4 Tips on Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution This Year

4 Tips on Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution This Year

It’s not about motivation. It’s about out-smarting the system.
how to stick to resolutions

By Christine Flammia | Last Updated: Oct 25 2023 | 7 min read

No Jeans January is coming to a close, and (probably) taking a lot of folks’ New Years resolutions with it. 

Unless the goal you set for yourself this year was to continue simply “getting out of bed every day during a global freaking pandemic” in which case, you might just have set your sights perfectly!

Keeping resolutions is hard. I, for one, do not like being told what to do, even when the person doing the telling is me. 

But the thing is, I want to be a resolutions person.

After all, resolutions are just January 1st code for “healthy habits.”

Working out, getting enough sleep, drinking more water—stuff we all should be doing. No, scratch that, things we all want to be doing! (Who doesn’t want more sleep??)

I decided to investigate the healthy habits that I’ve managed to make a regular part of my routine. And I came up with a few key takeaways that could help you in 2021, too.

Below, check out 4 ways to stick to your ‘healthy habits’ resolutions this year:

healthy habits

1. Ask yourself ‘why’

Before trying to adopt a new healthy habit, ask yourself: What’s it for? 

The answer could be straightforward. If your goal is to lose weight, your “why” might simply be offsetting at-home happy hours.


But dig deeper. 

Do you like the quiet alone time that reading gives you? Do you get a rush from clocking a new running record? Does lifting weights help you pick up and put down a child trying to escape from virtual learning without throwing out your back? Does drinking more water allow you not to look like a vampire on your daily Zoom calls?

What is a good night’s sleep for? What is a healthily stocked fridge for? Consider your why.

The healthy habits takeaway:

There’s no right answer to the question. The answer is just for you. But asking “Why?” with intention gives your goal a little more oomph

healthy habits

2. Try habit stacking

Habit stacking (a phrase coined by SJ Scott) can mean one habit on top of another, or it can mean adding in a fresh habit to something you already do.

Think: listening to a meditation app while you shower or taking a Dyson to the couch cushions while your lunch is in the microwave. 

I decided I want to get the news in the morning, after the pandemic axed my commute to and from work when I used to listen to podcasts. I also wanted to make my bed every day.

(Living in a studio apartment, if I don’t make my bed, it is scientifically proven that I won’t get anything productive done. I’ve done the experiment, OK, and it does not work.)

So, for the past few months, as soon as my alarm goes off, I turn on NPR. While I’m listening, I make my bed, turn on the coffee, and wash my face.

By the time I’m done, I have a handle on current events and I feel like a normal human. 

The healthy habits takeaway:

Ask yourself, what can I attach this goal to that I’m already doing? Then, do that!

developing healthy habits

3. Make the goal small. Nope, even smaller. 

I personally don’t feel super inspired by a new year (or, let’s be honest, I don’t feel inspired during the winter generally), so I save my personal resolutions for my birthday. And I make the idea simple, with no given path to getting there. 

That means instead of setting a resolution or goal like, “Work out four times a week,” or “Drink a normal amount of water every day” (working on it!), I pick something that can mean what I want it to mean. 

Last year, I picked a word: mobility. 

We were a few months into the pandemic and I was feeling stiff, mentally and physically. Moving from the desk chair to the couch to my bed did not require a ton of action, after all. 

I initially meant this resolution to be physical: If I felt my body was tight, I’d do a mobility exercise to improve fluid movement. Dynamic stretching, or those tendonitis exercises physical therapists recommend

Sometimes this became the start of a workout and sometimes that was the workout. Either way, goal reached.

Mobility took on new meaning, too. Being adaptive to a new work environment, say, or curious about how my productivity is at my desk versus on the bed. 

This kind of goal curbed any sort of crushing “I’ve failed in this” feeling one might get after a day of not wanting to workout when your goal was to workout.

The healthy habits takeaway:

Putting a word on a goal—one that’s simple and you can play with—will let you re-envision it to suit your healthy habits purposes.

committing to healthy habits

4. Commit to a healthy habit you like for more than one reason. 

After moving to New York City after college, I struggled to find any sort of workout that I liked. I hated going to the gym and doing stuff and leaving. But I didn’t love classes, either. So I just kind of milled around, waiting for something to happen. 

And it did! Boxing happened.

I had played sports growing up but was never really tied to one. But feeling like an athlete was appealing to me, even if I had no plans to take it to a competitive level. 

Boxing works for me as a healthy habit not just because I feel good doing it, but also because it engages my brain.

My mind, which tends to spiral, has to be focused while boxing. Otherwise I will get, you know, punched in the head. 

My boxing coach Josh Popper says, “A lot of people will think, ‘Oh, I have to go as hard as I can to get in shape,” he says. “Instead, ask yourself…what’s something that gets your mind out of the world and into the activity?”

When I box, I am truly learning. I’m learning to move in a way that I have never moved before. I’m learning to react quickly but calmly to a fist coming near my face.

Oh, one more benefit? Even if you never want to actually fight someone (hi, me, I’m not going to fight someone), I like that you’re learning a life skill with boxing: How to defend yourself. 

The healthy habits takeaway:

The more you enjoy a goal, the less you have to rely on motivation to power you through.


Intentionality helps us widen that idea of what it means to work toward a goal or establish a habit. In 2021, that feels more important than ever.

Prioritizing sleep or skipping a workout for time with friends can be healthy, too. Your body needs rest and social interaction to thrive as much as it needs physical exercise or eight hours of rest. 

When it comes to making healthy habits a part of your routine, allow drop-offs as part of the adoption process. Most importantly? Get after it—flexibly. 

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Your turn! Head to Instagram or Twitter and tell us how you plan to keep your New Year’s Resolutions this year.


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Christine has written for Esquire and Men's Health. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Columbia University.