24 Ideas for New Year’s Resolutions That Don’t Try to Improve Us

Hand holding heart against beautiful setting.Traditionally, New Year’s resolutions are about changing oneself to become better. My impression is that people break these promises to themselves about as often as they hang clothes on their home exercise machines. Making New Year’s resolutions and not following through on them just makes people feel bad about themselves, and doesn’t make anything better, just as buying home exercise equipment doesn’t help improve health when it’s only used to hang clothes. In fact, when broken New Year’s resolutions cause people to be very self-critical and decide they are failures, these resolutions are actually destructive, and can contribute to depression. Of course making realistic (really realistic) goals for changing things you want to change can be very helpful. Keep in mind this only works for you though if it has a positive effect on you.

New Year’s resolutions are usually based on the principle that something is wrong with you, and the implication is that if you change it, you’ll be more valuable—more attractive, more lovable, more worthy of your job, etc. An alternative approach would be to assume there is nothing wrong with you and make resolutions based on accepting yourself as you are. This is helpful with self-esteem, and especially helpful with things that are not going to change. Trying to change things that cannot be changed will just be an exercise in self-attack. Below is my brainstorm of examples of New Year’s resolutions focused on accepting myself as I am. Please feel free to share any other ideas you have for all of us.

This year I resolve to do at least one of these often throughout the year:

  1. Find a part of my body I like and focus my attention on enjoying it.
  2. Look in the mirror and smile at myself the way I would at someone I love, and enjoy how I look when I’m smiling with love.
  3. When I think something about me is disgusting or a failure or unlovable or not good enough, think about what people would say about these things at my funeral.
  4. Treat myself the way I’d treat a child, niece, or pet I adored.
  5. Remind myself there’s nothing wrong with me, and any voice that says differently is voicing a lie from an unreliable source (consider the source, if you can find the original one).
  6. Find out what people like about me.
  7. Forgive myself; do whatever it takes to forgive myself.
  8. Let go of feeling bad about anything I can’t change.
  9. Decide what’s really important for me to do in my very short time on Earth, and do it. On my last day of life, looking back, what will I be glad I spent my time doing?
  10. Think of as many things as I can that I like about myself, and keep noticing them.
  11. Notice something I’m proud of about myself.
  12. Notice other people’s vulnerabilities and find compassion for them.
  13. Think of something amazing I’ve done.
  14. Think of something loving I’ve done.
  15. Think of something I would feel good about doing that is clearly within my reach and do it.
  16. Go on a romantic date with myself.
  17. Write about what I am/would be/have been like as a parent of a person or animal on my best parenting day, and appreciate myself for it.
  18. Think about what I would do with my child self if I could go back as an adult and be a loving adult for that child. Imagine doing that.
  19. Think about the most loving moment I gave someone and do it again.
  20. Think of things I’m good at, no matter what it is. Count it—it counts!
  21. Remember myself in reverse chronological order, and go back until I find a time during which I unconditionally like my young self. Think about what I like about that child/baby/fetus.
  22. Give myself permission to be human—to be messy, make mistakes, fail, be selfish be vulnerable, etc., knowing that human is all anyone can hope to be, and human is very imperfect and yet amazing.
  23. Imagine living life with a big mother nurturer holding me whenever I need it, loving me unconditionally, seeing and understanding me thoroughly, and enjoying what she sees—offering comfort and protection, validation, forgiveness, compassion, patience, support, and never ever leaving me.
  24. Thank myself for everything I do that I would thank someone else for if they did it for me. Think how grateful I’d be if someone brushed my teeth, cooked for me, washed me, did my dishes, went to work for me…

What would you add to this list?

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Cynthia W. Lubow, MS, MFT, therapist in El Cerrito, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Garrett

    Garrett

    January 6th, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    While I DO think that these are great they kind of go against the grain of what all of us have been trained that a new years resolution should be all about, And why not resolve to make a change for the better? It does not have to be demeaning if you set your mind on achieving something and making a change for good. It is about doing something to improve life and not get so down on yourself.

  • I.J.

    I.J.

    January 7th, 2012 at 4:18 AM

    Oooo, I LOVE this article so much! I am the world’s worst about breaking New Year resolutions because my heart’s not in them and then feeling bad about myself. This is a list I can get behind! Thanks Cynthia. :)

  • marnie mc

    marnie mc

    January 7th, 2012 at 7:40 AM

    Now This is what I am talking about. These are actually resolutions that I can see myself carrying through with til the very end because they are inspiring instead of demoralizing.

  • ASHLEY

    ASHLEY

    January 7th, 2012 at 2:17 PM

    this is awesome.always have trouble with new year resolutions but never thought how it is about improving our problematic selves and to have a list that appreciates you is great.it is not just a resolution but if followed can make people feel a lot better about themselves and eventually improvement!

  • Margaret

    Margaret

    January 8th, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    I am going with resolution #9. I have often given this a lot of thought- when I look bacy at my life what things will I see that I have done that I am proud of? I want there to be a lot more of that than what I see right now. I think that for too long I have concentrated on the things that I thought would bring me happiness but have given me only emptiness in the end. I want to be more than that and do more than that, and really make a difference in someone’s life beginning today.

  • Helen

    Helen

    January 9th, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    this should instead be titled ’24 Ideas for New Years Resolutions That Improve Us Without Even Making It Seem Like A Resolution’

    great article and not a lot of people would know things like these really.its gonna be helpful to a whole lot of people for sure!

  • heath

    heath

    January 9th, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    done with the new year’s resolutions!
    they don’t work and i never succeed anyway!
    now a new path for my life to begin? now that makes sense.

  • W.Bell

    W.Bell

    January 10th, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    You’d be surprised how often we ill-treat ourselves if you really think about it.I did not think about it until a friend told me about it and really,it left me surprised to know how often I have been mistreating myself.

    So I changed my approach and decided not to be rude to myself anymore.and I’m much better at handling things and generally feel a lot better about myself now.

  • Stella G.

    Stella G.

    January 11th, 2012 at 12:56 AM

    This is an excellent concept. I know I can last out for a week or two and then I forget all about it. These are much more life affirming. :)

  • Cynthia Lubow

    Cynthia Lubow

    February 6th, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    I’m so glad so many of you found this helpful! I know it goes against the grain–I meant it too. I think we have so much criticism, self-criticism and support for self-hate in our culture, media, and daily life, and I think it’s destructive. Compassion is the cure for most self-esteem issues!

  • Amanda C

    Amanda C

    December 28th, 2014 at 8:57 PM

    I just so agree with you on that aspect. People need to be hospitable and less critical on on others and themselves. More mindfulness too in the long term. Appreciate.

  • Anne

    Anne

    January 2nd, 2016 at 10:11 AM

    I love this article, would you mind if I shared it as a resource on my website?

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