example, chores like cleaning, grocery shopping, and a growing inbox always seem to be beckoning. Or perhaps your workplace has a few repetitive parts that you could work on perfecting. This year, take time to learn how to simplify one task and do it well.

“Hack at least one routine in your life,” advises Darla DeMorrow, a professional organizer and owner of HeartWork Organizing in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “Maybe you learn to skip a step in your laundry routine. Maybe you unsubscribe from email lists instead of deleting or ignoring those unread emails.” No matter what you decide to streamline, committing to finding a better way to tackle a mundane task can add time back into your daily routine.

Tune in to your body and mind.

Of course, identifying your emotions shouldn’t take the place of talking things over with your therapist, but realizing what you are feeling is a big step. “We often overlook important emotional cues from our body and mind,” says Sarah Kaufman, a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy in Brooklyn, New York. She suggests that not identifying those cues can lead to anxiety and depression and that noticing your emotions and how they affect your body is powerful. “Identify the emotion. Take away the power of these emotions by noticing and naming what is happening,” Kaufman says.

Not only are emotional cues essential for your mind, but you should also be in tune with your body. For example, do you always feel bloated mid-day? Maybe it’s because of the type of creamer you put into your coffee. Other signals, such as an altered menstrual pattern, can indicate underlying conditions. “I believe one of the most practical things one can do is to pay attention to the signs your body gives,” says Kristy W. Gilbraith, an RN and founder of FLOH Wear. Tuning in to how your body reacts to specific foods, circumstances, and environments can alert you to any differences over time. 

Reflect at the end of each week.

Even if you can’t make time for a weekly evaluation, make a point to check in with yourself periodically. Doing so is one of the best ways to make sure you’re reaching goals and not falling into unwanted patterns. “Reflection is the way to make sure you stay on track, that you are making progress, giving yourself positive recognition, and course correcting,” advises Kimberly DuBrul, a holistic life coach who advises always start by reflecting on your successes. 

Starting with the positive leaves space for you to cope with any negatives. DuBrul continues, “Weekly reflection allows you a chance to ask yourself, ‘What will I do differently next week based on this reflection?’” Mulling things over also gives you a chance to re-evaluate your objectives and what is potentially hindering you from reaching them. No matter your goals for the upcoming week or year, making and keeping more attainable ideals is something you should be able to stick with long-term.