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12 non-diet New Year’s resolutions

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Why we need to start thinking outside of the diet box for New Year’s resolutions

With the winter holidays just around the corner, you may have begun to start thinking about your New Year’s resolutions. Some of the most common goals people set for this time are related to weight loss, dieting, and starting new exercise routines. Not only are these resolutions often unrealistic, but they also come with immense pressure to succeed or we deem ourselves failures. Whether you’re in eating disorder recovery, struggling with disordered eating, or experiencing negative body image due to diet culture and fatphobia, New Year’s resolutions related to dieting can be harmful to your mental and physical health. Fortunately, there are plenty of meaningful options for resolutions that have nothing to do with food or exercise.

12 New Year’s resolutions that have nothing to do with diet or exercise

Although it’s never too late or too early to begin creating new healthy and joyful habits, beginning on January first can feel like a clear starting point. Here are twelve non-diet New Year’s resolution ideas that may help you feel better and more fulfilled. 

1. Improving your sleep hygiene and habits

Now is a great opportunity to evaluate your sleep habits and make small changes that can help you get a proper amount of sleep as well as high-quality sleep. Ideally, most people should get seven to nine hours of restful sleep every night, though individual needs vary. If you are consistently getting fewer than seven or eight hours, then you may need to start winding down earlier and setting a goal for when you get into bed. If you have trouble falling asleep, it may help to create a better environment for sleeping, which may include removing screens from your bedroom. Although it can be tempting to scroll on your phone before bed, research indicates that using it late at night can disrupt sleep.

2. Creating self-care habits

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to commit to self-care, whatever that may look like for you. Examples of self-care habits may include:

  • Journaling
  • Meditating
  • Yoga
  • Getting massages
  • Reading a book
  • Taking baths
  • Calling a loved one
  • Playing an instrument
  • Making crafts
  • Gardening
  • Volunteering
  • Getting a pedicure 
  • Getting some fresh air
  • Listening to relaxing music
  • Rearranging your space
  • Buying yourself flowers
  • Watching the sunrise or sunset
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Painting or draw
  • Doing a full-body scan
  • Cuddling with a pet

3. Cultivating a gratitude practice

Practicing gratitude can have a wealth of benefits and improve your emotional well-being. Here’s some suggestions for how to create a practice:

  • Begin the day by listing a few things you are looking forward to that day
  • Throughout the day, pay attention to the things that bring you joy, however small.
  • Don’t keep your gratitude to yourself—express it to others.
  • At the end of the day, list three or four things you’re grateful for—it’s even better if you write them down.

Practicing gratitude is a muscle just like other habits—it’s going to take work and commitment, but it becomes easier over time.

4. Find a therapist

Many people can benefit from therapy—not just people with mental health disorders or problems they need to work through. Therapy can help provide you with insight, helpful coping strategies, and an opportunity to talk through various issues, questions, or doubts.

5. Read the books on your “to be read list”

Reading books you enjoy can greatly enrich your life. For the new year, try picking up a book you’ve been meaning to read or asking friends for recommendations.

6. Try out a new hobby

Is there something you’ve always wanted to try or learn? Now is a great time to test out a new hobby, whether that involves learning a new language, cooking, playing a sport, playing an instrument, painting, collaging, crafting, dancing, photography, knitting, woodworking, and beyond. 

7. Shop mindfully

Although shopping at big box stores may be easier or more convenient, if you have the time and financial flexibility, shopping at small businesses can be a great way to be intentional about where your money goes and find unique or high quality items. This might look like shopping locally, shopping at indie bookstores, going to the farmer’s market, buying from small businesses, and more.

8. Enroll in a class

Enrolling in a class, whether online or in person, can be an exciting way to jumpstart the new year. Thanks to the internet, there are cheap and even free classes available virtually for many different topics and skills, from screenwriting and directing to cooking and growing your own vegetables. 

9. Stay hydrated

A simple way to care for yourself is to ensure that you are getting enough water. If you struggle with hydration, it may help to keep a water bottle with you and fill it up several times per day. A general estimate is to drink eight cups of water per day, but ask your healthcare provider about the most appropriate amount of water you should aim to drink. 

10. Make travel plans

Traveling can relieve stress, improve your mental well-being, and provide you with new perspectives. If there’s a trip you’ve been wanting to take, make it a point to prioritize it in the new year. While travel can be expensive, taking shorter trips, riding on buses, or staying in hostels can make it more affordable. 

11. Limit social media time

As much as social media enables us to connect with people, it can also be detrimental to our mental health. It can be helpful to make a point of intentionally disconnecting at regular intervals and tuning in to what is happening in the room around you. While you’re at it, you might want to unfollow any accounts that are no longer serving you, whether they are influencers, people who promote toxic positivity, those you compare yourself to, or beyond.

12. Call a friend or family member regularly

Life can get really busy, and sometimes we forget to reach out to our loved ones. Setting a goal to call a friend or family member once a week can help you be intentional about staying connected.

Treat yourself with the same kindness you would a loved one

Regardless of what New Year’s resolutions you choose, it can be helpful to approach them in the new year with self-compassion and patience. You are doing your best, at whatever point of your journey you’re on. If you make a mistake or slip up, treat yourself with kindness and forgiveness. Think about how you might react to a friend in a similar situation. Chances are, you would encourage them to be gentle with themself, to avoid blame and shame. Also, it’s important to remember that given the prevalence of diet culture and weight stigma in our society, January and February can be very stressful months. If you are feeling pressure to join people in their diet-related New Year’s resolutions, give yourself permission to take a step back and set your own goals that have your best interests in mind and to reach out for extra support if you need it.

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

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