New Year’s resolutions are supposed to make your life better, not stress you out. That’s the idea, at least. But considering how many resolutions fall by the wayside just a few weeks into the year, that plan doesn’t seem to be working.
Instead of pushing yourself toward resolutions that will make you feel like a failure right at the outset — not to mention cause undue stress — try setting goals that you’ll actually want to achieve. The best resolutions are the ones that have the power to calm your mind and perk up your spirit.
Looking for a way to take care of yourself in the new year? Try one (or all) of these resolutions for 2021 that won’t stress you out.
#1) Send flowers to yourself.
If you want to brighten up your days, try filling them with flowers. Blossoms and other natural elements have been linked to lower stress levels and increased happiness.
In one study, researchers tracked women’s stress levels over the course of a week. Some of the participants received a gift of flowers partway through the study period. Those women noted a marked reduction in stress after receiving the floral arrangements.
Maybe this is the year that you treat yourself to regular bouquets. You could set up a standing order for a monthly delivery from your local florist, or you could resolve to pick up a small arrangement each time you go to the grocery store.
#2) Surround yourself with satisfying scents.
Smells are strongly connected to memories. There may be scents that automatically relax you by transporting you to a faraway place or taking you back to a simpler time. Bringing some of these smells into your home or office may help you feel more relaxed and centered.
Start by brainstorming a list of scents that have pleasant associations for you. After that, treat yourself to a little shopping spree so you’ll be ready to fill your home with these smells whenever it’s time to unwind.
Candles and wax warmers are an easy option. Just note that artificial scents can cause headaches or other side effects in some people — as can natural scents that you might be sensitive to.
Essential oils are one natural alternative to candles that you can diffuse in a room or apply to an aromatherapy necklace. Lavender oil, in particular, has been linked to stress reduction.
Another option is to simmer aromatic ingredients on the stove. For example, if you want a scent that takes you back to your grandmother’s kitchen, you could toss a few cinnamon sticks, an orange rind and a pinch of whole cloves into a pot of water and let the mixture bubble over a low flame.
#3) Open the blinds each morning.
Your body craves natural light, particularly during the first half of the day. Research has shown that exposure to morning light can help alleviate depression, elevate mood and regulate sleep cycles. Natural light is also linked to higher levels of productivity.
The less time that your windows spend covered, the more daylight you’ll be able to enjoy.
This year, resolve to open your shades first thing each morning. To help you keep up with this resolution, consider investing in automatic blinds that will open at the touch of a button or with a voice command.
#4) Make a list of self-care options.
You’ve probably heard it said that self-care is good for your mental health, but you may not know what self-care looks like. On those rare occasions when you get a moment to yourself, you may fritter away the time trying to think up some way to indulge in a satisfying activity.
As part of your resolutions this year, make a self-care plan. That way, you’ll have a resource to draw on whenever the opportunity arises.
This can be as simple as a preparing list of your favorite pastimes. Start your new year by pulling out a sheet of paper and jotting down as many self-renewing activities as you can think of. Your list may include:
- Bubble baths
- Walks around the block
- Phone calls with friends
- Weight-lifting sessions
- Cooking new dishes
- Sitting on your porch swing
- Getting lost in a good novel
Don’t feel pressured to include bubble baths and a good book if these aren’t your interests — though reading does offer other benefits, too. Think about what helps you find peace and what helps you relax. That might look different from a typical self-care list, and that’s okay.
If you want to take this resolution to the next level, you could pencil a self-care session into your calendar each week. You might also challenge yourself to get through the whole list one or more times during the year.
#5) Give yourself a phone-free zone.
Smartphones and stress often go hand in hand. A barrage of work emails and personal texts may come to your phone all day and night. And your social media streams may be full of people who look happier, healthier and more successful than you.
In short, the more time that you spend glued to your phone, the more down in the dumps you may feel.
Breaking up with your phone altogether might be an unrealistic goal. Even canceling your social media accounts might be too much to ask. But smaller steps may be achievable.
Consider blocking out a set time each evening when your phone gets put away. Tuck your phone away before dinner, for instance, and don’t get it out again until at least an hour after the meal is over. Use that time to play a game with your family, straighten up the house or engage in a self-care activity.
And while you’re at it, try getting your family involved in some screen-free time, too. Having a designated time when no one’s attached to their screens could help you enjoy better quality time together.
#6) Check out new-to-you green spaces.
Nature can do wonders for your mental health. Researchers have discovered that exposure to green spaces may reduce your risk of developing a serious psychiatric disorder. It could also protect against depression and chronic stress.
To increase your time in nature, challenge yourself to explore parks and other undeveloped lands that you haven’t visited before. Compile a list of natural areas within a short drive of your home, and work on checking them off one by one this year. You could even include a few farther-away places that would make good day trips or weekend getaways.
As an added bonus, parks can be great for your physical health, too. Whether you’re hiking, boating, swimming or rock climbing, you’re exercising your muscles and building your stamina.
#7) Start a collection of affirmations.
It’s time to remind yourself about your strengths and what you bring to the table. And for that, you need a collection of affirmations. Positive self-talk can improve your attitude and your mood if you do it the right way.
Hint: be specific and avoid generic, fluffy platitudes.
This year, make it your goal to write down one nice thing about yourself every day. Whether you’re proud of an accomplishment or pleased with a decision, add it to the list. You can also affirm your personality, your fashion sense, your creativity, your kindness or your heart for others.
Keep your ears open for good things that others say about you, too. If someone gives you a compliment, you can record it and count that as your good thing for the day.
You could write your daily pep talks in a journal or list them on a wall poster. Another idea is to record each one on an individual slip of paper. Add them to a jar, and watch it fill with positive thoughts over the course of the year.
Is 2021 your year? Let’s hope so! But it’s going to take work, which starts with setting resolutions that won’t stress you out. Instead, choose goals that will help build you up, mentally and physically, to face the challenges that lie ahead.