11 Unconventional but Awesome New Year’s Resolutions
The turn of the year is a great opportunity to look back at what you’ve accomplished over the last 12 months and to use that knowledge to prepare for the future. Many people around the world write down New Year’s resolutions every January. Some of the most popular include vows to go to the gym, lose weight, stop smoking, or find a partner.
Research has shown that people tend to keep resolutions when they’re SMART, an acronym made up by the time management gurus at FranklinCovey that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Resolutions fail when they’re too vague or based on other people’s perceptions and ideas rather than your own.
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This year make positive resolutions that you’ll actually achieve. Here are some ideas for unconventional but awesome New Year’s resolutions.
1. Read a specific number of books
Lots of people start the new year with vows to read more. However, that’s a really vague resolution and almost impossible to measure. Instead, make it specific by setting the number of books that you’d like to read. If you set a monthly or yearly target, you’ll be able to measure your progress.
If you’re a regular reader already, a resolution that may appeal to you is a commitment to read more books that challenge your perceptions. A book is a fantastic opportunity to experience someone else’s point of view, which will help you become both kinder and more knowledgeable the more you read.
2. Keep a journal
Introspection can be hard work. This year, make journaling a part of your New Year’s resolutions.
Journaling has been shown to be extremely beneficial for our mental health and can help increase our awareness of our own feelings. For people that have suffered trauma, journaling can be especially helpful as it helps us process difficult emotions and allows us to confront our fears in a safe, controlled environment.
If you’re apprehensive about making time to write every single day, start small. Write a few sentences about your day or list a few things you’re grateful for. Once you’re in the habit of journaling on a daily basis, you’ll find that you feel a lot better after you process your feelings on paper.
3. Take one picture every day of the year
Even though we’ve never had more frequent access to cameras, it’s easy to forget to take pictures on a regular basis. This year, instead of making a vague resolution to take more photos, resolve to take one photo every single day. There are even apps that can help!
Everyday helps you to take a photo of yourself in the same position every day — they even have a helpful grid, so you can position yourself perfectly — and stitches together a time lapse at the end of the year. 1 Second Everyday prompts you to take a one second of video at a different time each day, then creates an amazing film summary of your year.
4. Volunteer once a week
If you want to help yourself and give back to your community at the same time, make a resolution to volunteer once a week for the entire year. Even if you work 40 hours a week, you can find an hour or two in your schedule to give back every week. Some employers even have programs that will match your hours with a donation.
Sites like VolunteerMatch can help you find the perfect volunteer placement. Pick an activity that you actually enjoy doing, and you may find that it becomes something you look forward to.
5. Make a new friend
Every January, many people make resolutions to make more time to see friends and family. This is a great resolution but keeps you firmly within your comfort zone. If you want to challenge yourself, make a resolution to meet at least one new friend within the year.
It can be surprisingly difficult for adults to make new friends as most of us are so locked into our normal routine, and already have friends from childhood, school, or work. Making new friends forces us outside our comfort zone. Expand your social circle by striking up conversations with strangers in your local grocery store, taking a new class, or joining a club related to one of your hobbies.
6. Take up a new hobby
Another way to stretch yourself and learn new skills this year is by taking up a new hobby. As kids, we were encouraged to try new things both at school and at home by participating in sports teams and clubs. So, shouldn’t we hold ourselves to the same standard as adults?
Over the last few generations, Americans have moved away from hobbies, instead putting all of their energy into achieving success at work. Claiming that you’re too busy to do anything other than work has become a badge of honor. This year take up a new hobby and reclaim some of your personal time.
7. Spend more time in the moment
Spending more time in the moment seems like a vague resolution but is actually fairly easy to achieve. Many people vow to spend more time in the moment by adopting a regular practice of mindfulness meditation.
Whether you take a class in person or use an app to help guide your practice, there are lots of different options. Mindfulness meditation encourages practitioners to suspend their judgment, and instead use their curiosity to engage with the world. Research has shown that practicing mindfulness on a regular basis allows us to literally change the physical structure of our brain, which shapes the way that we react to complex emotions, difficult situations, and other trials.
8. Face your fears
One of the greatest ways that you can challenge yourself is by facing your fears. Many people undertake this through a process called exposure.
Working with a therapist or trusted friend, make a list of fears that you’d like to explore. Then, make a “ladder” of situations that end with you facing the thing you fear the most. For example, if you’re afraid of spiders, your ladder may start with you looking at a drawing of a spider, then being in the same room as a spider, and finally end with you holding a large spider. Then, work your way up through the ladder.
Although it may be difficult, being able to say you conquered one of your fears will give you the confidence and courage to deal with hard situations in the future.
9. Give away objects that don’t bring meaning to your life
There are tons of popular New Year’s resolutions that center around decluttering and keeping a cleaner home. This year, instead of simply resolving to clean more often, set yourself a goal to give away things that don’t bring meaning to your life. Many people follow the KonMari method, which famously entreats people to get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy.” You don’t need to follow one specific method but spending time decluttering and giving away things that don’t feel useful or joyful anymore will really help you start the year with a clean slate.
10. Write more notes
Expressing frustration with social media has become a popular pastime. This year, instead of simply resolving to spend less time on social media, replace those services with something a bit more old-fashioned — letter writing.
Everyone loves getting snail mail, and research has shown that it’s therapeutic for the letter-writer. This year make a resolution to write more letters, or at least send handwritten “thank you” notes for any gifts that you receive. Spending a little bit of money on elegant pens and cute stationery will really help make this goal a reality.
11. Explore new music
Another way that you can push yourself out of your comfort zone this year is by exploring new music.
In 2013, researchers at McGill University did a study to see what happened when people were exposed to music for the first time. They found that parts of our brain, including our pleasure centers, became active when the subjects heard a song for the first time.
This year stimulate your brain and expand your horizons by listening to new music. You can use online music services like Spotify to help you discover new artists or plug your information into a site like Gnoosic, which will recommend artists based on your current interests.