I’m gonna be honest: I’m not the best at keeping New Year’s resolutions. Mostly because I don’t do well with goals that have a specific time limit, or are part of a short-term list. I always tend to make the same ones – quit biting my nails, lose a few pounds, try to relax more, save X amount of money. But they’re either too much to take on at once, too vague, or come other reason that keeps me from succeeding.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized the best things I can do for myself for the coming year are small, gradual changes that are more realistic. In turn, these will help lead me toward some of the bigger goals naturally – and as a bonus, they’ll put less stress on me in the meantime. Here are a few of my favorites.

Stop comparing yourself to others

I know you’ve probably heard this a hundred times, but that’s because it’s true: The only person you should be comparing yourself to is yourself. There’s nothing wrong with being competitive or wanting to be better, but as long as you’re doing something today that you can pat yourself on the back for because you did it better than you would’ve yesterday, you’re doing great. The only thing comparing ourselves to other people does is breed resentment and jealousy. It’s not realistic. And as Judy Garland once said, “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”

Reevaluate your finances

I’m not saying save a specific percentage of your paycheck or up your 401k contributions, as I know some of us are struggling to even pay our bills. But even just sitting down one weekend and drawing out both a long- and short-term plan can be super beneficial. Not sure where to start? Talk to a financial advisor. Some companies offer them to their employees for free, so that might be something worth looking into. Or maybe you have a family friend who’s an accountant, or at the very least can find some relevant online message boards. Just remember to start with small goals and go from there.

Take better care of yourself

This can manifest itself in so many ways, whether it be a trip to the spa once every other month, a set amount of time you put aside every week just to Netflix binge, an hour before bed every night dedicated to re-reading the Harry Potter series, etc. Think for just 10 seconds about what you would do for yourself if you just had a little extra time, then once that thought pops into your mind, decide if it’s realistic. If it is (and really ask yourself if it is – don’t just assume it isn’t because you haven’t been doing it up to this point), make it a priority to work it into your schedule. Your stress levels will thank you.

Pick up the phone

I’m so guilty of texting more than I talk on the phone, but some people – especially people like our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others who didn’t grow up in the Twitter/Instagram era – prefer to have an actual conversation on the phone. So why not speak their language for once? A 15-minute chat a couple of times a week with the people closest to you will not only make them feel loved and valued, but will make you feel like you really connected in a valuable way.

Make your bed every day

This one is funny since I’m currently sitting next to my unmade bed. But it’s only unmade because I’m sick and plan to crawl back in it soon. Any other day, that baby is made. Know why? Because no matter how badly my day goes, when I get into a made bed at the end of the day, I feel like I have my crap together. It only takes five extra minutes in the morning, and a made bed can make an otherwise untidy room or chaotic situation feel magically a thousand times better. Sorry to get all parental, but trust me.

Learn something new

This doesn’t have to be a language, which I know is the first thing to pop into anyone’s mind when they hear, “Learn something new.” Tailor whatever it is to your own interests! Do you drool over the intricate patterns on the cakes at your favorite bakery? Take a pastry-decorating class! Ever dream of singing on stage at a karaoke bar but aren’t the greatest at carrying a tune? Two words: vocal lessons. You seriously have nothing to lose. And this is also why Groupon was invented, guys.

Say thank you

Whether it’s with your words, a smile, a card in the mail, or a sweet gesture, going a little out of your way to tell the people around you how much you appreciate them really makes a difference. And it takes little to no time out of your day to do. Gratitude, when given freely and genuinely, always comes back around. And it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, too, which is a nice bonus.


Yes, you obviously already do this since you have to, you know, survive. But sometimes when I’m feeling extra overwhelmed, I pause for a second and realize it’s been a while since I’ve inhaled. Seriously. I involuntary hold my breath when I feel anxious, and it’s helped me so many times to just step back, take long, deep, deliberate breaths in and out for 30 seconds, and then be on my way. Try it. Conscious, controlled breathing is part of the reason yoga is so popular, and it’s a simple, great way to greet 2016.

[Image via Universal]