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25 Great New Year Resolutions for 2024

Connect with others, try new experiences, and live your best life


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Illustration: Sam Island

We all know that it’s helpful to drink more water, get more exercise and eat more mindfully. But what are some other ways we can improve our mental, physical and emotional outlook in the new year? We’ve curated 25 thought-provoking ideas for you to consider. We’d love to hear how they work out for you — or if you have one of your own to share — so please let us know in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

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1. Find your third place

If your “first place” is home and your “second place” is your workplace, what’s your “third place” and why do we need one? The term “third place” was coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg and refers to the notion that humans benefit from a separate place where they can find community. It can be a coffeehouse, restaurant, house of worship, park or outdoor space or even a friend’s home where you regularly meet for game night. These locations allow people to exchange ideas and build relationships. "Finding your third place is about discovering yourself — about what you care about,” says Foram Sheth, cofounder and chief coaching officer at Ama La Vida, a career, leadership and life coaching company. “Getting consumed between work and your day-to-day routine can lead to feeling unfulfilled."

2. Run errands with a friend

If you’ve been looking for an excuse to hang out with a friend and want to try something more easygoing than scheduling a dinner or coffee date, reach out to see if they’d like company as they knock out their to-do list. Better yet, combine your lists and turn your dull chores into a delightful afternoon.

3. Tickle the ivories

A growing body of research has found that learning an instrument later in life is connected to improved attention, clearer thinking skills and better mental health. Specifically, learning to play the piano has been found to improve verbal fluency and working memory for those ages 60 to 80, according to a study published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B. Previous studies have found that piano lessons for adults and children enhanced executive functions such as working memory, spatial reasoning, verbal fluency and cognitive control. To learn more about the health benefits of music, read AARP’s Music and Memory project

4. Feast on a new fruit

“In the U.S., the vast majority of our fruit consumption consists of bananas, apples, grapes and orange juice — just those four!” says Marvin Pritts, professor of horticulture in the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University. “In the U.S., less than 1 percent of adolescents — roughly 2 percent of men, and only 3.5 percent of women — meet federal guidelines for both fruit and vegetable consumption.” So in the new year, branch out and increase your nutrition at the same time. “Try a new fruit this year from local sources such as pawpaw, aronia, elderberry, currants, Juneberries or gooseberries. If not in grocery stores, most of these can be found at farmers markets where you can taste before you buy. This year, discover some new flavors and do your body a favor at the same time.”

5. Be more curious

Curiosity is a superpower, says Scott Shigeoka, author of Seek: How Curiosity Can Transform Your Life and Change the World (November 2023), who posits that people who become more curious will see lifelong benefits. A small way to start is by taking a “curiosity walk” when you’re feeling overwhelmed. “Get out and use your senses to take in your surroundings: watching people move through the world, listening to the sounds of birds in trees, smelling flowers spilling out from neighbors' yards onto the sidewalk,” Shigeoka says.

spinner image illustration of person next to giant globe, pulling it open at center
Illustration: Sam Island

6. Accept embarrassment

“As we get older and the expectations we place upon ourselves get higher, it creates a narrative that to look foolish in the eyes of others is a fate worse than death,” writes author Natalie Franke in Gutsy: Learning to Live with Bold, Brave, and Boundless Courage. “In my work with over 100,000 small business owners, I discovered that it was not failure that kept most ambitious dreamers from achieving their goals, but rather fear.” In 2024, accept embarrassment and the prospect of failing miserably in the pursuit of going after what you want. “Get out there and suck if you want to. Be the worst painter in the entire world. Write a book that never sells a copy. Run a race and come in last. Knit a scarf no one will ever wear. Launch a blog with your mom as the only reader. Make a soufflé that no one wants to eat. Sing karaoke and get booed off stage. Go after what you want and fail miserably in the pursuit of it!”

7. Turn on Do Not Disturb

Being overly dependent on your smartphone and other electronic devices can cause eye strain, insomnia, physical pain and depression, and come at the expense of healthier behaviors. But limiting the amount of time you’re tethered to devices is a challenging resolution to follow, especially since your smartphone or tablet is how you take pictures, delve into social media, communicate with bosses and loved ones, catch up on news, play games and consume videos. Start small, by making a concerted effort to put electronics aside during family and friend get-togethers. “And get familiar with the Digital Wellbeing tools found inside the Settings on Android devices, and the Focus/Do Not Disturb tools on iPhones,” advises Edward C. Baig, who writes about personal technology for AARP. “Such tools will not only reveal the cold hard facts about just how much time you’re spending on the phone, but at designated times can automatically dim the display, pause apps, and otherwise make it easier to break the smartphone habit.”

8. Create a custom photo book

You took amazing photos from your last vacation — so turn that trip into a beautiful coffee table book for yourself or a gift for your travel companion(s). Companies such as ArtifactUprising.com, Mixbook.com, OnceUpon.photo, Snapfish.com and Shutterfly.com make it easy to upload your photos and write customized captions. Not only are you documenting your life, you’re preserving memories for you and your loved ones. 

9. Find your purpose

More of us than ever before face the likelihood of living to 100, according to veteran journalist and author William J. Kole. His book The Big 100: The New World of Super-Aging notes that the number of centenarians is projected to increase eightfold by 2050 as the oldest and fittest of the boomers reach the century mark. Eating cleanly, exercising regularly, connecting socially with others and shedding toxic stress all help. But for 2024, Kole recommends greeting each day with a sense of purpose. “Some of us are going to hit ‘The Big 100’ whether we want to or not,” says Kole, the grandson of a centenarian. “Life is a gift. Let’s do everything we can to make the most of it.”

spinner image illustration of person sleeping in bed with sun behind them
Illustration: Sam Island

10. Practice ‘hurkle-durkle’

Giving yourself the time — and the grace — to rest is vital to reducing stress and improving mental health. “Hurkle-durkle” is a 200-year-old Scottish word for lounging in bed long after it’s time to get up or go to work. Instead of thinking of this as being lazy or unproductive, embrace the idea of hurkle-durkle time every now and then to count your blessings, stretch, meditate, pray, or just rest and let your mind wander a bit before jumping into the noise and busyness of the day.

11. Stop hitting snooze

If you have somewhere to be and can’t practice hurkle-durkle, don’t hit the snooze button. Those fleeting moments of falling back into hard sleep can put your body into a state of disorientation. When you hit the snooze button and fall back to sleep, it can trigger your brain to go into a sleep cycle, which typically lasts 75 to 90 minutes. When the alarm goes off a few minutes later, it can put you in a state of sleep inertia, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls “a temporary disorientation and decline in performance and/or mood.” No wonder you feel discombobulated!

12. Map out your year

It can be easy to fall into a busy routine with work and appointments sucking up most of your time, but planning can help you keep priorities in order. Entrepreneur and author Jesse Itzler advises: “The only way that you can defend yourself against it is to do things that time can’t take away. … It can’t take away a marathon I ran or a podcast I launched.” Itzler plans out his entire year, adding in vacations, time with friends, marathons and more, using what he calls “The Big A## Calendar,” — a calendar he created that comes on one giant sheet so you can view your entire year at a glance. “Because if I don’t plan it, I’m not going to do it,” he says. So, whatever calendar you use, take some time reviewing your year ahead and scheduling events that matter to you. 

13. Read out loud

You may have been a student the last time you read aloud (or heard someone else do it), but read-alouds are not just for kids. One author says they’re also a way for adults to slow down, sharpen up and reconnect. The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon argues that reading aloud has phenomenal benefits: It builds emotional bonds, floods our brains with language and imagery, and acts as an antidote for our fractured attention spans. A 2017 Canadian study in the journal Memory found “superior memory for reading aloud oneself vs. hearing another person read aloud,” showing that speaking and hearing yourself both contributed to the production effect, which means it helps the brain to store the information so that it becomes long-term memory. Says Gurdon, “I loved reading nightly to our five kids, but reading to my husband is now my favorite way to spend a civilized evening — highly recommended, with or without firelight and cocktails!”

14. Clear out your storage unit

Out of sight, out of mind works a little too well for many of us. This year, if you are paying to keep items in a storage unit, strive to clear it out. With nearly 50,000 sites across the U.S., storage is a $40 billion industry, writes Matt Paxton in his AARP book Keep the Memories, Lose the Stuff. “Fit what you must store in your existing home,” Paxton says. “Your home is already one giant storage unit, and you pay a lot for it, either in taxes and mortgage payments or rent. Anything you need should fit in there. I use the principle of ‘equal in, equal out’: discard an item (equal in size or shape) for any new one.” (Find more tips in our Smart Guide to Decluttering.)

15. Challenge yourself with a “no-spend” weekend

One weekend a month, challenge yourself to not spend any money on any nonessential items. Instead of dining out, cook meals at home, and when you do go out, try to participate in free activities. Taking even small spending breaks can add up to big savings — and you can earmark the money saved to take a special trip, make a charitable donation or buy someone a gift.

16. Use the heirlooms

Are some sacred family heirlooms collecting dust in your closet? Shana Novak, photographer and author of The Heirloomist: 100 Treasures and the Stories They Tell, inherited a set of Lenox china, a crate of crystal stemware and 12 sterling silver table settings from her grandmother. “[My grandmother] told fabulously detailed stories about many of our family’s heirlooms, but for the silver, she could recall dinner parties where it was used, right down to where guests were seated and what was served,” Novak says. “In an act of wild disregard for their perceived preciousness, I too started using the silverware — every day. To this day, I stir my coffee with her spoons. I slurp takeout noodles off the forks. And sometimes I even have a cheeseburger and French fries off a china plate. It feels delightfully decadent, which she was, and makes me feel connected to her every single time. Use the heirlooms!”

17. Plan an epic walk

Actor Andrew McCarthy’s book Walking with Sam: A Father, a Son, and Five Hundred Miles Across Spain, details his five-week trek along Spain’s 500-mile Camino de Santiago with his 19-year-old son. “There were moments near the end where I was just like, Oh my God, my body is done here. Although then the closer to the end it gets, the more emotionally satisfying it becomes. So you’re at a weird sort of juxtaposition of physically getting exhausted and emotionally becoming more elated,” McCarthy told AARP. If you’re looking for a less-traveled pilgrimage, consider Spain’s Mozarabic Way or Camino Mozárabe, Romania’s Via Transilvanica or the Via Francigena, which goes through Switzerland and Italy to Rome. If you’re looking for stateside options, the Appalachian Trail covers 2,174 miles and runs through 14 states. On the other coast, the Pacific Crest Trail is some 2,650 miles and goes between Canada and Mexico, through Washington, Oregon and California. Both can be done in slices!

spinner image illustration of person wearing backpack, walking on path
Illustration: Sam Island

18. Unlock a love of poetry

According to author and poet Lois Marie Harrod, poetry can help us connect with others.  “Poetry helps us imagine what another human being knows and feels,” Harrod says. So head to your library or bookstore and browse through the poetry section. Harrod recommends starting with Kay Ryan, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. "Even better, keep your ears and eyes open for poetry readings, where poets often talk a little about their poems," Harrod says.

19. Ditch reader’s guilt

If you feel the need to continue slogging through a book you're not enjoying, here's our encouragement to stop. “Life is too short” says AARP books editor Christina Ianzito. “If you’re not feeling the love, drop it and pick up another. Reading for pleasure should never feel like homework when there are so many fantastic books out there.”

20. Learn about ancient Greece and Rome

Classic literature possesses enduring themes, historical lessons and powerful cultural resonances. Understanding them will also make you cool at your next dinner party.  “The classics of ancient Greece and Rome exceed the borders of modern nations and help us to think expansively about the ambitions and fragility of human civilizations and the necessity and difficulty of learning from history,” says Emily Greenwood, a professor of classics and comparative literature at Harvard University. For those interested in ancient Greece and Rome, Greenwood suggests these three to start with:

  • Homer’s Iliad: “Emily Wilson’s new translation has given us a living, breathing Homer in English that makes this epic poem move in ways that other English Iliads do not.”
  • Aesop’s Fables: “Aesop perfected the use of animal fables as a vehicle of wisdom and social critique.”
  • Plutarch’s Parallel Lives: “If you gravitate toward political biographies or historical fiction, you will love Parallel Lives — a series of paired biographies of famous Greeks and Romans.”

21. Sit, soak and de-stress

A 2018 study in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that taking a hot bath can reduce depression symptoms and relieve stress. Another study published in 2020 in the journal Heart found that those ages 40 to 59 who took more frequent hot baths were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease. This won’t replace eating well or exercising, but consider soaking in the tub once or twice a week to see if it improves your mood. 

spinner image illustration of someone in bathtub with legs raised in air
Illustration: Sam Island

22. Love your changing body

In The Sex You Want: A Shameless Journey to Deep Intimacy, Honest Pleasure, and a Life You Love (February 2024), author Rena Martine recommends her clients get naked and look in the mirror once per day and write down one thing they see that they like. This exercise is geared to teach us to love our bodies, and to give them credit for taking us through life. “This will be hard at first — you’re undoing perhaps a lifetime’s worth of negative self-talk— but over time, you’ll create new neural pathways and change your lens from one of critique to one of adoration,” Martine writes. “Maybe you can’t go from hating your stretch marks to loving them in a single attempt. The first step can be simply neutralizing how you feel about them. This can be a simple statement of fact (no judgment allowed), like, “I have stretch marks.” Eventually, push yourself to think of the ways your stretch marks are beautiful. This can look like, “My stretch marks are a reminder of how my body made space for me to carry my baby.”

23. Shift your focus to others

Author Tasha Eurich wrote Insight: Why We're Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life to share tangible ways people can improve self-awareness. “With the new year ahead of us, we can make 2024 a more self-aware year than 2023, no matter where we are on that journey,” she says. Eurich shares this advice for interacting with others in a more self-aware way: “Pay attention to how much you talk about yourself versus how much you focus on others — both online and offline.” Eurich suggests focusing on the interests and personality traits of others — and sharing helpful articles, amusing observations and funny videos with that in mind.

24. Take time to reflect and improve

Maurice Ashley is the first Black chess grandmaster and a U.S. Chess Hall of Fame inductee. In his book Move By Move: Life Lessons On and Off the Chessboard (April 2024) he explains how he takes a few moments at the end of each day to ask, “How did I improve today?” and explains: “By doing so, we send a powerful message about the importance of becoming better every single day. Verbalizing this question will create a positive feedback loop as we will soon begin to hold each other accountable for doing what we say we want to prioritize. Once the message is ingrained in a family’s culture, daily improvement will become a natural habit. In a world full of the temptations of instant gratification, having the discipline and patience it takes to incrementally improve in one area or another each and every day provides an enormous advantage.”

25. Be kind to yourself

Above all, give yourself some grace. You don’t have to make huge adjustments to your daily routine all at once. Small, incremental steps often work out better than massive shifts, so be patient with yourself. No matter our age, we are all a work in progress. “Decades of research have shown that setting small, concrete steps are more likely to result in giant leaps toward self-care success,” says John Norcross, a clinical psychologist at the University of Scranton.

 

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