A new take on New Year’s resolutions

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Write your list of resolutions down and hang them somewhere you will see them often. This will serve as a daily reminder of your goals, which can encourage you to work toward fulfilling them each day. (Photo credit: Allia McDowell)

Allia McDowell, Editor-in-Chief

The second the glass ball dropped in the middle of Times Square in New York City, a brand new year started. But does anything really change? Sure, a new year begins, and now you must write “2016” as the date instead of “2015.” But life remains pretty much the same. You still go to the same school, play the same sports, and have the same hobbies. Yet, for some reason, everyone makes an effort to become a new person with the start of a new year.

New Year’s resolutions have become a popular tradition. Whether you want to join a gym and exercise more, revamp your diet to get the body you have always dreamed of, or just have a brighter outlook on life, it has become customary to dedicate yourself to change with the start of a new year. This year is no exception.

We often set out to maintain our resolutions with high hopes. But as the days go by, and early January becomes early February, we often realize the resolutions we had so hoped to maintain are out of our reach. Think about it: how many times have you successfully kept your New Year’s resolutions throughout the entire year? Or even throughout the month of January? I know, personally, I have never kept a resolution all 365 days. The enthusiasm I had at the start of the year fizzled out as the days went on, and before long, my resolutions seemed much less important and urgent. I ended up falling back into my usual daily routine.

I think that one of the reasons we have so much trouble keeping our resolutions is that we set our goals too high. If we set goals that are admittedly out of reach, there’s no way we will be able to keep them all year.

Here are some tips for setting and keeping New Year’s resolutions for 2016:

Fitness. Would it be great to run 10 miles every day for the entire year? Obviously. Could you do that? Probably not, especially if you are someone who hasn’t run much in the past. Can you set achievable goals and maintain them all year? Of course. So rather than trying to run 10 miles every day, set a goal to exercise more. For example, set a goal of exercising at least three times a week. Try mixing it up. Instead of running, include some exercising that you might not have tried, like yoga, spinning, or a cardio circuit. Also, improve your odds of sticking to your routine by including some friends. Peer pressure is not always bad, and in this case, having someone texting you to see if you’ll be at the spin class later on can be just what it takes to get you there.

Diet. Instead of trying to overhaul your entire diet, try to eliminate certain foods from it instead. For example, sugary sodas have been identified as one of the leading causes of obesity. So set a goal to eliminate them from your diet altogether. And here’s another tip: don’t try to go cold turkey right at the outset. Start by changing from the 20 oz to the 12 oz can for the first few weeks. Then shift to having one 12 oz can only during weekdays — go without it on weekends. Then every other day, continuing until you purge it from your diet. Then move on to another unhealthy food you’d like to cut out, following the same plan.

Mental health. This is a little trickier, but nonetheless can be very beneficial to your overall well-being. Many people set New Year’s resolutions around being happier. That’s great, but it’s sometimes easier said than done. Being more optimistic is a vague goal which often makes it harder to maintain. Unlike changes to your fitness schedule or diet, happiness isn’t obtained through a distinct change. What brings us joy varies from person to person, however there are ways to ensure that your day will be much brighter. Don’t resolve to be happier. Instead, set a goal to make someone else happy at least one time each day. Experts say that giving happiness to others provides happiness to the giver as well. And this is something you have control over. So try random acts of kindness. Let the person behind you in line at the grocery store, who is struggling with two feisty young children, go ahead of you. Then help her carry her bags to her car. Scrape the window of a car in a parking lot, in addition to your own. Help an elderly neighbor take down their outdoor lights. Each of these will help with your own positive mindset. Even though optimism and happiness can’t be achieved through making one, distinct change, they are still equally important to making 2016 the best it can be.

No matter what your resolutions are, it will probably be hard to maintain them every day of the year. It is important to remember that missing one day does not mean you have to miss the whole year. Do not be discouraged by missing a few days, or even a few months. It is never too late to try and keep up with your resolutions. You don’t have to wait for another ball to drop in Times Square to dedicate yourself to resolutions. Remember, setting a new year’s resolution is really about self-improvement. Just take it one day at a time.