9 Popular New Year's Resolutions, Rated By How Achievable They Are

Therapists score New Year’s goals and offer tips on making them realistic.

New year, new you? Let’s be realistic: probably not. A new you is a tall order! But by setting a few smart, specific New Year’s resolutions, it’s entirely possible to improve certain areas of your life.

“The key is to not be too broad,” said Amanda Stemen, the owner of FUNdaMENTALs, a psychotherapy and coaching group in Los Angeles. “Your resolutions need to be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.”

With smart goal setting in mind, we asked our readers to tell us the New Year’s resolutions they plan to make this year. Below, Stemen and other therapists and life coaches rate how achievable some of those goals are, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 the most achievable.

1. I spend a lot of time on social media, especially Instagram. How do I cut back without dealing with FOMO?

How achievable it is: 3/5

The feasibility of this goal depends on the industry this person works in. Many of us have jobs or run businesses in which it’s necessary to stay connected and active on these networks. In that case, pulling back requires some intention and careful goal planning, said Kate Stoddard, an associate marriage and family therapist at Wellspace SF in Northern California.

“If you’re someone who likes to post a lot outside of the job, ask yourself why you’re posting and what you want from it,” she said. “If you’re someone who likes to scroll endlessly, try making your feed intentional by spending 10 whole seconds on each post and deciding if this is something you want to follow or not.”

If your job allows, try taking a full social media break from the sites you find particularly addictive and see how you feel.

“From there, decide if social media is something that you want to continue using or not,” she said. “You get to control how and why you use it, not the other way around.”

2. I’ve been spending too much money on Postmates and other food delivery apps. Next year, I resolve to use those apps less and cook more.

How achievable it is: 4/5

There’s nothing like a financial strain to initiate some change in our lives, said Ryan Kelly, a psychologist in Charlotte, North Carolina. There are some tangible payouts for this goal, so it’s likely to stick.

“It’s likely that the stress relief of saving some money and the pride of cooking healthy meals will increase the likelihood of success here,” he said. “Make sure you set a specific goal ― for instance, I used to order four times a week, this year I’ll order two times a week ― and plan for food preparation (e.g., shopping list for simple, appetizing meals).”

Plan for your meal prep and you'll be less likely to order pricey takeout.
eclipse_images via Getty Images
Plan for your meal prep and you'll be less likely to order pricey takeout.

3. I need to be more proactive about my dating life, but I loathe opening the dating apps on my phone. This year, I’m going to be better about following through with matches.

How achievable it is: 3/5

This can be a tough one to stick to because it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by the potential matches or feel hopeless that you’re ever going to meet the right person, said Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling men. Sometimes, it pays to give yourself a breather from the apps.

“A woman I’m counseling has struggled with the results she’s gotten from dating apps for the past year and has decided to back off and go more old school by trying to meet and get to know people in person,” he said. “She’s being more intentional about going to her local market, where she’s had pretty good success, and participating in activities like fun runs and Meetups.”

4. I want to invest more in the friendships that I already have and be a more thoughtful friend. How do I accomplish this without making myself feel like my to-do list is just getting longer?

How achievable it is: 3/5

There’s no sugarcoating this one. Keeping up with friends when you already have a frenzied schedule is going to take some effort and intention, said Alena Gerst, a psychotherapist in New York City. Plus, it requires effort from all parties.

“It takes two to invest in a friendship,” she said. “Hopefully your friend will be equally interested rejoining forces with you on being more present. If you try a couple of times and your effort is not reciprocated, it’s time for a more heart-to-heart talk or to accept the friendship as is.”

Quality friendship time takes two.
insta_photos via Getty Images
Quality friendship time takes two.

5. This year, I would like to start eating more mindfully. Sometimes I eat not because I’m actually hungry but because I’m bored, stressed or in need of a break.

How achievable it is: 2/5

Mindful eating is a great goal, but first you’ll have to dig a little deeper and figure out what’s causing you to feel stressed or bored and to seek relief in the fridge, said May Bartlett, a life coach at Wellspace SF.

“For the goal of mindful eating to be successful, it needs to be paired with a willingness to shift your relationship with your emotions,” she said. “If we eat out of boredom or stress, it’s typically a way to escape the sensations that are associated with those emotions. In order to stop the habit of eating when we aren’t hungry, the first step is to be mindful of the sensations we’re trying to avoid and see what happens when we sit with them.”

6. My husband and I are used to mindlessly scrolling through our phones when hanging out. I want this year to be filled with more quality time, so I’m resolving to not use my phone during dinner and ask my husband to do the same.

How achievable it is: 4/5

If this person’s husband gets on board, this resolution should be a cinch, Kelly said. The difficulty is that smartphones are notoriously rewarding.

“Our phones provide a lot of pleasure through dopamine, stress relief by decreasing cortisol and are ingrained in our daily lives,” he said. “But it seems like this person has the resolve, a clearly defined goal (no phones at dinner), and best of all, you have each other. Accountability goes a long way, especially for tough goals. Put your phones in a drawer before you eat (turned off) and hold each other responsible. Do it for each other, if not for yourselves.”

7. I want to bring more excitement into my life and make special memories with my family. Does this necessarily mean I need to spend more money on weekend activities?

How achievable it is: 5/5

“Money = fun” is a societal trap that’s way too easy to fall into. You don’t have to spend more money on activities in order for family time to be memorable, Smith said.

“This goal is very doable with a little creative thought and effort. Think about how a child will sometimes have more fun playing with the box a birthday gift came in than the gift itself,” he said. “Do a search online for resources with lists of fun family activities. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that there are a lot of options where the cost can be kept really low.”

Fun doesn't have to set you back financially.
Jaunty Junto via Getty Images
Fun doesn't have to set you back financially.

8. I want to start getting up earlier during the week so I start my day on a less hectic, anxiety-ridden note. Ideally, I’d like to consistently have enough me time in the mornings to do things like exercise, journal or meditate.

How achievable it is: 2/5

This one might be hard to pull off because it doesn’t include a game plan for how the person will pull off waking up earlier, Stemen said.

“It’s too broad,” she said. “They don’t know what time they want to get up or when they’ll go to bed. This goal will be more achievable when they set a time and activities they want to do and come up with a realistic plan to achieve it.”

9. I want to find a charity or organization to volunteer with. I try to contribute financially to different causes where I can, but I would like to be more giving when it comes to my time.

Grade: 4/5

Compared with some other resolutions, this goal is easy to achieve, Maryland-based psychologist Samantha Rodman said.

“It’s a great goal to aspire to because there are so many good options for every type of person,” she said. “There are lots of wonderful charities where you can volunteer. Your local ASPCA is great for animal lovers, and hospitals and community centers are great choices for those who want to work with people. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is wonderful for those who want to mentor kids.”

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