For many of us, the start of a new year marks a new beginning and is a chance to reaffirm our goals and create new ones. Everyone’s goals will look slightly different and can be large or small, short-term or long-term. Some people may have places they’d like to visit, careers they’d like to pursue, or people they’d like to spend more time with. While others might want to break negative habits or work on improving their health.
However, research tells us that making resolutions can be the easier part; and that keeping them up throughout the year can prove a lot more tricky. A 2019 YouGov survey found that of the people who made New Year’s resolutions, only 24% of people kept all the promises they made to themselves that year.
Over the years, people have offered various different explanations as to why keeping New Year’s resolutions is so difficult. But one that sticks out is from psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert, who told Business Insider: “It’s easier to drop out or walk away when you set goals or resolutions that are vague. When it’s really detailed and specific, it’s harder to walk away from it.”
Alpert suggested that rather than setting ourselves large, insurmountable goals that have the potential to overwhelm us, we could instead ask ourselves: “What do I need to do this week, what do I need to do over the next month or so, and what do I hope to accomplish over the next several months?”
With this in mind, and with 2023 stretched out ahead of us, we’ve put together a list of 12 New Year’s resolution ideas – one for every month of the year. We’ll also look closer at where New Year’s resolutions came from in the first place, and offer a few tips on how to keep them.
Where did New Year’s Resolutions all begin?
The earliest New Year’s resolutions are said to have been made by the ancient Babylonians, around 4000 years ago. They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations for the New Year – though, their new year began in mid-March during the crop planting season.
During this time, they made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any items they’d borrowed. It’s widely believed that these promises were a precursor to the New Year’s resolutions we know today.
Then, in ancient Rome (in 45 B.C.) Julius Caesar changed the calendar so that New Year’s Day fell on January 1st. January was named after ‘Janus’ – the two-faced god of new beginnings whose spirit lived in doorways, gateways, and arches. One face looked back towards the past and the other looked forward to the future. The Romans offered sacrifices to Janus and made promises of good conduct for the coming year.
Ever since then, the first day of the year has become the traditional occasion for looking back at one’s past mistakes, and resolving to do better and be better moving forward. Though, instead of making promises to the gods, many people make promises to themselves and tend to focus on self-improvement.
12 New Year’s resolutions - one for every month of the year
If you want to make 2023 a year for self-development, but you’re not sure where to start; then one idea is to adopt a new goal each month, rather than trying to tackle everything at once. It’s also important to be specific about each goal and consider what it will add to your life, and where it might lead.
Although you might have many goals that you want to achieve, it’s important to remember that one small step can often be a gateway to many other positive changes.
For example, if you want to improve your general health, then you could start by improving your sleep, as this can increase your motivation in other health-related areas. Eating better and getting enough exercise is often more manageable if we feel rested.
So, if you have lots that you want to achieve this year but you’re not sure where to start, then here’s what your 2023 New Year’s resolutions could look like…
Choose one physical health goal. Do you want to drop a little weight? If you do, then perhaps you could start by looking at small ways to increase your activity levels or incorporate more whole foods into your diet. Or, as previously mentioned, perhaps you want to focus on the quality of your sleep.
You could also take a look at what health checks are available and arrange the appropriate appointments.
Choose one mental health goal. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, yet few of us treat it as such. So why not give yourself a mental health MOT?
Stress is something that many of us feel, but may not take steps to resolve – either because we’ve become used to it or are too busy. This month you could ask yourself questions such as: Am I happy? Could I be more relaxed? And if so, how can I achieve this? Our article here has plenty of stress-relieving ideas that might help.
Take steps towards changing a negative habit. Whether it’s smoking, drinking too much, or eating junk food, this month you could work towards cutting back or giving up a habit that isn’t serving you well.
The key to breaking negative habits is often to replace them with positive ones, which you can read more about in our article here.
Review your finances. According to an article in the Daily Mirror, 53% of adults have avoided making particular financial decisions because they couldn’t face it. However, whether we’d like to believe it or not, our finances have a significant impact on our health and wellbeing, and getting on top of them can help to alleviate a lot of stress and worry.
The money section of our website offers plenty of information and help with things like pensions and retirement planning, as well as everyday financial matters – like whether or not you’re getting the best deal on your car insurance, as well as on your energy, internet, and mobile phone bills.
If you’re looking to save money and reduce your outgoings, then these 17 simple yet effective ways to cut costs could be a helpful place to start.
Declutter your home. This month, why not take a good look around your house and take stock of what you do and don’t use? Decluttering your home can not just give you more physical space, but more mental space too. Often, it’s only after we’ve parted with items that we realise how much they were weighing us down.
Decluttering and organising your home can help to improve sleep, boost productivity and creativity, remove allergens, and make the house easier to clean. Plus, it can be fun discovering items that were lost or long forgotten about. Any items you don’t need anymore can either be sold or donated.
Learn a new skill or hobby. Hobbies are not only fun, but have health benefits that include boosted mental wellbeing, confidence, and self-esteem. So this month, why not start a new hobby or rediscover an old one?
If you’re in need of some inspiration, you might want to check out the learning section of our website, which has guides on everything from origami to gardening.
Volunteer your time. Volunteering has many advantages ranging from meeting new friends and learning new skills, to giving something back to the community.
If you’re seeking volunteer opportunities, the Rest Less volunteer section has plenty of information about ways to volunteer, as does our article; 18 meaningful ways to help others and give back to your community.
Read a book. Do you have a list of books that you want to read, but keep on thinking you’re too busy to do so? This month, why not make the time? Not just reading things on the internet or your phone, but a book – as reading can be a great way to cut down on screen time. You could go to a book shop and browse the choices, or visit your local library and borrow something.
Having a specific goal can help, so you could try reading a book a month or every two months. For motivation, you could also consider joining a book club.
Spend time with family and friends. When we have personal goals that we want to achieve, it can be difficult to balance these with our social calendars. But it’s important to remember that connecting with others is an important part of self-care and development too. Family and friends are an important part of our lives as they are there for us in both good and bad times.
So if you’ve not seen much of your loved ones as you’d like, then why not arrange to catch up not just virtually, but in person. You could suggest putting regular meetups in place, where you go for a meal, coffee, or walk.
If you don’t have many friends and would like to connect with new people, then our article here has a few ideas on how to do this. It’s also worth considering that it can be good to have friends of all ages as there is much to be learned across intergenerational friendships.
Check in on your relationship. In our hectic lives, it’s impossible for our relationship to be at the forefront of our minds all the time. And while this is normal, from time to time, it’s important to check in with our relationships and our partners on a deeper level. This could mean considering whether you’re both happy and if there are any new, joint goals, that you could tackle together.
Quality time also is important, so if you’ve not spent much meaningful time together recently, then why not schedule a date night?
Reduce your screen time. There are many health benefits to reducing the amount of time we spend in front of a screen whether it’s a computer or a phone screen. Too much screen time can lead to weight gain, sleep problems, eye strain, and poor posture.
Try taking regular breaks from smart devices to listen to some music, read a book, meet up with people in person, or go for a walk. It’s also good to leave your phone outside your bedroom at night so that you won’t be tempted to check it before you go to sleep.
Our article 8 tips for coping with screen fatigue has plenty more ideas on ways you can cut down your screen time.
Have fun and channel your inner child. Self-development goals are often quite serious, and centre around things that we feel we ‘should do’ – even if we know these things are good for us. But, it’s important to remember that life is also short, and that fun, laughter, and spontaneity are invaluable.
It’s important to make time for play; especially if you work long hours, or spend a lot of your time doing things for other people. This could mean going for a night out on the town with your friends, watching some silly movies, or building a blanket fort with your grandkids.
Research suggests that adults who play games have improved social well being, sharper cognitive functions, and are even better able to keep healthier relationships – both platonic and romantic – than those who don’t participate in fun activities on a regular basis.
The resolutions above are just a few examples of some of the many goals you might choose to set yourself for the coming year.
Whatever your resolutions are, try to remember that each one can be broken down into smaller steps. A new year also doesn’t have to involve being a ‘new you’ – it can involve being the ‘same you’ who is simply looking to take steps to be happier and healthier. The term ‘new you’ can often suggest that we need to try and be someone else, rather than building on the person we already are.
Tips to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions
Focus on one resolution at a time
Trying to achieve all your goals at once can be daunting and overwhelming. Take one small goal at a time, and get comfortable achieving it before tackling something else.
Set realistic, manageable goals
Try to break larger, more ambitious into smaller steps and work on one part at a time. This is more likely to keep you motivated and give you the results that you want.
For example, if you’re planning to drop several clothing sizes, you could do it in incremental steps. Rather than expecting to lose all the weight over a short period of time, aim to lose a couple of pounds at a time, and slowly get down to your target weight.
Or should your goal be to run a marathon, why not start out jogging two or three times a week, and then build up to longer runs and exercise on more days of the week? New habits aren’t formed overnight, so patience also plays a part as well as setting your realistic goals.
Plan your goals
Don’t wait until the last moment to decide what your goals are going to be, or you might not have everything you need to get started.
For example, if you want to include more exercise, then consider whether you have enough activewear. If you plan on walking more, then you’ll need comfortable walking shoes – especially if you want your new habit to stick.
Make your resolutions worthwhile
Rather than writing a quick list of goals – which many of us forget about soon after we’ve written it – why not give plenty of thought to your resolutions? Ask yourself what you want to achieve, and how that achievement will add meaning and value to your life.
You could arrange your resolutions on a vision board, which you can look at daily for inspiration.
As you make progress with your resolutions, rewarding yourself for your milestones can help you stay motivated. For example, if you’ve lost several pounds in weight, treat yourself to a new outfit. Or buy that book you’ve been wanting to read.
Try not to be too hard on yourself
If you make small slip-ups, try to remember that these things do happen. Becoming obsessive over the occasional setback can have a negative effect on your progress.
So, instead, take one day at a time and do the best that is possible each day. If you do take a step back, try not to keep thinking about it – just get back on schedule and keep moving forward.
Develop a support system
When deciding that you’re going to set some resolutions, if possible, don’t keep them a secret. Sharing your goals with others can give you a support system, and the people who know about your resolutions can often help you stick to them.
You could also create a buddy system where you and a friend update each other on your goals and how you’re getting on, as you strive to achieve them.
There could well come a time when you run out of steam as you try to keep your resolutions. If that happens, then rather than get upset or angry with yourself, try doing a reset.
Say, “I’m going to commit myself to stick to my goal for 24 hours.” Then after this time has passed, you can add on another 24 hours, and so on. Soon you’ll find that you’re back on track, and in time, your goals will (hopefully) become a natural part of your life…
Set new resolutions
It’s tempting to keep on recycling resolutions that we haven’t stuck at in the past. But rather than doing this, why not find new ones and work on a plan to achieve them?
If you do want to recycle one from the past, try to think of a new way of doing them that you won’t associate with failure. Evaluate what went wrong with the original plan and how you can improve your approach. That way you’ll have a greater chance of success.
When looking at what goals you want to achieve, it’s important to make sure that they’re things that you really want to achieve for you, and no one else. When we commit to improving ourselves for other people, our resolutions can feel more like a chore and perhaps even create some resentment – which can affect our willpower and determination.
Many of us also set all of our New Year’s resolutions in January, but realistically this is a lot of pressure to place on a single month. If you have lots you want to achieve this month, then consider choosing one small thing to start with, and building on them throughout the year.
It’s easy to become fixated on the end results of our resolutions and want to get them done. But the journey to becoming who we want to be can often be the best bit.