4 Much Healthier Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions

From gratitude jars to accomplishment lists


I have a confession to make: I am that girl you see in every New Year’s meme. It looks a little something like this:

Awesomeness continues after advertisement

Me, December 31st:

“I’m going to cut out all fat, exercise every day, sell a novel, and end world hunger this year!”

Me, March 31st: 

Awesomeness continues after advertisement


“Cheese is still my main food group, online shopping is my cardio, and I’m convinced I’ve done nothing meaningful with my life…”

Sounds like a fun cycle, right? Not so much.

Every year, on January 1st, I take the fresh start I’ve been so graciously given by the little ol’ Universe and use it as an opportunity to crucify myself with high expectations. These expectations (AKA “resolutions”) dressed in self-improvement’s clothing slowly shift over the year, little by little turning into full-blown failures.

Year after year, I set myself up for failure like some twisted episode of Punk’d (Hi, baby Ashton Kutcher). When I realized this left me feeling like, well, utter sh*t about myself at the end of each year, I knew it was time for a change.

So this year, I’m trying something new. I’m not making a single New Year’s resolution. Sure this may sound simple, but for someone who believes fiercely in ceremony, ritual, and goal setting, it feels a little like jumping out of an airplane after your instructor says, “You’ll figure it out on your way down!” 

But I have to say, I’m kind of excited for the fall. But because I need a little something to cushion my landing (and because I still fiercely believe in ceremony and rituals and reflection) I’ve gathered several replacements for my once-beloved New Year’s resolutions, all with a gentler, more productive tack.


1. Start a gratitude jar.

Gratitude, being thankful for the small pleasures in life, can be truly transformative. Oprah even dedicated a chapter to the big G in her book, What I Know for Sure. “I know for sure: If you make time for a little gratitude every day, you’ll be amazed by the results,” she wrote. In fact, she journals five things she’s grateful for every. single. day. So how does this apply to New Year’s? Great question.

Throughout the year, start writing down things and moments you’re grateful for on scraps of paper and place them into your gratitude jar. They can be as simple as “I’m grateful for the smell of baking cookies,” or as important as “I’m grateful my hard work on the SAT paid off.”

I started mine at the beginning of 2017, and on January 1st, I’ll read every single little scrap of paper I’ve collected over the year. Start yours now or wait until January 1st. Either way, you’ll be creating a great tradition that will start your year off grateful for the things you’ve received and ready to accept more.

Plussss… let’s get real for a moment. These jars are SO cute. Decorate your own (Pinterest has great ideas), simply dust off an old vase, or buy this adorable one:



2. Let it burn.

Elizabeth Gilbert started one of my favorite New Year’s rituals back in 2014. She calls it her Homemade New Year’s Ceremony. On a piece of paper, write down all that you want to let go of from the past year, all you’re hoping for in the next year, the names of people you love and want to bring happiness to, and/or old ideas about yourself that you no longer want to carry (really, anything your little heart desires).

Next, pick a time and place you want to perform your ritual, and then light that baby up. As it burns, recognize you’re letting go of the past and moving into the future with hope and peace.

Gilbert gets much more specific with her ritual’s 10 steps; you can check them out here. This will be my third year performing my little ceremony, and it truly leaves you lighter. This year, I can’t wait to try it without the weight of resolutions holding me down.


3. Make a list of all you’ve accomplished. 

A therapist of mine once recommended I make a list of all that I’ve accomplished, so when I’m doubting myself I can go back to the list and have physical proof that my brain’s just playing tricks on me. She calls it “reality testing.”

So when you have a thought like, “I’m never going to accomplish anything again!” you go back to the list and see that you have, in fact, won three awards, got praise for that paper, finished a passion project etc. etc. That’s your reality.

It’s a fantastic method that I plan on morphing into a New Year’s ritual this year. On December 31st, I’ll write down everything I’m proud of myself for accomplishing this year — everything from work accomplishments to spiritual strides. And no, there is no room for the things I wanted to achieve but didn’t.

I’ll read them over and then tuck them away in a safe. On January 1st, I’ll enter the year proud of my accomplishments, not fretting over the one thing I didn’t achieve. And if I have a blue day in 2018, I’ll pull that list back out as a little encouragement to keep moving forward.


4. Do nothing.

This one, although seemingly simple, is truly the most radical idea on this list. I mean, have you tried meditation!? Simply letting go of thoughts as they pass through your mind is um… really difficult. But I think this might be the most healing New Year’s resolution practice if you’re brave enough to try it.

What if, this year, you just went through your day trying your best to stay in the present moment? Be grateful to be alive, thankful for the moments that shaped you last year, and excited for new adventures, but truly just attempt to stay in the present moment. Anxiety comes from trying to predict the future. So don’t. Just be, and see what happens.

Skylar Harrison
Skylar Harrison

Skylar is both word and food obsessed and once cried over spilt guacamole. And no, she doesn't want to talk about it. Follow her at @skylarharrison.