Three Alternatives to New Year's Resolutions

You probably don’t need to be told that New Year’s resolutions aren’t always helpful. Some sources estimate that as many as 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. Not to mention, the experience of not living up to your resolutions may even leave you feeling worse than before.

That said, the intentions behind New Year’s resolutions are often good, and it can still be helpful to take stock of your life and consider what you might want to do differently this year. So how can you replace your resolutions with something more sustainable? Read on for three ideas to try.

1. Celebrate what’s working

New Year’s resolutions are often focused on self-improvement, which will naturally lead you to think about the aspects of yourself or your life that could be better. But what if instead, you focused on the things that are already good enough?

Chances are, there’s lots going right in your life that you don’t necessarily appreciate on a daily basis. Maybe you have a healthy body, an exciting career path, or a rock-solid relationship with friend, partner, or family member. Try listing as many of these valuable assets as you can—you might be surprised at how long the list gets!

This year, consider picking one of these positive aspects of your life and resolve to spend just a little more time enjoying it.

You may find that practicing gratitude for what’s working improves your life more than fixating on things you want to change.

2. Get involved in a greater cause

Instead of focusing on making yourself better in 2020, considering putting your energy toward making the world better. Extensive research has shown that volunteering and acts of service can have immense positive effects on mental and even physical health.

"This is one of those secrets to happiness everyone is searching for," says Amy Gottheimer, LCSW, a therapist in Manhattan who specializes in life transitions. "Getting involved with something that is larger than you expands community and creates more connection – which is something that so many of us are searching for."

What’s more, devoting yourself to a cause you believe in can help reduce anxiety by giving you a sense of agency in a world that can sometimes feel out of control.

Being of service doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment, either, and you can accomplish it in a wide variety of different ways.

Starting by asking yourself: what do I most wish I could change about the world? Then, start looking for opportunities that match your passion! Depending on your answer, you might consider some of the following options:

If you’re not sure where to start, HelpGuide offers a handy resource for finding volunteer opportunities and deciding which ones might be right for you.

3. Devote time to a creative project

Another way to shift your focus outside yourself is to think about what you’d like to create, rather than how you’d like to change. Ask yourself: what’s a concrete project that you’ve long wanted to devote time to?

This might take the form of something conventionally creative or artistic, such as:

Don't get discouraged if you don't pick up the endeavor immediately, says Gottheimer. "Trying new things, finding ways to manage not being immediately perfect, and focusing on the benefits of the process of creation help to put us into Striving Mind – which is where innovation comes from."

But creation can mean any number of things! That includes less obvious options, like:

By focusing on a clear goal that you’d like to work toward, you can think in terms of developing something you’re excited about rather than fixing something you dislike.

Here’s where the familiar advice to focus on things you can control comes in, too – if you decide to go this route, be sure to break your goal down into specific, achievable steps and do your best to remain focused on the process of creation, rather than the final outcome.