Many of us use New Year’s as a time to consider life changes—and then not make them. According to research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 8% of Americans achieve their resolutions over the long term.
Not only are resolutions often fruitless, but between gym membership and special diets, they can be expensive. And if you don’t follow through? That money is wasted.
Successful resolutions tend to be small and specific—and if they’re cheap, all the better. Try one of these five to start 2015 off right.
1. Meditate for three minutes each day
Losing weight was Americans’ most common resolution in 2014. But resolution-makers were often disappointed, and for good reason, believes Julie Stubblefield, blogger at Fit Mom Revolution. Because all bodies lose weight differently, she tells her readers to “[set] goals that support losing weight” instead of watching the scale.
According to Brandie Sellers, a registered yoga instructor based in McKinney, Texas, regular meditation is one of these goals. She recommends beginning with a three-minute guided meditation practice. Many phone apps offer them. “Once you can do three minutes without too much trouble, maybe after a week, you can do it for five minutes,” she says.
Research suggests that meditation can help prevent emotional eating. “It also affects your ability to problem-solve and be creative,” Sellers says.
2. Drink more water
For those who want to lose weight, physical activity and healthy food are both key. Unfortunately, they can also be time-consuming. There’s no substitute for eating right. But if you want to start small, stay hydrated.
“Drink water regularly throughout the day,” says Steve Silberberg, owner of Fitpacking, a company that plans and leads backpacking trips. “When you do this, eat a small snack, such as a handful of peanuts or a piece of fruit.”
The idea, he says, is to “keep your stomach full and your sugar level constant so that you’re never famished.”
3. Set a budget
To meet your financial goals, you need to save—and doing more of that was Americans’ third most common resolution last year. But it’s also critical to save responsibly. This is where budgeting comes in.
“By laying out all of your sources of income and various expenses, you will know exactly where you stand financially and how much money you have left over after paying all the bills,” says Christopher de Lorimier of O’Connor Wealth Management in Pasadena, California. “From there, you can look at establishing an emergency savings account… [and] begin investing for retirement and other financial goals.”
Even if you have a budget, it’s worth taking another look for 2015 if your income or expenses have changed.
4. Prune your possessions
“Getting organized” was Americans’ second most common resolution last year, and it spurred many purchases of fancy storage bins. But organizing is less important when you have less stuff.
Molly Graves, co-founder of the San Francisco-based organization service NEAT Method, suggests consumers check their kitchens and bathrooms for expired products and schedule a quarterly pickup from a charity like the Salvation Army. “Knowing that a nonprofit is depending on your donation will help you stay on top of eliminating unnecessary items,” she says.
5. Commit to a weekly night without screens
Spending more time with family rounded out Americans’ top 10 resolutions for 2014. But between busy schedules and the beeps and boops from various gadgets, family time fell off many priority lists. This is why Jeannie Bertoli, a Los Angeles-based relationship and divorce trainer, suggests families spend one night a week together, without phones, TV or computers.
What should you do instead? Bertoli recommends keeping it simple: “You can put together a puzzle, go for a walk… or just lie on the ground and look up.” She adds, “That’s when kids open up the most, when you’re not sitting eye-to-eye.”
If games are your family’s thing, Claudia Grauf-Grounds, chair and professor of marriage and family therapy at Seattle Pacific University, says, “Bingo or the Ungame, where questions are related to getting to know each other, are great choices for a range of ages.”
In fact, Bertoli believes that if you’re feeling stressed or disconnected—and not just from your family—limiting screen time can be a helpful resolution. “Before you put something on the plate, you have to take something off the plate,” she says.
Infographic by Brian Yee. Beach image via iStock.