The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions goes back to the Romans, who made promises to Janus, the god of beginnings and endings, at the start of each year. Many people still choose to make a New Year’s resolution when January 1 rolls around. Unfortunately, one week into the new year, 23% of people who made resolutions have already failed. By June, 60% of people who made resolutions have given up. Very few people actually succeed in achieving their New Year’s resolutions, and there are a few reasons why this is the case.
The most common resolutions are to lose weight, work out more often, eat healthier meals, quit smoking, and spend less money. These are huge goals, and even the most steadfast person is bound to slip up now and again. Big, ambiguous resolutions don’t give you much to work with. Take eat healthier meals, for example. It’s pretty vague. Do you want to eat more fruits and vegetables or do you want to cut out added sugars? Are you allowed to have a cheat day now and then? Your resolutions need to be defined if you want any hope of succeeding longer than a week or two.
To increase your likelihood of success, follow these tips: Instead of choosing something vague (work out more), resolutions need to be both attainable and concrete (work out three times each week). There should also be appropriate motivation for each resolution. “Everyone else is doing it,” is not a good enough reason, but “I want to take control of my heart health because cardiovascular disease runs in my family” is quite specific. The way you frame your resolution also makes a difference; resolutions that are positive in nature (work out more) are more likely to be successful than those that are negative (weigh less). It may also help to think of your resolution as being made up of many short-term goals (work out three times this week) that are repeated. It could also help to bribe yourself (if your goal is met each week, you get to go to Starbucks) or penalize yourself (if your goal isn’t met each week, you have to donate $5 to charity). Always be vocal about your resolutions; if other people know about them, you have something to prove. These techniques may help your resolution make it past the six-month mark.
If you haven’t made a New Year’s resolution yet, there’s no reason why you can’t make one a few days into the new year, especially now that you know how to frame your resolution in a way that can lead to success. If you’re looking for ideas, the following New Year’s resolutions are tailor made for students and are easily attainable.
1. Read more books. Yeah, yeah, you’re busy with classwork, homework, and extracurriculars. Reading has some amazing benefits, though. Among them, your vocabulary will expand, you’ll be exposed to new opinions, and your mental health could flourish. A survey of over 4,000 adults found that those who read at least 30 minutes a week were more likely to feel creative, satisfied with their life, and less lonely. Reading is also associated with higher self-esteem and lower rates of depression than among those who don’t read. Aim to set aside at least 30 minutes each week to read for fun.
2. Try something new. This doesn’t have to be as drastic as studying abroad in Africa or Europe, but it could be. Something new for you could be joining a cooking club, taking walks through the campus arboretum with friends, or learning how to ski. If you join a cooking club, for example, your resolution could last all year; consider trying a new ingredient or genre of food each week. If you’ve never done something before, it counts! You could discover a new hobby, passion, or friend by making this your resolution.
3. Throw yourself into your commitments. It’s easy to be gung-ho during the first few weeks of the semester and then slowly start to slack on your commitments as your workload builds. Maybe you only show up to every other one of your intramural games, or you slowly stop showing up to art club. Make it your resolution to stick with your commitments! You signed on for them and other people are depending on you. Whether it means you study more on the weekends or go out one fewer night each week, hold yourself accountable.
4. Get to know your family as an adult. Your parents, siblings, and extended family are really different when you’re an adult than they were when you were a child. You can have a real conversation with them now, for one. Ask your parents about their childhoods, schedule a weekly phone call with your grandma, or ask one of your cousins to be your pen pal. You’ll learn interesting family history and strengthen your familial bonds at the same time.
5. Use your phone less. We could all use a little less screen time. Take an hour each day to unplug and stop constantly checking Facebook and Instagram (this goes for your computer too). Instead, read your textbooks, read for fun, spend time outside, or have a conversation with friends. You’ll be surprised at how much happier you are. (If you want an extra benefit, make your screenless time coincide with bedtime. Skipping the blue light that screens emit will help you sleep more soundly.)
6. Create a consistent evening and morning routine. Your body is happiest when it gets enough sleep, falls asleep at approximately the same time each night, and wakes up at approximately the same time each morning. Yes, this includes the weekends. This can be one of those short-term goals that is repeated to make up your resolution; aim for a consistent schedule for one week. Then aim for two. You’ll find that you’re more energized in the day and sleep better at night when your body knows that it has a bedtime. Set a nightly alarm to remind you that bedtime is in half an hour, and set one in the morning for eight hours (or eight and a half hours) later. Skip the snooze!
7. Learn about money. Knowing how to use a credit card, manage a budget, and build up your savings account are going to serve you well in the future. These blog posts should get you started:
- Banking Essentials to Learn Before College
- A Quick Introduction to Credit Cards for College Students
- Slow and Steady Ways to Build Up Your Savings Account
- The Relationship between Credit Card Debt and Credit Card Literacy
- Money Management Apps to Help You Stay on Top of Your Finances
- When (and How) Should You Start Saving for Retirement?
8. Make your bed every morning. U.S. Navy Admiral William H. McCraven can say it better than I can. Fast-forwarding to 4:36 will get you through his introduction and to his first lesson. Watching the whole video is worth it, though, if you want to learn how to change the world.
9. Get to know a professor or teacher. They’re people too, not just beings who were sent to Earth to lecture at you and grade assignments. Spend some time talking to your professor or teacher after class, visit their office hours, and get to know them. Having a good relationship with a professor or teacher will help you down the line, especially when you need a letter of recommendation. They can also help you find jobs or internships, make recommendations for future learning, and participate in some cool extracurriculars.
10. Make time to relax. It’s important that you have some “me time” every week, if not every day. Taking time for yourself can lower stress and boost your mental health. If you’re looking for ways to relax, consider saying no to one thing each week, taking five minutes a day to practice deep breathing, meditating, practicing yoga, or doing something else that you find enjoyable and relaxing. Maybe working out helps you relax. Maybe it’s painting. Make it your goal to spend some time on you every day, and reward yourself when you meet your goal!
11. Drink more water. Water is important for all sorts of reasons, number one being that your body is made up of it. It regulates your temperature and your circulatory system, it lubricates your joints, and it keeps your skin looking fresh. Plus, sometimes thirst can mask itself as hunger, so do your body a favor and drink more before you munch! Carry around a water bottle or a to-go cup with a straw and plan on refilling it every few hours.
12. Go to class prepared every day. You’re in school to learn, which you can’t do if you’ve forgotten to do your homework or neglected to do the reading ahead of time. Make it your resolution to go to class everyday and to be prepared. It’s tempting to let some of the reading slide, or to put a little less effort into a paper than you probably should, but this only hurts you in the long run. You may not get an A, but if you’ve put in your best effort, that’s certainly worth something.
Whether you choose one of these resolutions for the year or choose to try one each month, they’re certain to be beneficial to your overall health, happiness, and success in school. Good luck!