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Goal Getting

Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

Written by Ieva Sipola
Ieva helps tech startups access big markets and is a passionate advocate of alternative work formats.
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The beginning of the new year is the time when everyone tries to give you advice on how to live healthier, look better, and earn more money in the next 365 days. It’s understandable if you find yourself lost among all the tips and opinions. Sometimes you no longer know what you truly want to achieve next year. That’s when it may be time to consider some alternatives to New Year’s resolutions.

To help you out, we’ve made this article about the things you should remove from your New Year’s resolution list—instead of adding to it—to make your daily life more harmonious and peaceful.

Make sure you cross these off your New Year’s to-do list—your body, mind and soul will be thankful.

1. Stop Buying Meaningless Gifts

We all know the sense of obligation when we have to buy a gift for an event or celebration that’s tomorrow, but we still have no idea of what to give.

For alternatives to New Year’s resolutions related to gift-buying, take these tips close to heart for all upcoming holidays, including birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.:

Stop Focusing on the Material Objects

Instead of focusing on what material object to give, think about the emotion you want to evoke in the gift recipient, and then pick a symbolic gift that can support or represent that emotion. For example, you can gift coziness by presenting a “comfort set” with warm socks, tea, candles, etc. Or give motivation by presenting a beautiful planner or notebook.

Plan Gifts in Advance

We know this is easier said than done, but if you try to plan which gifts you’ll need in the upcoming months (try making a list three or four times a year), ideas will more likely come to mind, and you’ll avoid that last-minute shopping. Not to mention, you’ll be able to keep an eye on sales to get the best prices.


Suggest a Better Way

If you’re tired of exchanging gifts for birthdays and holidays, initiate a different approach. For example, draw names among family members and agree that each one only buys a present to that one person they got.

Alternatively, you can agree not to share gifts among adults, and only give presents to kids of the family. Or, ask friends to donate to charity instead of buying a gift for you. These are all great alternatives to New Year’s resolutions related to gift-buying.

Go for Common Experiences Instead of Exchanging Gifts

You can agree (with your partner or the extended family) to go on a common trip, dinner, or another activity, instead of spending money on gifts.

Sometimes you’ll have to be the one who initiates breaking the rules that have been accepted in the family for years, but if you suspect that you’re not the only one in the group who’s tired of gift-hunting, you’ll surely find support for your suggestions.

2. Starting a New Diet or Fitness Plan

It’s no secret that TV shows, article headlines, and ads (not to mention our healthy, diet-obsessed friends) make us feel like we need to look better, slimmer, and younger than we actually are. However, going on yet another diet or starting a fitness plan with the wrong motivation rarely leads to great results in the short-term.

If you are like many people, you have probably signed up for an annual gym membership at least once in your life only to drop it one month later.


How do you balance a good resolution for a healthier life without pushing yourself into commitments that won’t last? Check out these alternatives to New Year’s resolutions related to diet and fitness.

Set a Healthier Pattern

For example, do meat-free Mondays or reduce meat consumption to three days per week (less saturated fat for you and better for the environment).

Or choose to eat only healthy food at least three days a week or only on weekdays (e.g. make sure your meals contain vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and protein). This way you’ll already have a healthier diet while still being able to treat yourself with a snack on weekends or parties.

Get a Fitness Watch

Fitness watches like Fitbit or MiBand are tiny accessories that will count your steps and calories burnt, and will serve as an excellent motivator to move—or to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Find a Physical Activity You Enjoy

Even if you are not that fond of doing sports, you can definitely find an activity that you’d do with pleasure. Think about what you’d like—from taking up Nordic walking to pilates or even exercising at home.

Try Intermittent Fasting

This is an alternating cycle of fasting and eating. For example, stop eating at 8 pm and restart not sooner than 12 hours later. This approach has been proven to have numerous health benefits, in addition to weight loss, making it one of the best alternatives to New Year’s resolutions related to dieting.


Opt for Cycling or Walking

Instead of driving to work, try cycling or walking if your job is within a reasonable distance. You’ll burn calories, breathe some fresh air, and save money—win-win!

3. Squeezing as Much as Possible Into a Daily To-Do List

In today’s busy world, planning your day in a stress-free way is actually an art in itself. It’s natural to want to be a loving parent, a diligent employee, an active member of the local community, and probably several other individual roles.

But playing all these roles requires energy and meticulous planning. How can you avoid losing yourself amidst all the appointments and responsibilities? Most importantly, how can you still find time for relaxing and recharging yourself?

Instead of trying to get as much done as possible, try starting with these alternatives to New Year’s resolutions related to your daily planning.

Leave Bigger Intervals Between Meetings

If you schedule too many appointments or chores in a day, you’ll probably end up late at some point, and, as a result, more stressed. There are many different reasons why people are late, but poor planning is a major factor, too.

Plan Time to Relax

As weird as it may sound, you should try and schedule your resting time. For example, if you only have one free evening this week, and a friend tries to squeeze in a meeting, feel free to say no. Don’t feel obliged to specify the reason for your refusal.


Try to Be a Little Pessimistic

We’re often packed with plans or running late for errands because we tend to be overly optimistic about the traffic, the time it takes to do things, etc. Instead, try an opposite tactic—assume you’ll hit traffic or the meeting will take longer.

Wake up Earlier

Sometimes even waking up 30 minutes earlier can give you the much-needed head start for several errands of the day. But remember to get enough sleep every night, even if it means going to bed earlier.

Plan Your Day the Day Before

Chances are your day will be much better organized if you pack a lunch and lay out an outfit before going to bed, so definitely consider this idea when looking into alternatives to New Year’s resolutions.

Designate a Time for Checking Emails

If you start checking your messages between appointments, you risk getting lost in a sea of messages that need replies. Designate a time for this activity or do it in case you arrived early to a meeting.

4. Stop Smoking or Drinking

If there’s one thing we should get rid of in the New Year, it’s the habits that steal our time and provide instant gratification but don’t offer any value in the long-term. Or even worse, leave a negative impact on our health.

Everyone seems to want to stop smoking or drinking, and it’s definitely a good idea to aim for that if it has become a problem in your life. However, there are other habits that are also causing problems in many people’s daily lives, and those also need attention.


Here are some common (and pointless) habits along with tips on how to get rid of them:

Binge-Watching Series

Even if most online television platforms offer you lists of “Best TV Shows to Binge Watch,” being addicted to series is a major time-waster.

You can manage this addiction in several ways. For example, watch one episode per day (or a few per week) as a reward, only after you’ve finished an assignment or done a house chore. Or try replacing this habit with exercise or reading a book—this will be hard at first but should stick after a few weeks.

You can also try to track how much time you spend on TV or movies—seeing how much of your life you are wasting might urge you to do something about it. These are all great alternatives to New Year’s resolutions related to habits.

Running on Coffee

Being a coffee addict is kind of a stylish addiction nowadays, but it’s not as innocent as it may initially seem. Besides addiction being a problem in itself, drinking too much coffee (more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day) may lead to nervousness, insomnia, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat, and even muscle tremors.[1]

As a solution, try switching to tea or edible coffee—a more sustainable, healthy, and productivity-enhancing alternative. For example, Coffee Pixels are solid coffee bars that generate a more even energy kick throughout the day without the coffee-induced abstinence and dehydration.


Fighting procrastination requires some serious willpower. If it is a problem in your daily life or work, try ”eating the frog” in the morning—get over your biggest or hardest tasks first, then tackle everything else.


Alternatively, use time tracking software to monitor exactly how much time you waste on unproductive actions, websites, or apps. Once you know exactly how much time you’re spending unproductively, try to limit your time on social media to, for example, just 20 minutes per day.

If nothing else works, try bribing yourself—promise yourself to do something fun or pleasant when you finish your assignment.

Whichever habit you want to give up, consider using some habits building tools to make a contract with yourself and reward yourself for milestones achieved.

5. Buying Less

We live in the age of consumerism—huge manufacturers with their promise of a comfortable life on the one hand, and growing environmental threats that are the direct result of our modern lifestyle on the other. The common solution is to try to consume less whenever and wherever you can. However, it’s better, perhaps, to try to buy smarter with better alternatives to New Year’s resolutions.

Before making additional purchases, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I really need it? Did I need it yesterday?
  • Can I buy it used or borrow it from friends?
  • Can I rent it or make it myself?
  • Am I buying the most sustainable version of this product?

For example, check if the brand you chose is conscious about the environment. Are the products they manufacture energy efficient? Do they try to use less packaging?

Also, if you often find yourself buying too many groceries, promise to buy only the amount that fits in one shopping bag (that you bring along). If you often forget to take your shopping bag with you, get yourself a 2-in-1 wallet with a built-in shopping bag for more eco-friendly shopping.


6. Unplug From Your Phone

Today’s world is crammed with information, and many people struggle to focus on what’s truly important. There’s just too much going on in the world—too much to read, to watch, to know, too many conversations to participate in.

How can you refuse the temptation to check the phone in a controlled, not a compulsive way?

Some tips for managing your phone-dependency through better alternatives to New Year’s resolutions include:

Spend a Limited Amount of Battery Per Day

For example, start your day with 50% battery life, and manage your phone usage so that you’ll make it last until the evening.

Block Distracting Apps and Notifications

Choose one-hour, two-hour, or longer blocking sessions and enjoy the positive impact this will have on your mood and productivity.

Set Your Phone on Airplane Mode

When you start doing an important task that requires full focus, set your phone on airplane mode so that nobody can disturb you.

The Bottom Line

As a new year begins, we’re all excitedly looking forward to what adventures await ahead of us. But this year, promise yourself this:

Instead of having a never-ending list of tasks and commitments, focus on the truly meaningful ones, and cross-out all the rest without feeling guilty.


Less is more, so make this year count with fewer but better New Year’s resolutions.

More on Setting Goals and Resolutions

Featured photo credit: S O C I A L . C U T via unsplash.com


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