It’s the same thing every year: The clock strikes midnight; the crystal clinks; hugs and kisses get passed around, and all thoughts turn toward the new year and the clean slate ahead. With optimism and good intention, you resolve to finally lose the weight, start exercising, sleep more, stress less, save money, declutter, unplug, give back, and maybe even meditate. For many, it all goes disappointingly out the window by month’s end. Make this year different — from start to finish — with this easy-to-follow, expert-driven guide of simple steps and doable ideas for keeping both little and lofty resolutions firmly intact. And that’s whether you remember making them the morning after or not.
Resolving to lose weight and eat right is a struggle and goal that dominates body and mind on more than just one eve a year, but the recipe for a fit, healthier version of yourself is as easy as 1-2-3, according to Armonk health coach Anita Greenwald (anitagreenwald.com). “Crowd out unhealthy foods with healthy foods.” In other words, she explains, “If you fill up on fruits and vegetables and lots of greens, you might not want that chocolate chip cookie.”
That said, if you don’t like kale, don’t eat kale; if you like smoothies, pad your belly with blended fruits and veggies. “Find your delicious,” says Greenwald. Seek out vegetables and leafy greens that are “wonderfully in season” and prepare them according to personal preferences and tastes. “You should enjoy every bite,” including indulgences that are not so good for you. “Just don’t enjoy them too much,” she says.
As a challenge, Greenwald recommends eating only healthy food for three days straight. “That’s how long it takes for your taste buds to change, and you might discover that you don’t crave unhealthy foods as much.”
If late-night nibbling is your downfall, pour a cup of peppermint tea and promptly exit the kitchen. “Sometimes we think we’re hungry, but we’re actually just thirsty,” says Greenwald. Additionally, crowd out cocktails with seltzer, but “find your delicious” by infusing your sparkling sip with fresh lemon or seasonal fruit. If a splash of red is your regular ritual, sample sobriety once a week. “Do it on a Tuesday,” says Greenwald, as an attempt at sober Saturday could set the stage for failure and feelings of discouragement.
“If you fill up on fruits and vegetables and lots of greens, you might not want that chocolate chip cookie.”
Before embarking on a new exercise regimen, write a letter to your future super-fit self, suggests Obi Nwoye, personal trainer and owner of The Partners Gym in Thornwood (partnersgym.com). “This immortalizes and extends the lifespan of your resolution,” he says. “The version of you making the resolution is not the same you keeping the resolution, so this is something to refer to when things get tough.” Be mentally prepared, he cautions, that “month one will be harder than you think, but have a hopeful, forward view that month nine will be easier than you can imagine.”
An encouraging workout buddy is always a bonus, Nwoye says, so take this tried-and-true tack and run with it. “Share your goals with someone who would be so disappointed in you if you didn’t follow through.” Preferably, someone you see daily, like a coworker. “As people, we care a lot about what other people think of us,” Nwoye admits, adding that “pressure makes diamonds; peer pressure makes you shine.”
Shaping up to be the best version of yourself is not always a strong enough motivator, but a feeling of responsibility toward others often is. “We are more likely to persevere through difficulties if we think we’re doing it for someone else.” For instance, Nwoye points out, “It’s on you to have a good outcome for your kids.”
I’d love to mediate or pray, but I just don’t have the time is a mantra disciples of both Buddha and Jesus hear more times than they can count, but “it only takes five minutes to connect to your calm mind, which is, by nature, peaceful,” says Donna Campanelli, resident teacher at the Vajra Light Buddhist Center (meditationinwestchester.org) in Mamaroneck. And the ability to twist into a pretzel and sit up rod-straight is not required. “Before my feet hit the floor in the morning, I do a simple breathing mediation in bed, paying attention to the sensation of air moving in and out of my nostrils,” she says. “I imagine Buddha coming into my head, dissolving into my heart and staying there all day long.” If, however, your day begins like gangbusters, do this during a quiet morning moment while brushing your teeth or making coffee, and voila! you’ve meditated.
The same goes for soul-nourishing prayer. “Look up at the stars,” says Fr. Robert Carolan of Annunciation-Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Yonkers (annunciation-fatima.com). “Stop to really notice the sunrise and the sunset. It will remind you of the beauty and power of God, who is responsible for it all.” That’s prayer, he says.
Brother Kevin Devlin, student-faculty liaison at Iona University (iona.edu) in New Rochelle, says prayer can be intertwined with efforts to help those in need. “Make a plate of food once a month for an organization that is food insufficient and make it with a prayer for the people who are to receive it.”
If all else fails, “put a sticky note on your mirror,” says Carolan, “reminding you to thank God every day for the gifts and good people in your life.”
Amen to that.
Tech detox is an almost insurmountable challenge in this space of cyber-this and web-based-that, but a serious screen break here and there is a cinch. “When you walk the dog, leave the phone at home,” says Larchmont life coach and writer Caren Osten (carenosten.com). While some strolls may call for a handheld in your free paw, Osten says: “Commit to disconnect once a week.” This will require “intention and effort,” she acknowledges, but “it will become a habit,” and before you know it, one time turns into two, and so on.
After the sun has set on the day, and the time to retire draws near, there is some daily baggage you should leave behind. “I sleep upstairs; the phone sleeps downstairs,” Osten says.
Donna Campanelli, resident teacher at the Vajra Light Buddhist Center in Mamaroneck, agrees. “No phone in the bedroom.” Campanelli turns off this so-called “weapon of mass distraction” long before her bedtime, but if that type of tech break is too tough to take: “Power down at least an hour before bed.”
Getting a grip on your finances may seem like a resolution that could take more than one New Year to accomplish, but Rye Brook financial advisor Joseph Long suggests you relax, like he and his wife do every New Year’s Day. “We sit back on the couch and think about what we want out of the next year.” And they ask themselves one question: Do we want to spend money on a new bathroom, or do we want to save money for college? Then, they write down their goals, and “we strategize about how we’re going to get there.”
Long, a managing director with financial planning firm Strategies for Wealth (strategiesforwealth.com) in Rye Brook, says that “when you have a good relationship with your future self, you’re more inclined to do what you need to do today.” But, he advises, don’t do it alone. “Find an accountability partner.” This person can be a financial planner, a life coach, or simply “someone who will have your permission to be a financial pain in the you-know-what.” Tell your partner what you want to achieve over the next year, and “once you declare it, there’s a greater likelihood you’ll achieve it.”
Among the myriad money tips he stores up his sleeve, Long says, at the least, be a good saver. “Aim to save a minimum of 15% of your gross earnings per year.” And at all costs, do not keep your resolution to squirrel away a few cents a secret from your newfound pain in the… uh… partner, who may also be able to assist you on the straight and narrow to becoming debt free.
There are never enough hours in the day to do everything you need to do (hence, this guide), and there is even less time to keep it all neat and tidy. This is why Professional Organizer Bari Goldstein of Let’s Get It Done! (letsgetitdoneny.com) in New Rochelle advises to start small. “Clean out your wallet on New Year’s Day. Next, tackle your purses [or man purse], tossing old tissues and business cards.” Once that’s out of the way, “pick one drawer, one medicine cabinet, to organize at a time,” before moving on to bigger projects, like a closet or entire room.
Andrea Bowser of Space Matters Home Organization (spacematters.com) in Yorktown takes it a step further by suggesting that aspiring organizers add 15 minutes of daily decluttering (or an hour on Saturday) to their calendars. “Declutter before you shower,” she suggests. Once 15 minutes a day becomes a habit for you, get the kids to commit to a mere 10 minutes, as “one person cannot keep up with everyone’s clutter.”
With the intent of canceling clutter before it ever accrues, Goldstein throws out this M.O. for the new year: “Before bringing a new item into the house, know where it’s going to go and what you need to get rid of to make space for it.” She also recommends a “landing zone” for mail, preferably near the recycling bin. “First thing you do when you get your mail, toss the junk.”
And move toward the mindset that every day begins the night before. “Prep your desk for the morning, get your work bag ready, set up the kids’ snacks and drinks, and pick out your clothes.” Goldstein’s pro tip is to lay out two outfit options, and get into the habit of hanging it all up at the end of every day (plus, make the bed every morn). “This creates a peaceful, organized environment to come home to.”
Setting aside time to attend to others in addition to yourself and your loved ones calls for the skills of a circus-trained juggler, but getting started is the hardest part. Once the fog lifts on January 1, create an online account with Volunteer New York! (volunteernewyork.org). “It’s a quick and easy transactional thing,” says Tony Fasciano, communications director with the Tarrytown-based organization, which supports 500 nonprofits across Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam counties.
“Sign up as a volunteer and fill out a form about what you want to do,” he says. “Be really honest with yourself about what resonates with you — the causes and your passions.” Then, if the spirit moves you further, talk to a volunteer placement specialist.
Need even quicker and easier? Search the organization’s website for DIY projects that can be completed at home on what Fasciano calls “a lazy Saturday.” These include assembling hygiene kits for kids and/or starter packs for babies, telephoning a senior citizen, or planning an online donation drive for a fund that’s near and dear. But, just as important: “Share your efforts with a friend or post about it on social media,” says Fasciano. “This is a great way to be civically engaged and it’s super helpful to us and the nonprofits we support.”
If you can do just one thing in 2023, do it in April, which is Global Volunteer Month. “Pencil it in your calendar,” Fasciano says. “Take a volunteer selfie and share your impact on your platform.” Or at the very least, search up a cause or event that speaks to you and post about it or tell a friend. “This helps move the needle forward too.”
In order to achieve a sense of serenity in our busy, over-scheduled lives, Larchmont life coach and writer, Caren Osten encourages an effort to bring mindfulness into one activity each day. She describes this as being aware of what is happening as it is happening. “What do the water and soap feel like as I wash the dishes? What does the toothpaste taste like?” This practice “quiets the mind from busyness and being on autopilot,” she says.
Another way to invite mindfulness into the daily grind is by writing down three things that happened during the day in a gratitude journal. “It doesn’t have to be monumental,” she says. “It could be a delicious bite of chocolate or the smell of fresh grass.” Taking a moment to notice and savor is the essence of living in the present, Osten says.
She also suggests setting up small, seven-day challenges, like meditating for three minutes, journaling, taking a walk at lunch, or checking in with yourself about what and who makes you feel good. Similarly, she says, attempt a week of connecting via text with one person to say “I love you” and/or “I miss you.”
“Our relationships with the people we care about and who care about us are the number-one predictors of our happiness and well-being.”
Once these exercises become habits (after 30 to 60 days), Osten says, “It will be easier for the brain to access things that bring us positive emotion, like the greeting you get from a pet or the sound of birds chirping.”
It’s no secret that a dark room, white noise, warm milk, and a ban on booze, caffeine, and screens can lead to a good night’s sleep, but it can be a nightmare attempting to cram in every pro tip for superior shut-eye. That said, some basic sleep tweaks can result in much better rest, according to Dr. Praveen Rudraraju, medical director at The Center for Sleep Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco (nwh.northwell.edu/sleep-center). “Maintain a regular bedtime and a regular wake time,” he says, so that your brain gets used to your own internal clock instead of the world’s external clock.
Also, commit to 15 minutes of relaxing “wind down” time every night before calling it a day. This can involve a warm bath, a good book, music, or even a little TV on the couch in the living room. “This is a prelude to sleep,” says Rudraraju. “Your brain will begin to recognize this routine as a signal that sleep is coming.”
While it’s recommended that handheld screens go dark an hour and a half before lights-out, Rudraraju says even 30 minutes screen-free will result in improved sleep. “Light directly on the retina suppresses sleep chemicals,” he says. Plus, what you do during the day affects how you drift off at night, so make it a point to step outside for some sunlight. “This will condition your brain to know that daytime is active time, and when it’s dark, it’s time to sleep.”
The promise of a new year is the perfect opportunity, he adds, to address issues that have been interfering with sleep, like snoring — whether it’s coming from your own big schnoz or the one on the other side of the sheets.
“Maintain a regular bedtime and a regular wake time.”
Now that the sun has set on the holiday season, people across the county have set their sights on the year ahead. So, we decided to use one of our topical Instagram polls to learn what some of our readers intend to accomplish in 2023.