New Year’s resolutions are an annual tradition for over 40% of Americans, a convention that dates back to the Babylonians over 4,000 years ago.

Commonly, new year resolutions are quite ambitious. Every year, millions of us vow to lose weight, get in shape, drink less, learn new hobbies, save more, spend less, and the list goes on and on. In some shape, a New Year’s resolution is linked to self-improvement in the upcoming year.

Most resolutions fail. By February, most people have abandoned their newfound resolve and gone back to their old ways.

But there’s hope: failure is far from inevitable. If you can plan for how you will achieve your resolution, set progress benchmarks, and build accountability, you have a good chance of success. Just make sure you set yourself up for success by being an achievable goal that is meaningful to your life, holds a measurable benefit, and is not something super lofty like making a bazillion dollars.

Say hello to tinier New Year’s resolutions this year.

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What Are Tinier New Year’s Resolutions?

Tinier New Year’s resolutions are what they sound like: resolutions that are tinier than your typical grand goals. It’s about making one tiny change, or more, to your day in order to create a new routine. It’s about tinkering with your daily habits (or disorder) to bring about a sense of pleasure and achievement.

Instead of vowing to keep the house room spic-and-span, maybe your goal is to pick up all the LEGO bricks every night. It’s one item to focus on amid a sea of chaos and feels far less overwhelming than cleaning an entire room. Likely, after you’ve completed the task of picking up all the LEGO bricks you’ll keep on tidying up. But even if you don’t, you can revel in the satisfaction of achieving your resolution.

Other tinier resolution alternatives to keeping an immaculate house include: making your bed every day or lining up all your shoes in a neat row.

Studies have shown that meeting achievement goals improves your mental health, overall life satisfaction, and the overall quality of your interactions with other people. It can also bolster your overall self-esteem and ability to moderate and regulate negative emotions.

What Are the Top 10 New Year Resolutions? (And What’s a Tinier Version of Each One?)

Common New Year’s resolutions relate to quitting bad habits (eating junk food, smoking, drinking) and improving one’s health and financial outlook.

In 2021 and 2022, these were the top 10 U.S. New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Exercise more.
  2. Eat healthier.
  3. Lose weight.
  4. Spend more time with family and friends.
  5. Live more economically (earn more, save money, spend less).
  6. Spend less time on social media.
  7. Improve performance on the job.
  8. Reduce stress on the job.
  9. Quit smoking.
  10. Reduce alcohol consumption.

While these goals are all commendable, they are vague and there are no progress markers. What does “exercise more” mean? How will you know if you’ve met this goal?

Here are some practical ideas for how you can achieve these popular resolutions and reap the feel-good benefits.

Top 10 Tinier Resolutions

  1. Physical fitness goals could include: putting in 10,000 steps a day, calling your mom every Tuesday and walking on the treadmill while you talk to her, signing up for a 5K event (with group training), or just putting on your tennis shoes every evening after dinner. If you put on tennis shoes, you’re more likely to get in some physical movement and you’ve got past the first mental obstacle. But even if you put on your shoes and then sit on the couch, you’ve met your goal. A Smartwatch or Fitbit are surefire ways to make sure you’re meeting your fitness goals, and you can share your progress with friends. You can find big sales on fitness gear and earn free cash back rebates on your purchases too.
  2. Healthier eating goals could include: eating at least 3 servings of vegetables every day, going meatless one day a week, or eating a salad before dinner every day. Signing up for a healthy meal kit service like Purple Carrot or Dinnerly are actionable steps you can take toward meeting your healthy-eating goals.
  3. Losing weight can be tied to a specific goal in pounds or kilos, but you should also have a specific plan. Maybe it’s to lose at least 1 pound a week for the next 20 weeks by putting in 10,000 steps a day. Or, your goal is to do 20 minutes of strength training every day and use the elliptical machine for at least 60 total minutes a week. Weight loss apps can help you stay motivated and hold you accountable for your goals. HealthyWage, for example, uses financial incentives to motivate you to set achievable weight loss goals and maintain the loss. You wager $5 or more each month toward your goals and can win up to $995 per month. Right now, you can get a free $40 cash bonus when you sign up and make a weight loss wager.
  4. Spending more time with family and friends can easily translate into a meaningful plan of action. Ideas can include holding a weekly game night, training for a race, monthly book club, ongoing weekly brunch dates, joining a class together, or volunteering for shared causes. With Zoom, Skype, and Whatsapp, it’s easier than ever to connect with loved ones online. Virtual game nights or watch parties can be pretty amazing. Instead of gifting family candles, mugs, or reindeer pajamas they don’t want, why not gift a subscription to Netflix, Hulu, or Paramount+?
  5. Living more economically can mean picking up a side hustle to earn an extra $100 to $1,000 a month, cutting back on your grocery bill, or curbing your spending on clothing, entertainment, or travel. It doesn’t have to mean “spend less” which is way too vague, or an unrealistic pledge to “never go out to eat again”. Even “getting a part-time job” isn’t specific enough. Money-related goals that you can succeed at include: applying for 5 part-time jobs by February 1st and be earning at least $100 a week from a part-time job by March 7th. Or it could mean joining a paid surveys site like Swagbucks and setting a goal of attempting at least 5 surveys a day from your phone or desktop and earning at least $125 a month.
  6. Spending less time on social media is a resolution that goes hand in hand with many other common goals. Spending more with loved ones or exercising is going to leave you less time for scrolling through Instagram. You can also actively trade in your social media time with other activities. Maybe it’s to delete the Facebook app from your phone for at least 30 days so you can develop new habits. Or instead of social, you take up knitting, woodworking, or playing cards. Even playing games online can be a great alternative, because it’s about exercising your skills instead of following trends. And, you can even earn cash and gift cards for playing many games (with some in-app ads) like Bubble Shooter, Sudoku, Blackout Bingo, or Mafia City.
  7. Improving performance on the job doesn’t have to mean getting a promotion or fancy new training. Some actionable ways to improve your job performance can include tidying up your workspace, limiting distractions, setting clear and achievable daily goals and long-term goals with milestones, and setting aside time each day to prioritize tasks and complete the most important ones first. You can also enhance your professional and personal life skills with free or discounted courses on Udemy, Coursera, edX, Udacity, or Skillshare.
  8. Reducing stress on the job can take shape in many forms, like improving job performance and competency, finding a mentor, changing hours to lessen the commute, or increasing exercise and physical activity for stress reduction. Asking your supervisor for feedback may feel scary but can be very helpful. And there are lots of professional coaching and mental health resources you can turn to for help with talking to your boss or reducing stress on the job. Affordable, online mental health resources include Talkspace and BetterHelp are two well-regarded online services.
  9. Quit smoking. Smoking is a really hard one to kick. Pairing this goal with another wellness goal is helpful. Then it’s not just about trying to kick a bad habit: it’s about trying to adopt new ones. that are healthy and enjoyable. Maybe your goal is to meditate for 10 minutes a day or to take up a new hobby. Or your goal is to drink 8 cups of water a day. You can focus your mental energy on other things than curbing that urge. You can set silly mini-goals tied to not lighting up. Like every time you feel the urge, you have to tie and untie your shoelaces 5 times and then do 5 jumping jacks. Shake things up! Little diversions like this can keep you on track and improve your physical and mental health.
  10. Reduce alcohol consumption. “Drink less” is a common New Year’s resolution. And commonly, it doesn’t stick. What does reducing alcohol consumption look like? Think about where you drinking, and why. Who are you with? What’s the occasion? Are there certain outings or heavy-drinking friends you should avoid, or at least nudge toward non-alcohol events? Can you switch to soda or water instead of liquor? For every drink or every other drink? Can you volunteer to be sober-cab, so you’re not pressured into drinking and still able to socialize with friends? Can you set a drinking budget for the week or month? Whatever you don’t spend goes into a money jar toward a vacation, a new car, or other big-money goals.

It is possible that some of these New Year’s resolution ideas are tied to more serious mental health or addiction issues. If there’s any concern that you have disordered eating, alcohol dependence, a shopping addiction (oniomania), or other emotional health issues, it’s important to consult a professional.

What Are Some Unique New Year’s Resolutions?

Having long kicked smoking, purchased my first home, learned French, and ran that elusive marathon, finding New Year’s resolution ideas that are worthwhile, realistic, and fun can be hard.

In researching some unique ideas for New Year’s resolutions effective and intriguing, here are some of the better ones.

  • Random Acts of Kindness. Every day, do one random act of kindness. Paying for the coffee order behind you. Waving in a car from the parking lot to let them merge. Cleaning up the crumpled paper towels on the restroom floor next to the bin. There are infinite little things we can do every day to make someone else’s life a little better.
  • Downplay the Decadence. Do you have special earrings or cologne that you never wear? A cocktail dress or fancy suit gathering dust in your closet? Wear it! What are you waiting for? If your life isn’t filled with opera outings and elegant black-tie parties, that’s unlikely to change. Dress up and go downtown for lunch. Wear your special studs every day, or a sprinkling of cologne for when you run errands. Indulge in your indulgences for you.
  • Jar of Memory Post-Its. Every day, write down the best thing that happened to you that day and stick it in the jar. Get everyone in the family involved. Next year on New Year’s Eve, you can read all the Post-Its you’ve stuck in the jar and recall what a wonderful year you had.
  • Try One New Food a Week. Every week, try a new food you’ve never had before. The fruit and veggie aisle at the supermarket are probably loaded with foods you’ve pushed past, wondering “What are those?” It can be a new dinner dish or dessert you make or trying something new on the menu at your favorite restaurant.
  • Make One New Friend a Month. We feel isolated. Nearly 40% of American adults reported feeling extremely lonely and 60% of Americans stated they felt like no one knew them well. Yet most of us feel embarrassed by our feelings of loneliness and desire for more friends. Make one new friend a month. Look for volunteering events. Sign up for a pottery class at the community ed center. Take a DIY class at the local craft store. Join a bowling league. Make it a point to make small talk with at least 1-2 people at every outing. And make positive assumptions. Ask to meet up later for coffee or lunch, and make sure to follow up.

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