Five New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

Making specific resolutions is the best path to success.


Champagne photo via

Ask any psychologist how to make your New Year’s resolutions stick, and she’ll likely tell you to make your vows as specific as possible. Why, then, are our resolutions so vague—lose weight, get healthier, be happier—year after year?

Up your game in 2017 by choosing specific goals—and actually meeting them. Here are a few suggestions, based on local research from the newly departed year.

1. Instead of: Lose weight.
Try: Exercise for 150 minutes per week.

It may seem like a subtle shift, but focusing on an action, rather than an outcome, may help you find success. Plus, reasons to work out far exceed weight loss. A Boston University School of Medicine study says physical fitness may preserve brain function; a Harvard experiment points to a link between aerobic exercise and happiness; and a large multi-institution study asserts that exercise may slash your risk of getting 13 different types of cancer.

2. Instead of: Eat healthy.
Try: Cook more.

Even if you order the healthiest-seeming option on the menu, dining out is not the best way to achieve optimal nutrition, according to Tufts research. In a January study, the university’s researchers found that 92 percent of restaurant dishes exceed recommended calorie counts. Your best bet? Prepare your own food as much as possible.

3. Instead of: Be happy.
Try: Stay optimistic.

A December study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that female optimists tend to outlive pessimistic peers, succumbing less often to conditions including cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, and infection. Look on the bright side this year by remembering what you’re grateful for, and by writing down scenarios’ best possible outcomes as they come up.

4. Instead of: Stop wasting time on social media.
Try: Use social media to your advantage.

Believe it or not, research suggests that accepting Facebook friend requests may extend your life. Carry that mentality out into the real world, too—the study‘s lead researcher, who’s from Northeastern and Harvard, notes that social media friendships that give rise to IRL interactions are the best of all.

5. Instead of: Eat less junk food.
Try: Eat less salt and meat…

Not sure where to start with your new, healthy diet? Research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital says slashing salt intake may extend your life, while Massachusetts General Hospital research finds that swapping meat and dairy for a plant-based diet may fight off type 2 diabetes.

…and more unsaturated fat, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Eating well isn’t about deprivation; it’s about making smart switches. A July Tufts study, for example, says choosing foods high in unsaturated fats, such as plant oils and salmon, instead of carbohydrates or saturated fats may help ward off type 2 diabetes, and a Harvard study from the same month suggests that replacing carbohydrates with unsaturated fats reduces premature death risk by up to 19 percent.

Elsewhere, a meta-analysis done by Tufts suggests that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and flax, may help cut your risk of heart disease.

Finally, a Harvard study from June says those who eat lots of whole grains, such as quinoa and bran, may see premature mortality risk drop by roughly 20 percent.