How to own your New Year's resolutions (at least for a month)

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YOUR RESOLUTIONSIt’s a day that everyone dreads: Jan. 2.

The parties are over, the presents put away, the decorations back in their boxes. And with everything closed up for another holiday season, there are officially no more available excuses for putting off those New Year’s resolutions.

But this year, instead of tormenting yourself by making unreasonable plans for the next 364 (!) days, try this alternative, proven approach:

Eat an elephant.

(You might have heard the old riddle: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Note that we’re not actually suggesting you eat an elephant, as that would be a very weird resolution.) So rather than worry about making huge promises for the entire calendar year, start slow. Take it one month at a time. Studies have shown that it takes about 21 days (or 30 repetitions) for an action to become a habit, and you can do anything for 30 days, right?

 

COMMIT TO A DAILY, VARIED EXERCISE ROUTINECOMMIT TO A DAILY,
VARIED EXERCISE ROUTINE

Anyone can promise to walk a mile every morning or hit the gym three mornings a week, but those ideas might be a little obvious to actually stick. Try something new. Find a friend to come with you: Studies show that people engaged in group activities are more likely to stick with something than those who go it alone.

COMMIT TO A DAILY, VARIED EXERCISE ROUTINEStill, if you’re committed to the traditional route, try taking your daily walk to the beach or the island’s wealth of nature trails. Walk the dog farther and more often. Park in a remote corner of the parking lot. Take the stairs at work, or pack a lunch and walk to a nearby park, bench or sunny spot. Just keep in mind the basic idea: Move it.

 

BREAK THE BLACK HABITBREAK THE BLACK HABIT

Or the jeans-and-sweater uniform. Or the T-shirtand-khakis look. Or whatever fashion rut you’ve fallen into (and it happens to the best of us). Here’s a good first step: Pull out the clothes you always wear and lock them in the guest room closet. Don’t go near them for a month. Then, go back to your bedroom closet, take pictures of what’s left and bring the snapshots to helpful folks like the experts at Palmettoes in Sea Pines Center or The Porcupine in Village at Wexford. They’ll suggest ways to mix, match and accessorize, and you’ll wind up with fresh new looks. (Oh, and while you’re in your closet, clean it out. Do you see how the picture below is making you stressed out and uncomfortable? Us too. Be ruthless.)

 

GET YOUR FINANCES UNDER CONTROL, USING A LOCAL MAGAZINE IF POSSIBLEGET YOUR FINANCES UNDER CONTROL,
USING A LOCAL MAGAZINE IF POSSIBLE

Studies — at least informal studies of people we know — confirm that financial promises usually top everyone’s resolution lists. And while we’d love to tell you that there’s a quick fix that can solve everything, there are actually more like 15. Flip back to page 28 (if you haven’t been there already) to find out how families of all kinds and sizes can shore up their financial situations.

 

WRITE A REAL LETTER (ON PAPER, WITH AN ENVELOPE, LIKE THIS ONE)WRITE A REAL LETTER (ON PAPER,
WITH AN ENVELOPE, LIKE THIS ONE)

When’s the last time you saved a memorable tweet? Who ever heard of a scented love wall post? Indulge in a good pen and some snazzy stationery and write a real letter, with a pen, to someone with whom you’ve lost touch. (Alternatively, you can make one of those “phone calls” that used to be so popular.) Reconnect in a deliberately thoughtful and meaningful way and you’ll be surprised at the joy that comes back to you.

 

 

 

DEVOTE ONE HOUR A DAY TO LEARNING SOMETHING NEWDEVOTE ONE HOUR A DAY
TO LEARNING SOMETHING NEW

Have you ever wanted speak Italian? Learn to knit? Become a better cook? Determine what all those buttons on the digital camera are for? Try your hand at watercolors? Figure out what your computer is doing when it makes noises like that? Check out the SHARE Center, the University of South Carolina Beaufort or the Technical College of the Lowcountry and ask about available classes, or ask for lessons from a friend with a special skill you admire.

 

INVENT A REASON TO HANG OUT WITH FAMILYINVENT A REASON TO
HANG OUT WITH FAMILY

You don’t have to call everyone on a set schedule, or promise to hang out every other weekend or even spend much of your free time together. But figure out a way to make being with your family a routine. Try instituting a monthly dinner with everyone who can make it, and to sweeten the deal pick a theme for each: Greek, French, breakfast, whatever. Have everyone contribute a dish (or at least a bottle of wine), throw the whole mess on the table and see what you can come up with.

 

SHOP THE THRIFT STORESSHOP THE THRIFT STORES

Hilton Head and Bluffton boast scores of thrift and resale shops, where real treasures abound at low, low prices. Check out the Bargain Box (546 William Hilton Parkway, 843-342-2469), the island’s oldest thrift shop and a place where you can still find a designer blouse for $1 and crystal glasses for 50 cents. Stop by the Litter Box (46 Old Wild Horse Road, 843-842-6369) on Hilton Head, which benefits the Humane Association, or Off-Island Thrift (18 Plantation Park Drive, 843-815-7771) in Bluffton, which helps cancer patients. Stop by Chella D (119 Arrow Road), a resale shop with a fashion-savvy staff that can put together a whole look from shoes to accessories. Resolve to go treasure hunting, use your imagination and come up with something sensational.

 

READ. MORE.READ. MORE.

Better still, read something you’ve already got on your bookshelves — that one you never got around to last summer, the one you were assigned in college but just skimmed, or just a favorite that you haven’t revisited in a while. Everyone’s bookshelves hold some hidden treasures — you just need to look.

AMAZON.COM’S READING LIST
Here, start with one of Amazon.com’s top 10 books of 2010:

  1. “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” Rebecca Skloot
  2. “Faithful Place,” Tana French
  3. “Matterhorn,” Karl Marlantes
  4. “Unbroken,” Laura Hillenbrand
  5. “The Warmth of Other Suns,” Isabel Wilkerson
  6. “Freedom,” Jonathan Franzen
  7. “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest,” Stieg Larsson
  8. “To the End of the Land,” David Grossman
  9. “Just Kids,” Patti Smith
  10. “The Big Short,” Michael Lewis

 

RESOLVE TO DINE WHERE THE DEALS ARERESOLVE TO DINE
WHERE THE DEALS ARE

A small bit of investigative work can turn out great 2-for-1 deals at local spots like Frankie Bones, Black Marlin and Skull Creek Boathouse, and other restaurants often offer the same, especially in the off-season. Signe’s Heaven Bound Bakery has a three-free-cookies offer through the middle of the month. Get out there, research the specials, discover the deals, clip the coupons, grab a friend, and try new places. Resolve not the pay full price for a month!

 

ABANDON A VICE (for 30 days)ABANDON A VICE
(for 30 days)

Maybe you don’t want to break up with Ben & Jerry on a permanent basis, but you surely go without seeing them at midnight for a month. The same goes for cigarettes, cocktails or gossip. It’s just for a month — what’s the worst that could happen?

 

AMP UP YOUR VOLUNTEERINGAMP UP YOUR
VOLUNTEERING

Just about every nonprofit in the Lowcountry could use your help. Paint sets for the Main Street Youth Theatre. Read at the library, the Boys & Girls Club or a nursing home. Help with organizing at Deep Well, or pitch in with Habitat for Humanity. Whether you’re greeting people at Volunteers in Medicine or organizing a fundraiser for Heroes on Horseback, your help is always welcome. There’s no better way to start the New Year than by helping others.

 

WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T STOP NOWWHATEVER YOU DO,
DON’T STOP NOW

Finally, once you’ve made it through the first month and are feeling pretty good about yourself, go for it in February, too! After all, there are only 28 days in February. And you can do anything for 28 days.