2017 has been… a year. While it hasn’t been all bad by any means — and even some of the most upsetting moments have provided hope for the direction society is going — I don’t think I’m alone in looking forward to a fresh start in 2018.
After the Christmas music is finally put on mute and everyone can go back to listening to whatever they listen to the other 11 months of the year, it’s time to put together the sparkliest outfit you own and start preparing for New Year’s Eve. Which, tbh, is never as amazing as it’s hyped up to be.
Once the ball drops and the confetti flies and the clock strikes 12:01 a.m., the pressure is on to become a “better you” for the new year by committing to a New Year’s resolution. Although the concept is admirable enough, in practice it doesn’t quite pan out the way most people plan it to. Instead of proposing the same old cliché NYE resolutions as everyone else, avoid them altogether.
16. Go on a diet
Was this the first New Year’s resolution ever invented? It certainly seems like the most common one. It’s also one of the most common ones to be forsaken after the first month of the year is over and the excitement of a new challenge has worn off. Why punish yourself for making it through 2017 by eating carrot sticks and kale? Besides, if you do one of those week-long juice cleanses or a month on the Whole30 diet, you’ll just end up right back to where you started once it’s over.
What you could do instead: If you must go on a diet, pick something specific rather than a vague “eating healthier” option that’s easy to throw out the window the minute you see a donut. Or, instead of a diet, just stop buying candy to keep at your desk that you end up mindlessly eating during the workday.
15. Work out more
I admit this is a good resolution if you’re worried about committing homicide. As we all learned from Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t.” Otherwise, you can probably skip this resolution, because the first day you skip the gym (which will inevitably happen), the whole routine goes down the drain.
What you could do instead: Pick a new type of workout(s) that you want to try, and take a class in that. If you find an exercise you actually like to do, you’ll work out more because you want to, not because you feel obligated to.
14. Drink less alcohol
If you have a drinking problem, the new year is 100% a good time to confront it and get the help you need. But if you’re just trying to cut back on the booze as something to do — Dry January has gotten very popular, after all — what’s the point? We all need our vices, and I’d argue alcohol is better than opioids or robbery or even cigarettes.
What you could do instead: Try out Dry January to fit in with the trend. If it actually improves your life overall (and doesn’t totally ruin your social life), then sure, cut back on booze the rest of the year.
13. Lose weight
Okay, Regina George. Making this a New Year’s goal is rough. Either you have an arbitrary idea of what you want to look like and figure losing weight will get you there but you don’t actually know how to do it or how much it is, or you have a specific number in your head and meeting that exact figure becomes an obsession. Relax, no one sees those “three pounds” other than you.
What you could do instead: Want to look different? Hire a personal trainer, or go to your local Sephora for a makeup tutorial. Tada!
12. Get more sleep
If we’re being realistic, it’s incredibly hard to get the recommended eight hours a night. We have lives, after all. And the whole idea of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day? Yeah right, it’s called “the weekend,” people. Sure, we’re tired some days, but that’s why caffeine is our friend. And LOL at all the recommendations about staying off screens before bed. How do we fall asleep without watching Netflix first?
What you could do instead: Get a wearable fitness tracker that logs your sleep habits so you’re more aware of how your amount of sleep actually affects your day to day feelings.
11. Find a significant other
Life isn’t a Hallmark movie. We can’t write a wishlist to Santa, or hire a date to our cousin’s wedding, or swear off romantic relationships for all of eternity because we’re afraid we’ll never have one, just to turn around and walk smack dab into the person of our dreams. Why would you even make a resolution that involves another person? I’m pretty sure resolutions are supposed to be about self-improvement.
What you could do instead: Work on the relationships you already have. Text the friend you haven’t seen in a few months. Call your grandfather. Take your boss out to lunch for no reason.
11. Focus on yourself
Self-care is incredibly important. But when people use the “I’m really just focusing on myself right now” line, it usually means they’re avoiding dealing with something else. Don’t go into a new year in denial. Open your eyes to what it is that you’re avoiding and come up with a plan of attack for dealing with it instead of keeping your blinders on.
What you could do instead: Stop feeling guilty when you do need to take some “me time.” Don’t apologize for turning down plans every once in awhile. Set a goal to binge watch a new show, and be proud of that accomplishment.
10. Spend less
Online shopping is a lifestyle, not just a pastime. Whatever your poison, curbing a spending habit is rough. Deciding to “spend less” seems easy enough in theory, until you’re confronted with flash sale emails, or sitting across from your friend at a nice restaurant, or discover that your favorite band is performing at a venue near you. It’s easy to rationalize purchases as being worth it, as not counting toward your attempt to minimize spending.
What you could do instead: Set a goal to save more, instead. Use one of the many available apps to “set it and forget it” — you don’t even have to remember to save, they’ll do the legwork for you.
9. Be nicer
The funny thing is, I think the people who are truly Scrooges would never think to come up with a resolution like this. And everyone else, who is probably nice enough to begin with most of the time (we all have our bad days where you snap at your barista or roll your eyes at a coworker), doesn’t need to make this a goal for the entire year.
What you could do instead: Do one of those “small acts of kindness” challenges where you have to pay for someone in line behind you one day, hold the door open for people the next, walk a neighbor’s dog the day after that, etc.
8. Keep your house clean
I will never understand the people who do the dishes while they’re cooking. Doesn’t it save water to do them all together at the end?? Plus, I’m a firm believer in the rule that whoever cooks doesn’t have to clean, the folks that ate do. Don’t get mad at yourself any time you see a dust bunny or leave your dirty clothes on the floor. Unless you want cleaning your house to be your full-time job, you have to let it get a little dirty sometimes.
What you could do instead: Treat yourself to a visit from a professional cleaning service. Make a fun playlist that you only let yourself listen to when you do actually clean. If you live with roommates, set up a rotating schedule so no one is stuck with all the cleaning.
7. Quit smoking
Cigarettes are bad (see “drink less alcohol”). Many a smoker has circled January 1 on their calendar, thrown away their half-used pack, and started the new year with the best of intentions. This year you decided it’s going to be you. One problem: breaking a bad habit isn’t as easy as setting a goal based on the date on the calendar.
What you could do instead: Join a group. Get a patch. Download an app. This year should be the year you give up smoking. Having a plan will help.
6. Stop biting your nails
We’re not children who suck on their thumbs when they’re anxious/tired/sad/bored. Biting your nails is not a grown-up manifestation of this coping mechanism, it’s just gross. Half the time people don’t even realize they’re doing it, but anyone who can see them is not about to shake their hand.
What you could do instead: Read about all the germs that are on your hands so you’ll be too grossed out to even want to do this subconsciously. Get one of those fidget spinners to occupy your fingers instead of putting them in your mouth. Get acrylic nails, those are impossible to bite.
5. Pick up a new hobby
I would bet that sales on knitting supplies, calligraphy sets, acoustic guitars, and KitchenAid mixers spike immediately following the new year. How often are you really going to knit, write, play, or cook? Don’t waste your money on an expensive hobby that you might not be good at, or even enjoy. Though you might be able to re-gift it next year if need be.
What you could do instead: Sign up for a one-time class to do a new activity. If you actually love watercolors or pasta making as much as you thought, then you can invest in DIY’ing at home.
4. Do DIY projects
Speaking of DIY’ing at home… along with sales of popular hobby items, I bet at-home injuries spike after the new year too. It might seem like a great time to re-paint the ceilings, or re-tile the bathroom, or install a new home entertainment system, but it’s probably not. Unless you have prior experience with power tools, YouTube tutorials are not as simple as they seem.
What you could do instead: Hire a professional to do the thing. Getting it done is still an accomplishment, even if you didn’t get your hands dirty doing it.
3. Finish that book/TV series you’ve been putting off
Sure, it’s a “classic,” and you feel like the odd one out when it comes up in conversation. But if you haven’t been able to get through it yet, chances are War and Peace and Game of Thrones just aren’t for you. And the new year is not the right time to surrender your personal preferences just to appease the masses.
What you could do instead: Start a new book/TV series that actually interests you. Who cares if it doesn’t have 5-star ratings? This is your year.
2. Cook more
See “pick up a new hobby.” If your signature recipe is pasta with olive oil or grilled cheese or scrambled eggs, it’ll take more than a New Year’s resolution to up your game. What’s the motivation here, anyway? Save money by eating out less? Eat healthier by monitoring the ingredients? If so, maybe this will work. But, be honest, if it’s to have more content to post to your Instagram story, you’re wasting your time (and the time of everyone watching it).
What you could do instead: You really want to cook more? Order one of those pre-packaged box kits. If you enjoy cooking those (typically three meals/week), maybe you’re cut out for more time in the kitchen.
1. Quit your job
In the movies, dramatic quitting scenes are empowering and exhilarating. In real life, you look like a drama queen in front of your coworkers, you lose your healthcare benefits (no simple matter in today’s environment), and you still have to stay in the office for another hour to pack your belongings and speak to HR. Unless you’re planning to go into business for yourself, it’s also a dangerous move to burn bridges that might be able to provide you with a reference at a future position.
What you could do instead: Start looking for new jobs. Then quit when you find one.