Are you among the majority of Americans who rang in 2019 by making New Year’s resolutions? While 60 percent of us set these well-intended and sometimes lofty goals, a modest 8 percent actually follow through and achieve them.
By this point in the year, you probably have a pretty clear idea of whether you’re in that 8 percent. But don’t worry — if your outlook at the halfway point is grim, there’s hope for you yet. Here are some of the most common resolutions and tips for getting back on track.
1. Eat healthier
Improving eating habits or losing weight is a top resolution year after year. We’re not doing a great job with this one: Nine out of 10 Americans don’t eat enough veggies on a daily basis. And it’s no mystery why. Between extended work hours, Olivia’s taekwondo class, and keeping the yard in decent shape, the call of those golden arches can be much stronger — and more appealing — than the thought of preparing a tasty, nutritious dinner at home.
It’s 2019, though, and we have a lot of information about eating right, as well as technologies and services to make it easier. Just don’t get too overwhelmed by the amount of information (or misinformation) out there. As a first step, stay away from fad or extreme diets (we’re looking at you, Cookie Diet). The truth is, most of us could drastically improve our diet by making a conscious effort to eat more green things and less junk food — and you don’t need a detailed regimen to achieve that.
Set reasonable goals for yourself, and explore the hundreds of apps dedicated to healthier eating. You may want to start by understanding what you’re actually eating in the first place. Many people swear by MyFitnessPal’s calorie tracker. Invited to dinner with friends? HealthyOut can help you choose wisely from the menu.
2. Exercise more
It’s possible that the Chinese proverb “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” was in direct reference to starting an exercise routine for the first time. Starting to work out can be extremely intimidating, and there are endless other things you could be doing with your time. But along with eating healthier, exercising regularly is one of the best gifts you can give your future self.
Staying active can make you happier, help you manage your weight, boost your energy, decrease your risk of chronic disease, improve your brain function, help you sleep, and give you a host of other benefits.
The catch is that to get the benefits of exercising, you have to exercise (more than once). How can you stay motivated? The experts at Mayo Clinic recommend making it part of your daily routine. Even if you don’t get to the gym every day, make a point to do at least 15 minutes of activity every day.
Another thing about motivation: Studies show that working out with a group is an effective way to stay accountable for your workouts. For new exercisers in particular, group fitness provides support and encouragement that can help you build the foundation for a lasting commitment to exercise. If your calendar doesn’t mesh with the gym’s class schedule, no worries. Apps like Gixo can supplement or even replace your gym membership altogether. With the help of technology bringing a live fitness class to your living room, you can get all the benefits of group workouts on your own time.
3. Make better financial decisions
Historians believe that the New Year’s resolution tradition dates all the way back to the Babylonians, who celebrated with a festival called Akitu and commonly promised the gods to pay back their debts. Four thousand years later, we still haven’t quite gotten the financial responsibility thing down.
Regardless of your savings account balance at the moment, we all can take steps to save more and spend less. If you’re struggling with this one, take some time to revisit the basics. Managing your personal finances is similar to healthy eating in that there are a few fundamental concepts that, applied correctly, can take you most of the way to success.
Start by inventorying your spending habits and creating a budget. This can be tedious but — as with improving your diet — understanding your current behaviors is a crucial first step. Debt.gov has detailed instructions on creating and managing your budget. If you have debt, develop a plan to pay it off. Find ways to cut expenses, and then think about saving.
4. Learn a new skill or hobby
If you’ve taken the phrase “Netflix and chill” to a new (sloth-like) level, it might be time for a hobby. Having a hobby can help you relieve stress, build confidence in yourself, and expand your social circle. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be craftier or learn to swing dance.
There’s no shortage of suggestions online if you don’t have a particular hobby in mind. Hobbies like cooking, writing, or crafting can also be productive, by either earning you side cash or simply creating something useful for yourself.
If you think you don’t have time to add a hobby to your life, you’re probably wrong. Take a close look at where you might be wasting time or where you have a few spare minutes here and there for micro-hobbying. Better yet, find opportunities to combine your hobbies with other things on your to-do list (for example, swing dancing and resolution No. 2).
Make 2019 Your Year
Regardless of what your resolutions are, there’s still plenty of 2019 left to make them happen. After all, there’s nothing like setting and achieving a goal to help you focus and give you deep personal satisfaction. If you started the year strong but are now slipping, make a renewed commitment to your goals today.
When it comes to goal setting, you might remember the SMART acronym: Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Set yourself up for success by making a plan to get from here to there. There’s a reason only 8 percent of us accomplish our New Year’s resolutions — they’re difficult. But with hard work and dedication, you can do it. Now go out there, sign up for a group exercise class, start a savings account, and eat some kale.