Why do we have a tendency to usher in each new year with grand declarations that we are going to make sweeping changes to our lives? Sure, aiming for the biggest alterations to our habits will theoretically yield the most sizable results, but more often than not, we fail at achieving our New Years resolutions because we focus too much on shooting for the moon, and not nearly enough on how we’re actually going to go about getting there.
While I don’t think it’s a bad idea to aspire to broad personal evolution and doing better for yourself in profound ways, I believe we would all be best served by looking at New Years resolutions (if you’re intent to make them at all; making promises to do new or different things at this time of year feels arbitrary and loaded with undue pressure, and I vote for skipping it entirely, but that’s just me.) in two ways: Developing a reasonable plan for attaining the big things we want, and small, doable things that will favorably impact our lives easily and quickly. Tending to the details of daily existence is what truly makes for a well-lived life, and makes us feel empowered to bring about more substantial positive change.
Here are a few good places to start:
Wash your face before bed
Every night. You will sleep better and your skin will thank you. I mean, it won’t because it’s skin and it doesn’t talk and that’s some weird shit that face wash commercials say. The point is you’re not getting any younger. Stop sleeping in your make-up like a heathen.
Don’t sleep with your devices
No phone, no iPad, no laptop. Make your bed a temple of unplugged, organic, stretched out, quiet, non-vibrating (okay, maybe not entirely non-vibrating ifyouknowwhatImean) slumber. This is a tiny, yet painful and significant boundary to set. Protecting your sleeping environment, and getting the best sleep you can, as often as you can, is a little thing that has innumerable positive consequences on other parts of your life.
Stop watching Netflix while working/studying
I am literally doing this right now. I’m also wearing last night’s make-up. I am an unstoppable hypocrite, but I’m not wrong. It’s damaging to your focus and productivity, and is over-stimulating which is bad for your brain in general. We can do this.
Clean out your closet
This task, which takes all of one afternoon out of your life, serves many refreshing, renewing purposes. At least once a year, it’s a good idea to remind yourself what you have and where it is, so you can quickly find the things you want, and put them together into the perfect ensemble to suit your needs on any given day. Yes, feel free to turn that into a metaphor for the rest of your life. Any woman worth a damn understands the connection between the closet and the brain; once a year, you should dig into both, take stock of what’s there, get rid of what you don’t need that’s just taking up space, and go forth feeling clearer, lighter, and more keenly aware of what new things you truly want to acquire and what valuable things you already possess.
Stop driving drunk
It’s a little upsetting that we even need to talk about this, but considering the number of people I know who have earned fresh, shiny DUIs in the past year, apparently we do. Please, please, let’s all agree to stop driving drunk. To those of you in walking cities, please skip over this, and feel free to judge all the car-driving people out here in Real America. To everyone else, I get it. The line between what level of blood alcohol is legally permissible and the level at which you are literally, personally incapable of safe driving are usually not the same, which is the argument I most commonly hear from friends as I sit with them in DUI court; “I was barely drunk, totally fine to drive, but I guess I was technically over the limit and that cop was a dick.” Maybe that’s true. Maybe you’re an amazingly skillful drunk driver. Maybe (probably) that cop was a dick. Doesn’t matter. Just stop doing it. You’ve got options: public transit, cabs, Uber, Lyft, your friend Jessica who is likely at home plucking her eyebrows and would love to come drive you home as opposed to bailing you out of jail. Also, you could die. So there’s that.
Keep a written journal
It’s been said that the internet dissolved our need for diaries, but the internet has changed and we need them back. Here’s the deal: The internet is not private. It’s not even a little bit private. Everything you post anywhere is likely to be accessed by people well beyond your personal network. People will read your tweets, among other things, when deciding whether or not to hire you. I get that you need to tell someone about going to second base in a dirty bar bathroom so that you don’t forget that pristine memory when you’re old and your whiskey-soaked brain can’t remember shit, but the internet is not a safe place for those thoughts anymore. Your online presence should reflect an intentional image. It should be a carefully curated representation of the kind of person you want people to see you as. This does not include passive aggressive allusions to how much you hate your ex. It’s not fake, it’s smart. Not to mention that it’s time we all start getting a little more protective of certain person parts of our lives. Get a paper journal. Bonus points if it has one of those little locks on it.
Drink green tea first thing in the morning
Look, I don’t hate you and I would never tell you to give up coffee. Coffee is…what is the word? Absolutely flawless. Let’s just say if coffee, an orgasm, and a bottle of Russia’s finest were hanging off a cliff, I would be torn. I would probably save the orgasm because let’s be real, but from then on, every time I came, I would shed a tear for the dearly departed coffee. But here’s what I’ve learned: your body does not love coffee. It’s acidic and caffeine is a nightmare on your nervous system, and it often gets loaded sugary, fatty additions. Green tea, on the other hand, is your body’s best mate. Less caffeine means a less severe crash, and fewer negative impacts if you drink a lot of it. It has loads of antioxidants, which we’re all vaguely aware do vaguely good things. It’s a more-than-decent appetite suppressant; if you’re like me and wake up in ravenous beast mode every morning, drinking a cup of green tea before eating anything will calm your rabid ass down, allowing you to make more sane breakfast choices (as opposed to the half a leftover burrito and three cookies you woke up ready to inhale.) All of this to say: consuming green tea before anything else in your day will wake you up without jacking you up, get you focused, centered, and possibly more capable of making good choices during the first part of your day, which will inevitably set you up for better choices as the day continues. You know that whole “Well, fuck it, I’ve already had two vanilla lattes and a massive bagel with cream cheese, so I might as well eat like an animal whose arteries cannot be clogged for the rest of the day” thing we all do? Yeah, green tea in the morning helps that happen less.
Make “friend dates”
As we get older, it becomes necessary to actively carve out and set aside time for our friends. Just for them, to talk and catch up, and give each other some irreplaceable, undivided attention. Back when we went to school together, or were roommates or co-workers, regular quality time was built in to our days. But things change, and our lives get busier and things like jobs and schedules and boyfriends and babies slowly put little wedges in between us and our friends. It’s not intentional that we start seeing our friends less, or that we only see them in crowded, loud outings; it just happens. Those weekend social things stop being what you and your besties do in between intimate get togethers, and start being the only times you see each other at all. In 2014, make a point to schedule time with each of the people who matter to you. You’ll be amazed at how a long lunch or dinner date with your mains once or twice a month will keep your relationships super connected, even as other parts of your growing life start to take up more space.