Start 2024 right: 10 best New Year’s resolutions for a better you

best New Year resolutions
The New Year traditionally represents a fresh start, giving each person the opportunity to leave old habits behind and redetermine how you want things to go moving forward. Source: AFP

It’s that painful time of time of year again when we sit back, reflect and think up the best New Year resolutions. 

It is tough to know why we do this to ourselves, especially when, for many, it can feel like making a list of all the things we have failed at so far. 

This is often when meaningless platitudes haunt our journals, such as “join a gym” and “travel to satiate your wanderlust”. 

These do not work because they are vague and lead to nothing. 

There is no accountability for your self-improvement or specific milestones for you to track your goal. 

For instance, you could join a gym and barely visit, or visit the same resort you visit every year and learn nothing of a new country. 

Getting specific and choosing attainable goals might actually help you grow as a person and help you achieve your greatest ambitions. 

As an international student, this can even help you score a first-class degree or land your dream job after graduation.

Let’s just say for a moment that we have decided not to be a Negative Nelly about it and embrace the tradition of gathering a list of New Year resolutions. 

Why? While it might seem intimidating, it can help steer your year in a positive direction. 

Also, it can lead to fewer regrets. 

best New Year resolutions

Bronnie Ware’s memoir, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” recounts her years of caregiving to the dying and the wisdom she received. Source: AFP

Life goals: To be able to say “I regret nothing”

Many years ago, a nurse named Bronnie Ware wrote a blog post titled “Regrets of the Dying”.

She has since published a best-selling novel, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, getting specific with examples and encouragement. 

“The regrets of the dying helped me understand how sacred time is,” Ware says in a Forbes interview

“I realised that the pain of breaking through any amount of resistance would never be as heart-wrenching as lying on my deathbed with regrets. 

“This has propelled an ever-expanding habit of courage that has shown me how we are all so much more capable than we realise. We just need the courage to get out of our own way.” 

Readers were deeply moved, and those who experienced loss first-hand truly understood those regrets. 

Ware’s patients, when faced with faced with their own mortality, told her their deepest regrets:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

These are heartbreaking regrets and ones you should avoid by creating a list of the best New Year resolutions that will make you confident to face death, even if it comes next week.

Here are some things to keep in mind when crafting the best New Year resolutions that work for you:

  • Be specific. Vague goals are impossible to achieve. 
  • Think about the regrets you’d like to avoid at your dethbed
  • Set a timeline with mini milestones.
  • Be flexible — sometimes 
  • Reward your achievements (even the small ones)

Best New Year resolutions for a better you

best New Year resolutions

Making a resolution to simply add more physical activity into your daily life is more attainable. Source: AFP

1. Work out to be healthier and feel good, not thinner

Like most people, you may be hoping to lose weight and get fit in the new year. But embarking on a journey to work out and prioritise your health in the new year isn’t about fitting into a certain dress size or adhering to society’s beauty standards. 

It’s about embracing a lifestyle that makes you feel mentally and physically good. Rather than succumbing to the traditional “lose weight” resolution, focus on building habits that boost your overall well-being. 

You could even incorporate little things into your daily routine, such as taking the stairs at work instead of the lift or escalator; it’s a small change that adds up, providing your body with a natural and effective workout. Not only does this help in burning calories, but it also strengthens your leg muscles. 

Walking is another great and achievable way to enhance your health without fixating on a specific weight goal. Set a goal to walk several steps daily, gradually increasing the target as your stamina improves. This isn’t just a theoretical suggestion – studies show that walking can significantly contribute to cardiovascular health, reduce stress, and improve mood

2. Do random acts of kindness

Unlike high aspirations that may seem overwhelming, spreading kindness requires no grand gestures.

It could be as simple as leaving an uplifting note for a colleague, surprising a neighbour with a homemade treat or paying for the person’s coffee in line behind you.

These acts not only brighten someone else’s day but also create a ripple effect of positivity. In fact, studies have shown that acts of kindness can increase happiness and well-being

The great thing about incorporating random acts of kindness into your routine lies in its versatility.

You can tailor your gestures to fit your personality and circumstances, making it a resolution you can easily integrate into your daily life. 

If you’re an engineer, maybe you can come up with a device to help your community. If you’re an artist, perhaps you can help design a new sign for your apartment.

The options are endless.

best New Year resolutions

Marie Kondo’s tidying process is about tidying up in a way that will spark joy in your life and change it forever. Source: AFP

3. Decluttering

Decluttering is a resolution that anyone can realistically achieve, as it involves making mindful choices about the items you surround yourself with daily. One effective method that many have adopted is the Marie Kondo approach. 

By asking yourself if each item “sparks joy,” you can curate a living space that truly reflects your personality and brings a sense of calm.

Letting go of items that no longer serve a purpose allows room for new possibilities and a fresh perspective.

It has been found that a cluttered space can contribute to increased stress levels and a decreased ability to focus. By getting rid of clutter, you are creating a more organised home and taking care of your mental well-being. 

Start small, perhaps with a single drawer or a specific category of items, and gradually work your way through your space.

Donating items that are still in good condition is also a great idea, as you contribute to a sustainable and compassionate cycle. 

 A little phone detox goes a long way. Source: AFP

4. Reducing phone and social media usage

Reducing your phone and social media usage in the new year is a realistic goal that doesn’t require a complete digital detox but rather a mindful approach to technology. One step is to schedule regular breaks from social media or set specific times during the day for checking messages and updates. 

I have found that putting my phone on “do not disturb” during certain hours helps me focus on tasks,  helping with productivity and mental clarity. It’s about being intentional with your screen time and recognising the need for real-world connections.

You can overcome these negative effects by incorporating small changes, such as designating phone-free zones in your home or setting achievable daily limits.

Consider engaging in activities that don’t involve screens, like reading a book, taking a walk or pursuing a hobby. 

best New Year resolutions

Reducing waste is one of the best New Year resolutions to have as waste generation has increased massively around the world. Source: AFP

5. Reduce your waste

Committing to reducing waste is one of the best New Year resolutions as it aligns with our growing environmental footprint awareness. It’s about making conscious choices in your daily life. 

One way to do it is to resist impulsive buying and instead opt for thoughtful, sustainable purchases. Taking a moment to consider whether an item is genuinely necessary is a great start.

Small changes, such as carrying a reusable water bottle or using a cloth bag for groceries, can make a significant difference.

Did you know that the average American produces over 4.9 pounds of trash daily, contributing to overflowing landfills and pollution?

By incorporating habits like reducing single-use plastics and embracing a “less is more” mentality, you actively participate in the global effort to minimise waste.

Consider exploring local markets for package-free options or repurposing items instead of discarding them too.

While people may look perfect on social media, they may be going through some hard times. Source: AFP

6. Be kind on social media

Choosing to be kind on social media is a conscious shift in how you engage with others online. Practices like talking less and listening more promote a culture of understanding and open dialogue. 

Reflecting before commenting or sharing helps avoid unnecessary negativity and creates a more harmonious online space.

In a world where online interactions can sometimes escalate quickly, choosing kindness is a small yet impactful way to make a positive difference.

By choosing kindness, you create a safer and more supportive online environment. Consider taking the time to educate yourself about the struggles different cultures and people face globally.

Acknowledging that some countries are going through war allows for a more empathetic and informed online presence. 

7. Let go of negativity 

Instead of setting unattainable goals, focus on the achievable ones, such as letting go of negative thoughts and emotions. Practise gratitude daily by acknowledging and appreciating the positive aspects of your life. 

I have found that taking a few moments each day to reflect on what I’m grateful for helps shift my mindset and allows me to approach challenges more optimistically. 

Another actionable step is to surround yourself with positive influences, both inperson and online. Choose to engage with content that uplifts and inspires rather than feeds into negativity. 

best New Year resolutions

Having a clean, organised and made up bed lifts up your state of mind to feel more organised and at peace. Source: AFP

8. Make your bed every morning

Making your bed every morning may sound like a silly goal to have, but it is actually one of the best New Year resolutions to have.

This commitment is not about perfection but cultivating a sense of order and accomplishment from the start. 

Making your bed creates a small, tidy atmosphere in your room that instantly boosts your mood. It’s a realistic goal that requires minimal effort but yields significant mental and emotional benefits.

Starting your day by completing this small task gives you a sense of control and sets a productive tone, influencing your mindset for the hours to come.

Studies suggest that people who make their beds are more likely to consider themselves productive and happier than those who don’t. Think of it as a domino effect – the discipline of making your bed can spill over into other areas of your life, creating a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. 

9. Go to bed happy each night

Opting to go to bed happy each night is one of the best New Year resolutions that is both realistic and rewarding. It’s a commitment to prioritise your mental well-being and adopt a positive mindset.

I have discovered that consciously reflecting on positive aspects of the day before bedtime has an impact on my overall mood.

Whether it’s jotting down a few things you’re grateful for or recalling joyful moments, this simple practice instils a sense of contentment that carries over into your sleep, making it easier to wake up with a positive outlook.

When you go to bed with positive thoughts, you’re more likely to experience restful sleep. Try incorporating activities that bring joy and relaxation, such as reading a favourite book, practising mindfulness or enjoying soothing music, into your pre-bedtime routine.

best New Year resolutions

There are many ways to volunteer your time for specific causes, like fighting hunger and alleviating the lives of the less fortunate. Source: AFP

10. Start volunteering 

Volunteering allows you to connect with others, contribute to meaningful causes, and gain a sense of fulfilment.

Dedicating even a small amount of time to volunteer work has an effect on your perspective and overall well-being. 

Whether it’s spending time with senior citizens, helping at an animal shelter or participating in local waste-cleaning initiatives, the options are diverse, ensuring that you can find a cause that aligns with your interests and values.

Volunteering doesn’t have to be a grand commitment; even a few hours a month can make a meaningful difference. 

New Year resolution 2024 for students

1. Find job or internship opportunities 

Resolving to seek job or internship opportunities is a great New Year resolution for students. It’s a proactive step toward shaping your future career.

Personal growth often aligns with professional development, and by taking the initiative to explore job or internship opportunities, you’re gaining hands-on experience that can set you apart in the competitive job market. 

For instance, reaching out to career services at your university, attending job fairs, or exploring online platforms for internships can be practical ways to kickstart this resolution. 

Remember — students who complete internships are more likely to receive job offers before graduation than those who don’t. 

best New Year resolutions

Learning and understanding should be more important than grades. Source: AFP

2. Focus on learning instead of just getting good grades

Choosing to prioritise learning over grades as a new year’s resolution is not about dismissing the importance of grades but shifting your focus to the process of learning itself. 

Engaging in active learning techniques, such as teaching the material to a peer or applying concepts to real-world scenarios, can deepen your understanding.

From my experience, when the emphasis is on learning rather than grades, it reduces stress and increases your passion for the subject.

It was found that students who are intrinsically motivated to learn, rather than solely driven by external rewards like grades, tend to perform better academically and demonstrate greater persistence

3. Focus on work-life balance

Balancing homework, extracurricular activities, and personal life can be challenging, but creating boundaries and setting realistic expectations is key to avoiding burnout.

An example is establishing and adhering to a designated study schedule and dedicating time to academic pursuits and personal activities. 

Not only does it enhance overall well-being, but it also improves focus and productivity when engaging in academic tasks.

According to the American Institute of Stress, 80% of college students report feeling stressed frequently, with 34% stating that stress negatively affects their academic performance. 

You can consider incorporating activities like exercise, relaxation techniques or spending quality time with friends and family into your routine. 

4. Get more sleep 

While academic demands and extracurricular activities can create a hectic schedule, recognising the importance of adequate sleep contributes to overall well-being and academic success. 

A great way to establish a consistent sleep routine is by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends.

I have noticed a significant improvement in my focus and energy levels when I prioritise sufficient sleep. It’s not just about the quantity of sleep but also the quality, ensuring that your body and mind have the necessary time to rejuvenate.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60% of college students report experiencing poor sleep quality, impacting their ability to concentrate and learn. 

Start by creating a bedtime routine that includes winding down activities, such as reading or listening to calming music, to signal your body that it’s time to rest. You’ll wake up to a better you.