With the whirlwind of the holiday season beginning to settle down, you might find that you have a bit more time to yourself. Sometimes things can feel a little melancholy around this time of year. Compared to the bustling social calendars of November and earlier in December, the lead-up to the New Year can seem downright lonely. Don’t let it, though. The truth is, this quieter time perfect for deeper personal contemplation. What did you enjoy about this year? What did you not? Are you moving towards your goals? What’s standing in the way?
Many people, upon answering these questions, get hung up on superficial answers. It’s easy to understand how, given that this is the time of year we’re met with a barrage of New Year’s resolution marketing for diet pills, gym memberships, makeovers, you name it. But ignore all of that. The truth is, January isn’t the only time of year that you can make changes in your life. Any day can be the beginning of your next year. And you don’t have to change what you look like to improve yourself. Instead, here is a list of New Year’s resolutions actually worth considering.
1. Start Minimizing Waste
Americans waste enough food daily to collectively fill the Rose Bowl. So much plastic is used and wasted in this country that some of its chemical compounds even show up consistently in Americans’ blood. Think about the sheer amount of plastic being used just on an individual basis. The bags for produce. The wrapping on your roll of toilet paper. The takeout containers, bottles of water, condiment wrappers. It’s really staggering when you zoom out and imagine this happening on a massive scale, especially considering that there is nowhere for all of this plastic to go. Contrary to what we might believe, only a relatively tiny amount of plastic waste is actually recycled. One great New Year’s resolution is to cut back on your personal output of waste wherever possible. This book is a great starting point. (And if you’re really feeling inspired, check out these super cute portable produce bags!)
2. Make Time For Your Body
Set aside an hour for yourself every week to enjoy and get in touch with your body. This can be as simple as lighting some candles and meditating, focusing on how each part of your body feels as you do so, or it could be going for a hike, taking a dance class or riding your bike. So much of our relationships to our bodies are focused on appearance that it’s easy to lose touch with what our bodies are actually here for — to help us experience the world. Whatever your level of ability or preference, make an effort to reconnect with your body in the next year. It’s been through a lot.
3. Ask For Help
Make 2017 the year that you get the support you need. No matter what you’re struggling with, promise yourself that you will seek out avenues for healing. Ask your friends for check-ins if you need them. Research sliding-scale therapy, find out who can help you with insurance, look into support groups meeting near you. Check out life coaching — it can often be done remotely so you don’t even need to leave your home. If you’ve felt isolated or unsupported before, take steps to craft a network now that will be there for you when things get hard. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your friends if they know of any online communities that help plug members into different resources. They can probably point you in the right direction.
4. Become A Better Global Citizen
Don’t rely on your local or national news outlets alone for information about what’s going on in the world. Likewise, don’t just rely on your friends to filter through what’s important. If you see an article circulating on social media and it resonates with you, find out more about the subject from multiple perspectives. Make an effort to watch or read news from countries other than your own at least once per week. Make a list of countries whose history you don’t know much about and then choose one each week to research when you have downtime. This can be as easy as Googling for 20 minutes on the way to work every day. Try not to think of yourself as an individual living a singular life. You are part of a larger system and you owe yourself and others a full awareness of the history, culture, and happenings on Earth.
5. Learn A New Language
To the point above, even if you are already bilingual or multilingual, it’s never a bad idea to keep learning. Being able to speak additional languages will help you to travel more easily and will share the labor of communication more fairly. It might make it easier for you to assist others, or to recognize gaps in your community where people are missing out on useful resources or information because it’s all available only in English. DuoLingo is an incredible app that makes learning new languages convenient, easy and fun. Many community colleges also teach multiple languages and offer an auditing option that is far cheaper than being an enrolled student.
6. Start Doing One Thing You Always Loved But Stopped
Whatever caused you to gradually stop playing the guitar or working on your blog or writing poetry, maybe it’s time to start doing it again. There are so many reasons we lose track of the things that make us feel happy and fulfilled, and while sometimes the circumstances are out of our control, I bet there is a long list of things that have vanished from your life that could still bring a smile to your face.
7. Find One Way To Resist Constantly
You can care about a variety of issues. You can (and should be) getting involved in multiple fights, struggling in many different directions and supporting important work in many ways. You don’t have to choose. But think about the work you do and the work you care about — is there any area of your life where you could constantly continue that work, even alone, through the daily choices you make? Some people choose to prioritize spending their money only within marginalized communities. Others find ways to boycott industries that contribute to suffering, exploitation or colonization. Find one way that you can fight on a daily basis that won’t burn you out and then stick to it. It might not feel like much at first, but it adds up. Others might even decide to join you.
8. Do One Thing You’ve Always Wanted To Do
Have you always wanted to learn how to knit? Maybe you’ve always wanted to go to try a particular food or take a pole-dancing class. Maybe there’s somewhere you’ve been wanting to go but just haven’t gotten around to it. Think about what feels new and exciting. Make a resolution to do one of those things in the new year. This can be that you do at home (like watching YouTube tutorials until you nail winged eyeliner), or something totally life changing. One year, I wanted to become someone who looks good in hats, so I wore lots of hats. It’s really up to you!
9. Go Vegan
… At least once a week. Hear me out: animal agriculture is ravaging our planet. It is the number one contributor to climate change. It is a top contributor to rainforest destruction. It is wasting unfathomable amounts of water. By dominating the use of arable land, it is fueling world hunger. It is literally killing our oceans. The consumption of animal products depends upon a system of horrific cruelty towards and exploitation of vulnerable beings on our planet who cannot defend themselves and who do not deserve such treatment.
I understand that not everyone feels that going vegan is something they can do, and that in some areas, it can really feel impossible. I hear that. But this is what I’m saying: cut down on your animal-product consumption where you can. At least once a week, or as close to it as you are able, have a fully animal-product-free day. You might be surprised to see how many easy and inexpensive options you still have! The internet is full of great tips and tricks for vegan fast food (Taco Bell, for instance, has tons of options!). YouTube and Instagram are full of recipes. A quick search can help to find restaurants nearby for a meat-free meal that is totally delicious. And if you do eventually decide to cut out animal products long-term, there are plenty of resources to guide that journey.
10. Get Organized
Can you never find what you need when you need it? Are you constantly late? Do you always have that feeling of dread in the back of your mind that you’ve forgotten something? Make an effort in 2017 to get organized. There are lots helpful tools out there, from more traditional planners to books aimed at tackling clutter. There are also a variety of apps that can help keep track of those little details that might otherwise go in one ear and out the other. If you really have a long way to go when it comes to organizing, picture your long-term goal — whether it’s a clutter-free workspace or being on time to everything for a month — and make a list of small tasks that you can do each day that will eventually get you there. It’s all about being consistent! Small changes really make a difference.
11. Shop With A Conscience
Another industry negatively impacting the environment and enabling mass exploitation of its workers is fast fashion. Fast fashion as a concept has a huge tie-in to our society’s obsession with materialism and the concept of disposability. Companies that turn out huge amounts of cheap inventory arrange the release of this inventory in such a way that purchases feel out of style within a single week. (In other words, it’s not coincidental that what seemed like a cute tank top last weekend suddenly has a “better” version in the shop window this weekend.)
Related: Ethical Gifts You Can’t Resist
Trying to keep up with this artificial style gap, individual Americans average 82 pounds of textile waste per year, most of which goes into the same landfills that are already overflowing with plastic and other non-biodegradable trash. In some cases, both the chemicals within the products themselves and the manufacturing processes used to create these items to begin with are downright filthy. Workers are often exploited, and many have even lost their lives while creating these items in dangerous conditions.
While it may not be economically possible for many to avoid shopping altogether at the biggest offenders, having a solid understanding of your personal style and making a concerted effort to shop with ethical companies whenever possible is one resolution you can definitely make. Learn to define your style for yourself, instead of simply following trends. If you know your style well enough, fast fashion cannot manipulate you into consuming more than you really need. Do your homework and you might find that there are many ethical options that are affordable and do come in a variety of sizes — they just might take a bit more time to acquire.
12. Say Goodbye To Diet Culture
Drop the “New Year, New You!” garbage, when all it means is “New Year, Same Old Body Shame.” You can do whatever you want with your body. You are valid just the way you are. You can be sexy, happy, adventurous, whatever you want to be at absolutely any size. In 2017, stop counting calories and drop anybody in your life who isn’t on board with that. Interrupt people when they talk about their diets; tell them that it is boring. Tell them that you are breaking free from the idea that you have to align your life and your mind to a rigid set of rules that only exist to discipline desire and limit possibility. Be wildly yourself. Do what you want. Maybe you want to wear a bikini. Maybe you want to sunbathe naked. Whatever it is that you’ve been made to believe you could do “if only you lost weight,” break up with that lie for good by doing it now. New Year, No Bullshit.
13. Celebrate Your Friends
Be a better friend in 2017. Practice active listening. Reach out when you sense that folks around you are struggling. Support your friends if they own their own businesses or work in non-traditional fields. Think about it: how often do you use your social media to share corporate ad campaigns vs. your friend’s art or blogs or music? Look to your friends first when buying gifts, booking services or sending a shout-out. They’ll do the same for you, I guarantee it. We could all use a bit more kindness. Make 2017 your best year by listening to your heart and drowning out the noise.