First, I must address a peeve. New Year's Resolution (yes, I just made that a proper noun; surely that will peeve someone else), not New Years Resolution, which garners nearly 9 million Google search results. Now, I'll set the scene for you:
You had your champagne ready, your tie, hemline or sweatpants were smoothed out and you were ready to toast to the new year. All, you needed was for that ball to drop, but then someone asked you the dreaded question: "What's your New Year's Resolution?" You thought, Resolution? I'm not making any resolutions, they're ridiculous. You said, "Get in shape. Eat better. Be nice to people. Volunteer!" You lied and you know it. But it's too late! The words were said and now you must resolve to commit or not commit.
If you were cornered into making a hasty decision and defaulted to one of the five most common New Year's Resolutions, consider these tips that will help you succeed, where the rest of the population fails:
Get in Shape
Get ready for the ads for reduced gym membership rates featuring ripped torsos oddly drenched in sweat and the friendly salespeople in polo shirts at your sporting goods store. They're there to sell you your new body, and obviously a treadmill is the answer. Not.
Going to the gym to get in shape takes motivation and dedication. So if you're going to buy a membership, and you don't have those things, forcibly commit yourself to lessons with a trainer. This will get you going and give you the guidance you need to find true success in the gym.
If sweaty mats and strangers staring at you (which they aren't doing) gives you the heebie-jeebies and you're considering the home gym route, test your commitment before testing new equipment. If you're thinking treadmill, try a walk around your neighborhood or if it's too chilly, try walking laps around your local mall. Thinking stair climber, find some free stairs and climb them. Once you've committed, start shopping and consider if it's worth the expense. For help, check out Bestcovery.com's treadmill reviews with top choices in every category.
Eating right is something we should all do, but rather than jumping into a full-blown "diet," try eating better. Fast food is certainly not healthy, but does become a sustenance crutch for some. If you find yourself in the drive-through lane, make a better choice. McDonald's Premium Crispy Chicken Classic Sandwich has 510 calories and 22 grams of fat. However, by having it grilled, the calorie count drops to 350 with nine grams of fat. Eating right means making drastic changes for some, but starting with small changes will prove more effective in the long run.
Now if you really want to eat better, it's no secret that your kitchen is a better place to go than the fat fryer. In CNN Health's article, "A Family's Guide to Healthy Food Substitutes," Dr. Alan Greene suggests swapping refined grains for whole grains, solid fats for oils, sugary drinks for flavored water and conventional beef for grass-fed organic beef. Dr. Greene says a minimum of 50 percent of the grains we eat should be whole grains and that only 5 percent of Americans hit this target. To help improve this statistic, and achieve your Resolution, opt for whole grain breads, bagels, pastas and cereals. Remember to read the labels and don't fall for "refined wheat flour" because it's just brown-colored white bread.
Start small. You don't have to be an "extreme couponer" to save money at the grocery store, but keep an eye out for coupons on items you're buying anyway, and don't forget to take advantage of your supermarket's club card discounts. A tip a checkout clerk gave my mother was to take her club savings, and put them in a jar. She did, and the yearly savings helped pay for a family vacation. You could also track your grocery budget and other spending with an online money management website.
Another easy way to save is to set up your checking account to automatically transfer a small amount into a savings account each month. For many banks, this simple transfer can help offset banking fees. If you choose to save $25 a month, that's $300 by the time you're coming up with resolutions to break next year. If you're looking to save a little more, check out Business Insider's article, "The Essential Bill-By-Bill Guide to Saving Money on Monthly Expenses."
There's a good chance you came up with this one while freezing your fingers off and you've probably said it all year long while cocking your head to the side and saying "I know I should..." Like with everything on this list, start small and achieve big. If you're a pack-a-day smoker, leave one in the pack. When you stop being angry about that, leave two. Sure it's hard, but the payoff is undeniable and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have gathered a ton of "how to quit" resources to help.
Two birds, one stone? Not only will quitting improve your health, it will also save you money. With the costs of cigarettes and the tax placed on them rising, save the money you'd normally spend buying them and use it at the end of the year to do something rewarding. For additional tips on how to quit smoking, lung cancer and news surrounding these issues, visit the American Lung Association.
You don't want to commit to a self-gratifying claim when the New Year's Resolution pressure is on, so what better way to make yourself look good then by blurting out that you're going to volunteer? Well, what better to do with some of your time than to actually volunteer? Whether it's for a singular event or an extended commitment, volunteering is a great way to learn new things and get involved in your community.
VolunteerMatch.org is a site that helps people find volunteer opportunities in their area based on their interests. You can also check out Volunteers of America and Volunteering in America for additional information about opportunities and ways to get involved. It's important to find something you enjoy doing. If you love animals, check your local shelters to see if they take volunteers. If you love being around people, look into nursing homes, missions, soup kitchens and libraries to see if they need assistance with their regular programs.
Whatever you decisively or accidentally blurt out as your New Year's Resolution this year, stick to it. With a few small steps, and more than half a thought, your Resolution can be successful. If you're still looking for your New Year's Resolution, consider doing something in 2012 that you've always wanted to do. It could be as small as going to a restaurant you've never been to or as grand as traveling to another country. Whatever you choose, set a realistic goal and make it happen. And, if you don't and the Mayan calendar extremists' predictions come true, it won't matter because we won't be here.
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