20 Self-Care Resolutions You Should Make In the New Year
Resolutions may be cliché, but they're also incredibly helpful. "You're taking the time to reflect on where you are in your life, where you want to grow and expand, and where you need to shake things up," says Wendy Wasson, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and founder of MySingleSpace, a site devoted to the happiness of single adults.
We all want to be happier and healthier, but sometimes the fastest and most effective route to that destination is actually slowing down and indulging in ourselves a little. And vowing to take better care of yourself—physically, emotionally, professionally, romantically—can make it immensely easier to stick to a new routine for fitness and healthy eating.
The hardest part (besides sticking with it) is actually choosing which habit to make over. We're making it easy for you—just choose one (or two, or all!) of these 20 expert-backed self-care resolutions.
Book a Date Twice a Month—Even With Yourself
In a relationship, it's easy to get comfortable, look up, and realize you haven't left the house for more than a romantic Whole Foods run in ages. Make a list of three activities or places that bring joy to you and your S.O.—hiking nearby, wine tasting, going to the dog park. Then, vow to tackle one every other week, at least. "Be intentional about making time for activities that you know feed and nurture your relationship, so that you're continuing to actively appreciate each other," advises Jenn Gunsaullus, Ph.D., a San Diego–based relationship and intimacy relationship counselor. "The more joy and appreciation you have in your life, the more you're likely to take care of yourself and make healthy choices."
Single ladies, you're not off the hook. "When we follow our joy, it brings vitality and energy to our lives, whether alone or with others," Gunsaullus adds. "What do you enjoying doing that you would normally only do with a partner? Are there ways that you could still do them, with a friend or alone? It's important to always be tapping into our sources of joy and passion, and making time for them."
Take an Hour Off Social Media Every Day
This is a big ask, we know. But our addiction to social media takes away from our ability to engage with people and things that are actually present in the moment, explains Annie Lin, founder of New York Life Coaching. What's more, research has linked being constantly connected with anxiety and depression, compromising your sleep quality, even putting a damper on how good your food tastes. Lin recommends taking a break from all apps in exchange for at least an hour of leisure time every day—although we'd go so far as to say ditch your phone for a whole day. Worried how that'll go? Follow these eight steps for doing a digital detox without FOMO.
Stay In More
Whether it's agreeing to drinks when you really just want to finish Westworld, or swinging by a coworker's birthday just to show face, we all need to stop agreeing to things we don't actually want to do. You shouldn't feel guilty about making choices that cater to your happiness instead of someone else's, points out Susie Moore, New York–based life coach and author of What If It DOES Work Out? "In fact, if you turn down two social dates a month that you can live without, you will save a minimum of five hours between getting ready, commuting, and the event itself," she points out. "Use this time to invest in you, with a yoga class, reading a book, going for a drive—and don't waste a single second feeling guilty about it." (New to putting your foot down? Learn how to say
to people—and mean it!)
Weigh Yourself Less
Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
found that women who weigh themselves often have a worse body image, lower self-esteem, and higher likelihood of depression. "Your mood can be whipped back and forth when you let numbers on a scale determine how you feel about yourself," explains Susan Albers, food psychologist and author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food. She suggests letting go of your scale for a month and seeing how you feel. After that, if you want to use your number as a gauge for progress, just stick to these four rules for weighing yourself so it doesn't wreck your self-esteem.
Say "Om" Once a Week
If you're a committed yogi, you don't need to hear why you should make more time for your practice. But if you allocate your sweaty hours more toward spin and HIIT classes, yoga once a week could be the de-stressor you need. "We live in a chaotic world where we continually live in our mind and forget to reconnect to our body and soul," explains Kathleen Hall, founder of The Stress Institute in Atlanta and CEO of the Mindful Living Network. "Yoga is rooted in the union of the body, mind, and soul. It keeps you connected to yourself no matter what happens throughout your life, creating resilience for your mental and physical health." Plus, research shows yoga reduces stress and depression (potentially even better than medication), improves sleep, improves your sex life, boosts your immune system, and relieves pain. To top it off, classes afford an opportunity to meet an incredible group of people and hopefully an inspiring teacher who will help guide you toward happiness, Hall adds. Worried about the money? Many studios have discounted or donation-based classes at least once a week, or try an online routine, like Do Yoga With Me or YOME.
Skip the Gym Every 10 Days
Take a full, intentional rest day—skipping the gym and other day-to-day duties, if you can—every seven to 10 days, suggests Sara Cully, nutrition counselor and personal trainer at Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studio in Virginia Beach, VA. "Just like vacations, our muscles need a break in order to thrive, prevent injury, improve growth, and encourage a healthy metabolism and balance in exercise," she explains. Go for a walk outside to score natural light, read a book, or make it a beauty day with your girlfriends. Plus, you'll be more excited about your workout when you head back in.
Be More Positive at Work
"We make the decision every single day about where to focus our energy—either on the negative things that just drive us crazy or on the things that are going well and make us happier," says Karlyn Borysenko, Ph.D., owner of mindfulness workplace training service Zen Workplace. At the office, most people default to focusing on the negative, which is a massive energy (and happiness) suck. Train your brain to light up at negative thoughts, then immediately come up with a positive to counteract it. If Joe is being a loudmouth in a meeting (like always), take a step back and think about what that means. "So many people in organizations are not fully empowered into their roles and, over time, it gets so frustrating for them. When you see it like that, you start to empathize with Joe, you can communicate with him more effectively, understand what he needs, and do your best to hand him a win-win. That's professionally better for you—and less stressful and negative," she adds.
Get a Massage Once a Month
Treat yourself to a massage at least once a month to reduce emotional and physical stress, suggests Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Steps to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love. Worried this seems like an indulgent use of your money and time? "The antidote to selfishness is not selflessness—you must take care of yourself in order to help others," Lombardo says. Letting someone work the knots and tension out of your muscles for 30 minutes or an hour will actually help you be a better friend, worker, and person.
Start Practicing Meditative Masturbation
We all touch ourselves. But how many of us are really in the moment, with the feeling? Gunsaullus recommends all women practice "meditative masturbation," an intentional self-pleasuring time with mindfulness at the forefront and just as much effort put in as you would to create a romantic atmosphere for your man. Try it: Create a cozy environment—candles, music, and mindful presence—to slowly explore what feels good to you in new ways, whether with toys, lube, mirrors, or otherwise. "For some women, the first step here is knowing that you are worth this kind of intimate exploration time, and the next step is giving yourself permission to self-nurture," she explains. "Plus you score the positive neurochemicals from an orgasm, the new learnings about how your body works, and the mental and emotional commitment to knowing that you're worth it."
Take a Nap Daily
Yep, we're suggesting you sleep on the job. "Drowsiness on the job costs American businesses approximately $18 billion a year lost in productivity," Hall says. "When you pause your day with a nap, you will be more energetic and creative." In fact, studies affirm that catching a few zzz's midday can increase your alertness, boost your performance, and even reduce on-the-job mistakes. Plus, zzz's enhance your health, as research also shows that short naps help offset the high heart rate, raised blood pressure, and spiked blood sugar that come with a poor night's sleep. What's more, you'll be refreshed and revived before your boss is even out of her meeting, as most experts recommend a catnap under 30 minutes. If you aren't lucky enough to work for a company with nap rooms, just close your office door or put your head down on your desk with headphones to reduce the surrounding noise, Hall suggests (or book a conference room). And if you just can't swing sleeping at work, indulge in a nourishing nap on the weekends, she adds.
Practice Daily Gratitude
"So often, we focus on what is wrong—which makes us feel worse—as opposed to what is going well, which makes us feel happier," says Lombardo. "But research shows that when we experience gratitude, the stress centers in our brain actually decrease their activity." In fact, giving gratitude daily is one of the most common pieces of advice we hear from happiness researchers. You can write out an actual list if you want, but Lombardo has a quick-and-easy trick, too: Every time you brush your teeth, look at yourself in the mirror and think of at least one thing you appreciate in your life. This can be anything from the sun finally coming out, to your new Birchbox mascara, or hitting your PR on last night's run. Even stopping to list what you're grateful for just once a week can help you feel more optimistic and better about life, according to a study in the
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Stop Attempting the Perfect Diet
We all want to feel guilt-free about every food that passes our lips. But the reality is, we're going to nosh on an indulgence every so often—or pretty often, depending on your sweet tooth. It's the perfectionist, all-or-nothing thinking that tanks diet plans most often, Lombardo says. ("I slipped and had two cookies so, screw it, I might as well eat the whole box.") Instead, take whatever steps you can to make smart choices when it comes to eating. "Maybe you bring your lunch to work two days instead of all five. Or you refrain from dessert except on occasions, when you savor every single bite," she adds.
Meditate for 10 Minutes Every Morning
If you're going to make one resolution this year, we say this should be it. Meditation helps every single aspect of your life, from making you more fit to helping you earn more money at work. When it comes to self-care, meditation helps lessen loneliness. It makes you more compassionate, reduces anxiety, and helps you score better sleep (for the full list of perks check out these 17 powerful benefits of meditation.) On a nuanced beneficial level, a regular mindfulness meditation practice can actually help you understand your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors better, according to a study in
Perspectives on Psychological Science
. In turn, this can help improve your interactions with others. "A daily meditation practice helps us to ground and center our energy so we don't fall into reactionary mode too easily," Lin adds.
Give Up Something You Hate to Love Once a Week
Humans are creatures of habit—but most of us tend toward unhealthy ones. Choose one indulgence from your life to give up for one day a week, Albers suggests. The goal: Understand that you can live without it. "It can be anything from Diet Coke to taking the elevator up one floor, but the small reprieve gives your body a break and gives you a small taste of what it is like to step away from it on your terms," she says.
Spend More Time Outside
Whether you live in the city or are immersed in nature on the reg, resolve to spend more time outside. Green spaces deliver an unrivaled calming effect. "When you spend time in green spaces, your oxygen level increases and there is a drop in your stress hormone, cortisol," Albers explains. Research from Stanford shows that walking in nature decreases activity in the parts of the brain associated with repetitive, negative thoughts. Try forest bathing, a Japanese therapy technique that's catching on in America—you simply spend time immersed in the trees. Or go for a walk, sit in the park, even just hike down your driveway. Spending 15 minutes near greenery is an effortless way to relax your body, she adds.
Eat More Mindfully
Stop rushing through meals. "Block off all distractions for at least 20 minutes to eat. Slowing down and relaxing makes food more pleasurable, allows you to eat less, and improves digestion," says Cully. Plus, eating slowly increases how much you chew your food, which studies have found helps you avoid overeating and allows the satiety hormone, leptin, to catch up and remind your brain to stop eating at fullness, she adds.
Set a Screen-Free Bedtime Routine
Similar to meditation, a good night's sleep is ridiculously beneficial to all aspects of your life, from workplace productivity, to mood, even to weight loss. Yet most of us unintentionally go to great lengths to thwart quality rest, staring at screens until we turn in way later than we should. Establish a bedtime routine and follow it. That means picking a lights-off time that'll land you between 7 and 8 hours of snoozing, avoiding blue light (phones, TVs, laptops) for the hour before snoozing, and doing something intentionally relaxing. Read a book, sit in a warm bath, stretch or meditate for 10 minutes right before you shut your eyes—calming down and entering REM sleep sooner equates to a happy and successful tomorrow, Cully says. Plus, this cuts back on stress, which can send your hormones out of whack, messing with weight loss and digestion, she adds.
Make an Emergency Stress-Repair Kit Once a Quarter
"When we are stressed we tend to revert to ways of comforting ourselves that may not be healthy or helpful, like mindlessly eating or getting in a thought whirlpool focusing on what we are upset about," Wasson says. Take the time to create a go-to list of procedures that help you get through the stress—going for a walk, calling your bestie, drinking warm tea, heading out on a quick run. "Use the items each time you are stressed to derail the automatic bad habit from taking over," she suggests, adding that you should make a point to evaluate and refine your list throughout the year.
Nurture and Prune Relationships
A great group of girls can help you feel more confident, get through the most stressful situations, and even improve your diet and workout dedication. Toxic friends, on the other hand, suck all the life and happiness out of you. Be better to the first, and cut the cord with the second. "Make a list of all your family and friends and consider what energy they bring into your life. Aim for a range of relationships that connect with different facets of you: people you can have fun with, count on, share your feelings with, debate with, flirt with, share your interests with, and just 'be' with," Wasson offers. "If you notice relationships that drain energy, it may be time to prune and set boundaries in order to take care of yourself. To keep your relationship community healthy, make a point to connect at least once a week with a person on your list." Another key part of this task: If you notice some areas that are missing—someone to work out with, maybe—make a commitment to branch out and fill these gaps, she adds.
Pinpoint Your Ideal Day
The New Year is synonymous with a fresh start. But most people spend so much time focused on the details and stresses of the day that they don't take the time to zoom out and create a clear sense of what they want their life to look like, Borysenko says. On January 1, sit down and think about what your ideal day looks like, without restriction: how much sleep are you waking from, what's your morning routine, where do you work, when do you go to the gym, what is your ideal commute, how is your evening best spent? "We can't create our ideal experience if we don't know what we're shooting for—it's like throwing darts without any idea where the bull's-eye is," she adds. For some, their ideal day looks drastically different from their current reality and, yes, may involve massive considerations like a career change. For others, though, the tweaks are more nuanced—if your list involves both hitting the gym and having breakfast with your hubby, you might be happier switching to a night workout so you can do both. "What you do with the information once you have it is up to you, but at least you'll have a road map toward happiness to work with," she adds.