Every year, we make New Year's' resolutions with the best of intentions. But, according to a 2017 poll by Statistic Brain, only 9.2% of us feel like we are successful in keeping them. We explore the most popular resolutions and provide expert advice for how to see them through.
Set Yourself Up for Success
The first step towards success is to take an honest look at last year. Personal branding expert, Jessica Zweig recommended that we ask ourselves what goals we met last year, what hindered our progress and how we want 2018 to be different.
Resolutions that are too broad or grand can be too difficult to maintain. Samantha Ettus, work/life fulfillment expert and author of The Pie Life suggested making specific goals that are tied to actions, as goals of this sort are easy to meet. She said, "Replace 'Lose weight' with 'Eat dessert only twice a week.' Replace 'expand my network' with 'reach out to two new contacts every Thursday.'"
Now, onto the resolutions.
Eat Better/Lose Weight
According to the Statistic Brain study, this is the number one category for resolutions. We know that eating more vegetables will help us lose weight, but making that happen is another story. Dietitian & nutrition communications consultant, Katie Ferraro, MPH, RDN, CDE, suggests our goal should be that least half of each plate should be vegetables, and that purchasing pre-washed, ready-prepared vegetables can make attaining this goal easier. "One of my favorite go-to veggie packs are Mann's Nourish Bowls," she said. "They're a delicious veggie-centric warm meal that's ready in minutes!"
Better sleep habits can also lead to weight loss, according to Lisa Tan, sleep expert and CMO of mattress brand, Reverie. She said, "Nothing good happens after midnight, so try setting a bedtime alarm to be asleep by 11 and see if the extra hours of sleep you start getting reduce your sugar cravings (the science says they should)."
Get Your Kids to Eat Better
Raising healthy eaters is no small task. Brooke Loewenstein, RD, CDN, suggests finding creative ways to increase your kids' vegetable intake. One of her tricks is serving vegetables with Vegy Vida, a collection of Greek yogurt-based dips and toppers that use natural cucumber extract to make vegetables more palatable. "I highly recommend Vegy Vida to my clients' kids," she said. "What makes this product unique its special bitter blocker that hides the bitter taste for kids, helping them snack on more veggies."
Get in Better Shape
Another popular and equally difficult resolution is getting more fit. Marshall Weber, a certified personal trainer at Jack City Fitness in Boise, Idaho, suggests that hiring a personal trainer can net better results than attempting to get fit on your own. "The problem a lot of people face when trying to get in a workout routine is that they are uncertain of what they should be doing or are not sure if they are doing a certain skill or move correctly," he said. "When you don't feel confident doing a task you've set out to do, regardless of if it's at the gym or elsewhere, your desire to get it done is low which results in a poor performance or failure to even complete it." A trainer can also hold you accountable, so you're less likely to quit.
Save More, Pay Down Debt, Spend Less
A recent study by Fidelity found that nearly four in 10 (38 percent) respondents reported feeling stressed about finances. To help avoid financial stress and make strides towards your financial goals for the year, Roshni Chowdhry, senior manager of innovation and product development at SafetyNet, an insurance program that provides money to workers who lose their income, recommends looking back at last year's spending. She said, "The goal: see what spending you could've done without. Take time to add those unnecessary monthly expenses you find from last year and make that number your savings goal for each month of the coming year. You can even create a calendar to hold yourself accountable, comparing this January's savings, for example, to last January's."
You know you need to save, but how much? Marshay Clarke, a CFP at online financial advisor service, Betterment, recommends aiming for 10% of your gross income and automating the process. "People should make saving money as easy as possible", she said. "Establish an auto-deposit that goes directly into your investment account or a direct deposit that goes from your paycheck to savings. This will eventually make saving habitual."
Be More Productive
Productivity is a common struggle, especially with all the distractions we encounter throughout the day. Erin Falconer, the founder of the Pick The Brain blog and author of the new book, How to Get Sh*t Done: Why Women Need to Stop Doing Everything So They Can Achieve Anything suggests conducting a one-week analysis of how you use your time, which should help you determine where your pitfalls are. Moving forward, keep those in mind and also avoid distractions. "Your work must be single-tasked, and not interrupted with distractions," she said. "Make sure your phone is on silent or out of reach for your concentrated work and then take a dedicated brake each hour (10-15 minutes) to do all of your busy work – checking emails/Instagram, etc."
Get More Sleep
We all know that getting a good night's sleep is important, but Erin Berman, sleep expert for Nectar mattresses, said that getting a good night's sleep is a vital key to being a healthier and happier person. Being well-rested impacts all aspects of our lives, from our performance level at work to regulating our weight, maintaining a positive attitude, good mood and more. In addition to investing in a great mattress, Berman recommends "restructuring your lifestyle in order get your healthy dose of 7 to 9 hours of sleep, which will leave you feeling fully rested and functioning at your best." She suggests trying to get ready for bed earlier and planning your outfit and packing your lunch the night before.
Reverie's Tan stresses avoiding screens before bed, by keeping your phone in the bathroom or kitchen when you turn in. She said, "Not only will this keep you away from toxic blue light (which suppresses production of sleep inducing melatonin), but also keeps you away from the stressful news, emails and other content that keeps your mind churning when it should be in sleep mode."
For many, 2017 was a very stressful year. No matter how 2018 turns out, we could all benefit from better coping mechanisms. Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz, authors of Just Sit, suggest simple fixes like nose breathing and creating a mantra can work wonders when you encounter a stressful situation. They recommend breathing through your nose because the nose filters the air at just the right temperature to calm you down. When it comes to using a mantra, "It will help you to breathe more space into that moment, as all the breath and calmness associated with that mantra shows up to support you when you really need it," they said.
You want to travel more, but from getting time off from work to the expense can make it feel daunting. Tara Kraft, Head of Publishing for Travelzoo, recommends that in addition to committing using travel sites to save money, communicating your travel goals to your employer and co-workers can ensure that you take the time off you need while also being able to enjoy your trip. "If you work for a company, communicate with your manager and team members in advance to appropriately align on expectations, goals and delegations as you prepare to take time off — this way, you can truly relax when you're on vacation," she said. She also suggested setting reminders on a quarterly basis to review your accrued vacation and map out a plan for your next trip.
You know you want to help others this year, but those you help are not the only ones to reap the rewards of your good deeds. Dr. Mike Dow, psychotherapist and author of the upcoming Heal Your Drained Brain: Naturally Relieve Anxiety, Combat Insomnia, and Balance Your Brain in Just 14 Days, said that doing good for others can have a positive effect on your own well-being. For the best results, designate a "good deed" day and try to do several good things that day, whether it's holding a door open for others, or volunteering at a local charity. "Research shows that doing one small good deed a day doesn't feel "special" enough for your brain to notice it. Stack five good deeds in one day and research shows you'll feel it; this feeling will make you want to keep it going."
And lastly, preparation for life's surprises is key. Many of us are responsible in some way for our aging relatives, and organization is key if something were to happen. Catherine Morgan, Career Transition Expert at Point A to Point B Transitions suggests tackling the topic with other family members, so you are not shouldering the responsibility yourself. She also recommends using a system like Future File to help you figure out exactly what information you need and to keep it accessible and in order. She said, "You will feel a big weight lifted off of you for doing this planning and organization, and if and when you need it, keeping your resolution to prepare will become priceless."