Thinking Outside the Box

Ideas for original and attainable goals for New Year’s resolutions.

With a new year often come new resolutions, be they six-pack abs by spring or giving up carnivore’s diet and going vegan, but setting drastic or unrealistic goals can lead to failure. For New Years resolutions that can bring change in overall wellbeing, whether physical, emotional or financial, local innovators say think outside the box and they offer unorthodox resolutions and minor actions that can have a major impact.

While spending a week or even a day without one’s smartphone or tablet might be unrealistic given the constantly connected world in which we live, a digital dial-down might be more attainable. “How about spending five minutes each morning meditating or reading or doing stretches?” said Jen Pape, yoga iRest Level II teacher and studio manager at Circle Yoga.

“One simple and realistic thing to try in the New Year is right when you wake up, instead of … reaching for your phone to scroll for the news of the day or checking how many likes to your Instagram, take a moment to identify something you are grateful for and a one word intention for the day,” said Carolyn Lorente, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Northern Virginia Community College. “A word such as peace, centered, integrity or abundance can be returned to throughout the day. The research on gratitude and intention is strong and doing it just as you start your day can set the tone for the rest of the day.”

Whether beginning or completing an undergraduate or graduate degree for professional advancement or simply taking a class that piques one’s interest, consider education-centered goals. “I’m sure others can relate to this one, “ said Jacqueline W. Lee, director of the Inventive Awards Program at the University of Maryland. “Make a timeline and then set weekly or monthly goals.” Examples of those goals might be resolving to complete and submit applications or scheduling informational interviews with three people in an area of one’s interest.

From rough, dry hands to unsightly acne, skincare is important to one’s overall wellbeing says Jaclyn Madden of Rodan + Fields who suggests resolving to take care of one’s outer layer. “For a resolution that might be manageable … I would suggest trying to commit to exfoliating your skin two to three times a week with a facial scrub to rid it of the old, dead skin and bring up the new skin and see a healthy glow,” she said. “It also allows your skincare products to work deeper and more effectively. “

A scroll through the pictures on most smartphones might reveal that many people have more snapshots than they’ll ever be able to use. Resolve to organize those photos by taking small actions, suggests professional photo organizer Jody Al-Saigh of Picture Perfect Organizing. “Five minutes in a doctor’s waiting room or in line at the grocery store is enough time to delete a few unwanted photos and duplicates from your phone,” she said. “Try to remember to do this during your idle moments instead of scrolling social media or news sites.”

“Resolve to plan a weekly or monthly time on your calendar to organize photos and backup your collection,” added Al-Saigh. “Set reminder alarms to jog your memory. Always set a time after a big vacation or important event to offload photos as well.”

While bringing order to chaos is a goal that many hope to achieve, getting to the bottom of the mound of paper on one’s desk or cleaning out an overstuffed closet can feel insurmountable. “Resolve to put an empty bag in the bottom of every closet in your home and fill it with unwanted clothing as you come across them instead of waiting until you find time to go through your entire closet,” said professional organizer Jodie Jacobs, of SOUPerior Organizing. “Set a date and actually go to a charity to drop off the bags of clothing you already decided to donate.”

“Resolve to start shredding your unwanted or sensitive papers once a week instead of waiting and creating an overwhelming amount that you then have to take somewhere and pay to shred,” continued Jacobs. “Recycle your junk mail every evening so that it doesn’t pile up.”

Finding ways to add joy to one’s life is a suggestion from therapist Carol Barnaby, MSW, LCSW-C. “I tell people to think not about giving things up, but about what would bring happiness to them in the New Year,” she said. “For example, dating, taking up a new hobby, cultivating more friendships or creating less stress. Then set up actionable ideas to achieve those goals. Be kind to yourself and remind yourself that you are human and expected to make mistakes.”

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