It happens every year.
On Jan. 1, we set over-the-top ambitious New Year’s resolutions to, say, lose 15 pounds, declutter the whole house and finally kick credit card debt to the curb. Then life happens, and by February those resolutions evaporate like spilled champagne.
But who says you have to wait until 2018 for a do-over? Now might be the perfect time for a resolution reset. Here are 12 life-simplifying tools that might inspire you to keep reaching for a happier and healthier 2017.
1. Crash diets are so 2016. If you want a healthy eating plan that sticks, try the no-gimmicks DASH Diet, which emphasizes whole foods and doesn’t omit any food group, such as grains, meat or dairy.
The diet was designed to lower blood pressure but is recommended for anyone looking to lose weight, lower cholesterol, improve heart health or manage diabetes. It was recently ranked the No. 1 best diet overall for the seventh year in a row by U.S. News & World Report.
Want to get cooking? Check out “DASH Done Slow: The DASH Diet Slow Cooker Cookbook” (Rockridge Press, 2016). Its 100 recipes require no more than 10 ingredients and 15 minutes of prep time. Examples include Chicken Burrito Bowls, Pork Chili Verde, Red Beans & Rice and Maple Banana Sundaes.
Master your gadgets
2. Do you know how to recover photos after accidentally deleting them? Or how to bring a damp smartphone back from the dead?
“Pogue’s Basics: Tech” (Flatiron Books, 2014) is basically a user’s manual for all the gadgets in your life. It’s written by David Pogue, a former New York Times writer, so it reads more like a series of engaging tech columns than a textbook.
The book is chock full of tips and tricks that will help you master your devices, email, social networks and more. Consider it the antidote to a disorganized digital life.
3. If increasing mindfulness is at the top of your to-do list, but you can’t seem to carve out five minutes a day to meditate, try Headspace, an anxiety-busting app that bills itself as a “gym membership for your mind.” Since launching in 2010, Headspace has amassed more than 5 million users. Actress Emma Watson calls it “kind of genius.”
Newbies should start with Headspace’s free introductory series, Take10, which includes 10 10-minute sessions. The first session quickly quiets the mind with breathing and listening exercises.
Those who want to dive deeper into meditation might consider springing for a membership, which costs $12.95 per month or $7.99 per month with a one-year commitment.
Want to better your community in 2017? It’s not too late to start giving time or money to a cause that speaks to you. A few ideas:
4. Harvesters, a regional food bank that serves 26 counties in northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas, has a helpful website (harvesters.org) with info about how to donate food, hold a food drive or volunteer as an individual or with a group.
5. Happy Bottoms, a Kansas City diaper bank that provides diapers to low-income families, is always looking for donations and volunteers to fill orders or organize the warehouse in Lenexa. Find out more at happybottoms.org.
6. Sleepyhead Beds provides clean, recycled beds and bedding to local families with children who need a comfortable place to sleep. Volunteers can donate gently used bedding, give $30 to help pay for the delivery of a child’s bed, or help sanitize, pick up or deliver beds. For more info, go to sleepybeds.org.
7. There’s always a reason not to go to the gym. It’s too cold. It’s too late. You missed that class. You forgot those shoes.
Skip the excuses and start working out at home with a streaming service such as Daily Burn, which is like Netflix for fitness fans. For $14.95 per month, you get access to more than 600 workouts, including yoga, dance, cardio and weightlifting. The sweat sessions are led by certified trainers such as Bob Harper from NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and range from beginner-friendly to advanced. Newbies can sign up for a free trial at dailyburn.com.
8. Athletic types might prefer Beachbody on Demand, a streaming service for high-intensity workouts such as P90X, Insanity and TurboFire, a 90-day cardio conditioning program. The program also offers a free 30-day trial period. After that, it’s about $10 per month with a six-month commitment.
9. If paring down possessions is your goal, get inspiration from the Minimalists, two 30-something friends who dropped out of corporate careers and “consumer-driven lifestyles” in pursuit of the simple life.
The Minimalists, otherwise known as Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, have shared their philosophy in books, essays, a documentary and a free podcast called (what else?) “The Minimalists.” Since it launched a year ago, it has become the No. 1 health podcast on iTunes. The 50-plus episodes focus on living a meaningful life with less stuff, so it’s only natural that the first is called Declutter.
One strategy in that episode: Commit to a 30-day decluttering challenge with a friend. Get rid of one object on the first day, two on the second day and so on. The person who gets furthest in the 30-day challenge wins.
The podcast isn’t just about stuff, though. Other episodes focus on ditching baggage when it comes to parenting, debt, travel and relationships.
10. Investing can be intimidating, especially for first-timers who know squat about stocks and bonds. But several apps out there make diversifying your financial portfolio easy.
Acorns, which costs $1 a month, allows you to automatically invest spare change with every purchase. The app syncs with your credit cards and rounds every transaction up to the nearest dollar. Those pennies are invested across 7,000 stocks and bonds, which reduces risk.
According to Forbes, “Acorns presents a perfect solution for beginning investors to get their feet wet; transforming the age-old piggy bank into a 21st century smartphone app that can generate tangible returns.”
11. If you want to hand-pick stocks, try Stash. The app arranges stocks into categories such as “Clean & Green” — a collection of companies specializing in renewable energy — and “American Innovators” — tech giants such as Apple and Microsoft.
Each category contains details on the stocks’ risk level, plus recent gains or losses, so you can see what you’re buying into. Invest as little as $5 at a time.
The app costs $1 a month, but the first three months are free. According to nerdwallet.com, “Stash’s goal is to introduce beginners to investing, and that’s what it does best.”
12. Anyone who uses a planner to stay organized knows that daily to-do lists can quickly get out of control. As the day goes on, the list grows — and so does the desire to procrastinate.
The Productivity Planner, a daily organizer from the Toronto-based company Intelligent Change, helps you focus on important tasks, “not the busy work that makes days slip away.” Each page features an inspirational quote (Example: “Why do anything unless it is going to be great?”) and blank lines for the day’s most important, secondary and additional tasks.
You write in a target and actual time for each task, and at the end of the day, rate your productivity on a scale from 1 to 10. The goal of the Productivity Planner, which costs $24.95 at intelligentchange.com, is to tune out distractions and home in on what really matters. After all, isn’t that what we all want in 2017?