My Take on New Year’s Resolutions (+ The Best of 2018)

Why I dont make new year resolutions and what I do instead

I’m going to share a little secret … I’m really competitive. (Like, really.) My husband is the same way. So you’d think we’d be great at New Year’s resolutions, right?

Not so much! Let me explain why…

New Year’s Resolutions: Yay or Nay?

Of course I’m not against the idea of self-improvement (far from it) and I’m in full support of setting New Year’s resolutions if it works for you. It became apparent that we needed something different for our family after a few years of trying to set and keep New Year’s resolutions together.

I’m the first one to say that better habits are worth the effort and that strong daily routines go a long way toward a successful outcome. Still, if you’re like me and winning is important (maybe too important), goal-setting has the potential to be frustrating.

My usual downward spiral when it comes to New Year’s resolutions (or resolutions in general) goes something like this:

  1. I think too big and bite off more than I can chew.
  2. I get mad at myself when I don’t accomplish the goal as I thought I would.
  3. Therefore, I don’t want to make new resolutions.

My intentions, while admirable, were not getting me too far. Time for a new approach!

Out with New Year’s Resolutions… in With Experiments!

Since my husband is the exact same way, one year we had a meeting of the minds (over a glass of wine, of course) and decided to take some pressure off of New Year’s resolutions. That year, instead of resolutions, we would try experiments.

In case you were hoping for something more revolutionary, hear me out…

First, let’s look at the definition of “resolution”:

  1. a firm decision to do or not to do something
  2. the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter

Now let’s compare “experiment”:

  1. a scientific procedure undertaken to make a discovery, test a hypothesis, or demonstrate a known fact
  2. a course of action tentatively adopted without being sure of the eventual outcome

Doesn’t one sound a little more motivating (and fun) than the other?

We totally owe Tim Ferriss for the inspiration for our experimental approach:

“I like pushing myself to the limit and pushing the envelope, and in my mind that is not really compatible with a reliable long-term plan,” says Ferriss. “I generally treat my life as six-month projects and two-week experiments of various types. Then I take the most attractive door that pops up, and rinse and repeat.”

Calling our goals “experiments” (we also call them “challenges” at times) builds excitement about the process and keeps the focus on the learning process more than the end result. We make a hypothesis about what will happen and see what we can learn from the experience… no winning or losing involved.

It may sound like the easy way out but these experiments suit the more intense personalities in our house because they allow us to have laser focus for a shorter period of time. Or, we can just have fun with it and see where it leads, depending on what our family needs at the time.

Ideas for a Healthy New Year (& How to Stay Motivated)

So how to start “experimenting” with a great 2019? Here are some favorite experiments and challenges we’ve tried over the years (and I share a full list of mini-goals for the New Year in this podcast if you’re interested):

1. Keep a Journal

If there’s any one way to make positive changes (and keep them), making long-term things much more accomplishable on a smaller scale and on a daily basis is the place to start. This is where a daily journal comes in.

Research shows that journaling reduces stress and has a real impact on happiness and physical health. I’ve always kept some kind of journal, but this year for the sake of research and a bunch of new health routines I plan to try, I’m experimenting with getting a much more detailed journaling process going, such as:

  • things I’m grateful for
  • a health picture of the day (what I ate, exercise, how I’m feeling, etc.)
  • my daily to-do list
  • a challenge list (more on that in my 2019 New Year’s podcast)

One of my favorite ways to manage my to-do list is to pick the two most important things for the day, every day. (Something besides obviously feeding my family and keeping up with the household, etc.) If all I can get done is those two most important things, then I can consider that day a success!

2. Take a Detox Baby Step

I’m often asked how I “do it all,” and the answer is… a little at a time! The recipes and health articles you see on the blog came to be over 10+ years of experiments, trials, and false starts. I’ve shared my successes, but as my kids would be all too happy to tell you… there were plenty of failures along the way!

This is why I designed my Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox book to offer baby steps that let you tackle a little at a time, in the area of life that matters most to you. Whether it’s your food, cleaning products, makeup and beauty products, or even your mental health that you want to declutter and make healthier, there’s a step that will help with that (in a way that’s not overwhelming or unrealistic).

Some baby steps to start on (covered in detail in the book):

3. Write up (or Refine) a Family Manifesto

Years ago we discovered the power of a family manifesto to shape our family culture. It keeps growing and changing as our family does, but we’re very intentional about pursuing those goals.

I’ve explained more about what’s in our family manifesto elsewhere, but a big goal in our family is to raise kids with an entrepreneurial mindset. This is something that is very important to both my husband and myself. We try to give them opportunities to think outside of the box because with the way some things in the world and environment are headed, we need people who can tackle and solve these problems.

Once we narrowed down to our the core values that really define and excite us, we put it in writing. Visual reminders like these wall quotes help keep us focused on what really matters to our family.

4. Conduct a Sleep Experiment

Having trouble narrowing down to just one thing to tackle this year? What if I told you just one thing could help your body restore and heal, regulate hormone production, boost your mood, and aid in weight loss? Yep, sleep! Plus it’s free (or almost free)!

Of course as moms there are many situations that make it tough to get enough sleep, but when even just one missed night of sleep can give you the blood sugar levels of a diabetic or pre-diabetic, it’s an area to take seriously.

One thing I can control even as a mom is my sleep environment and this is a great place to start experimenting. I go into exactly what I do in this post, but some additional things to try are:

  • avoiding blue light a few hours before sleep (or wear orange glasses)
  • lowering the temperature at night
  • using black-out curtains (and ditching nightlights)
  • investing in a good quality mattress
  • exposure to outdoor light for at least 30 minutes in the morning (or use a sun lamp)

Sleep better and you’re already off to a great start in 2019!

5. Have an Attitude of Gratitude

It sounds cliché, but cultivating gratitude as a daily habit is perhaps even more important than any resolution or experiment, because it’s the secret to fighting stress and staying motivated. The point here is to keep from falling into the trap of thinking, “If only I had XYZ, I’d be happy,” or, “If only I didn’t have to deal with ABC, I’d be happy.” This is a pretty vicious cycle.

I love this TED talk from Shawn Anchor where he points out that gratitude and happiness are the first step and not the end result. So making the choice to be happy and have gratitude is not only healthy, but it can improve performance and success as well! Sometimes just writing down what we’re grateful for (and telling others we’re grateful for them too) is all we need to realize we’re doing just fine.

2018: A Wellness Mama Year in Review

Resolutions aside, I do value this time of year for reflecting on all we’ve done and accomplished. The last 525,600 minutes have been busy, hectic, hard, amazing, rewarding, and so many other things all rolled into one crazy year and I’m so grateful that I got to spend it with all of you!

To celebrate some of the things that make life easier (hooray!), I’m sharing some the best natural living resources and hacks I found in 2018 (and I’d love to hear yours in the comments as well).

Highlight of 2018: Working With My Best Friend!

Heather Dessinger Wellness Mama2018 will go down in the books as one of my very favorite years, because it’s the one when Heather and I decided to join forces! Now we have unlimited excuses to hang out (you know, in the name of health research) and make even better content for all of you.

You’ll see more changes coming on the site soon, and thanks for your patience as we navigate all the technical ins and outs of creating the new and improved Wellness Mama!

Biggest Lesson Learned: Hurricane Michael

How to Stay Safe in a Disaster- Emergency Preparedness ListIt was a real test this year sitting in a hallway of a hotel and watching the predictions that the path of the storm would make landfall exactly where we lived. Trying to choose gratitude in that moment, even realizing everything we owned could be gone, was definitely difficult.

At the same time, it made me realize more than ever how the most important things are people we love and how little else we really need.

Our house was spared, but with the devastation still in many areas around us, there’s a long road ahead for our area. It’s spectacular how people here are pulling together to help each other and I won’t ever forget this lesson about the importance of community.

Favorite Christmas Memory: Handmade Gifts

Natural and DIY Christmas Gift IdeasNo matter how I try to keep them little, my kids just keep getting older. Many of them are starting to handle gifting on their own. I loved seeing how many of them chose to give handmade gifts this year. I’ll cherish these gifts more than anything that could come from a store, and thanks to online courses from Udemy, some of them were complete surprises I didn’t even know they could make!

Biggest Health Game-Changer: SteadyMD

I wrote a lot this year about what we use for health care, and we’ve made some big changes for the better. My family doctor is now only a text away thanks to a service called SteadyMD. They asked me a series of questions about our lifestyle and health preferences and matched each person in the family to the best doctor for them. Our SteadyMD docs are on call 24/7, and mine even specializes in Hashimoto’s (since he has it himself).

We use the family plan so I can text or call the doctor about all of the bumps, scrapes, sprains, and mysterious rashes (oh, the rashes!) that seem to come with having kids.

p.s. If you’ve ever thought about using a health-sharing ministry or service in place of insurance, I write about our (very positive) experience with Samaritan here.

My Favorite New Gadget: The Oura Ring

The Easiest Way to Track HRV, Sleep and Movement with Oura RingI’ve stayed away from sleep trackers and Fitbits until now because I didn’t like the idea of wearing wireless technology… until I found the Oura Ring! Unlike other trackers, the Oura Ring works in airplane mode. It’s incredibly accurate too. I can set fitness goals, track my heart rate, get a view of my physical activity, analyze sleep patterns, and even track my cycle.

Runners Up:

Best Beauty Product: Alitura Naturals

Why I Don't Make New Year's Resolutions & What I Do InsteadJust when I thought I’d perfected my facial routine, I found a skincare line that blows everything I’ve ever tried out of the water. Alitura Naturals makes products that use all of the best organic skincare ingredients like jojoba oil, rosehip oil, bee propolis, astaxanthin, neroli oil, and more. I interviewed Alitura founder Andy Hnilo in this podcast, and the story behind his company is so inspiring.

Runners Up:

Best New Health Product for Kids: Genexa

I can’t even tell you how excited I am that there is now a natural, organic, dye and preservative-free line of over-the-counter medicines at the corner pharmacy. It’s basically what I’ve dreamed about for years. I use Genexa’s Sleepology when the kids can’t sleep, Allergy-D for seasonal allergies, and their Cold Crush and saline spray to loosen congestion… but the whole line is amazing. Check them out here.

Runner Up:

  • Ready, Set, Food! – Only in the runner-up category because it is for the more limited category of babies ages 4-11 months, but this is a break-through new product all moms should know about, especially if you worry about your children developing food allergies.

Favorite New Recipe

Pho recipe in the Instant PotI’ve always liked recreating my favorite restaurant meals at home, but this was the year I perfected some of my favorite “at-home take-out” meals (and saved a lot of money in the process):

Favorite Snack On the Go: PaleoValley Beef Sticks

Hands down, my favorite kid-friendly snack in the pantry are these PaleoValley beef sticks. Unlike a lot of other snacks they deliver a solid dose of protein and keep kids satisfied until we get to where we’re going. They’re also organic, grass-fed, and shelf-stable without preservatives thanks to a natural fermentation process. My kids’ favorite flavors are the Original and the Summer Sausage.

Runners up:

Summer Meal Plan

Best Time-Saver in the Kitchen: Real Plans

Without a doubt, the tool that saves me the most time in the kitchen is Real Plans for meal planning. The Instant Pot saves me the most time in cooking, but Real Plans saves time planning and shopping (and it has many Instant Pot recipes too!). My favorite part? It is so easy to use that I can plan everything from my phone while waiting at kid activities!

Word of the Year

I’m keeping my word of the year from 2018 because I think it’s still fitting — “community.” It couldn’t be more fitting as I’m trying to focus on building strong community in our home, our city, and here on the blog. What is your word this year? If you need ideas, try this word of the year generator for a kickstart!

Giving Back in 2018…

From the very beginning, the mission of Wellness Mama has been to help other families live healthier lives and empower moms (and dads) with practical ways to accomplish this.

I feel like the mission to help parents provide healthy food for their families doesn’t stop in my own community or even just in the blogging community as there is such a need for this internationally.

Did you know?

If you’ve ever clicked a link on the site and made a purchase from there, you’ve helped keep up and running, and a percentage of that is also donated to charities that provide sustainable food and water sources worldwide. Thank you so much if you’ve helped support my blog in this way and also helped support many others worldwide.

Reviewing the numbers today, the giving is the real thing that I’m most excited about and most proud of. Over the years, the Wellness Mama Community… YOU… have helped provide items to families in need all over the world.

These gifts not only provide food or clothing to those in need, but in many cases, also a sustainable food or water source and a way for a family to earn an income.

Over the years, you’ve helped give:

  • 2000 pounds of non-perishable foods
  • 840 chickens for eggs, meat and income for families
  • 72 pigs for food and income for families
  • 12 goats for food and income for families
  • 4 donkeys for transportation and tilling
  • 3 water pumps that each provide water to a village
  • 4 beehives for food and income for families
  • 20 fruit trees so that families can grow the fruit and sell
  • 10 pairs of work boots so farmers can work safely
  • 5 sets of agricultural tools for small farmers
  • 10 large coolers for fishermen to store fish to sell
  • 8 sewing machines and thread/material for women to open sewing businesses
  • plus medical supplies and school supplies for children around the world

These things were donated through Food for the Poor in case you want to send some chickens to someone in need this year 🙂

I’ve always been a big believer in the “teach a man to fish” mentality, and giving in this way not only provides food or water for someone one time, but helps other families to start their own businesses and provide food for their children regularly.

Because at the end of the day:

We’re All in This Together…

Again, thank you so much for reading, for being a part of the Wellness Mama community, and for sharing in the mission of providing a healthier future for our children.

In 2019 I hope you’ll join me in one of my personal goals: to let go of the stress, expectations, and perfectionism that seem to go hand in hand with modern motherhood. To set a good example for my children and teach them the coping skills to manage stress as they get older.

If this sounds like a lofty goal, it’s only because it’s one I’ve been working on for years. I can finally say I’m at the point where I’m letting go of old habits and convincing my Type-A driven personality to make self-care and self-compassion a priority.

I’ll be talking about these things a lot more on the blog this year, and sharing the systems and habits that have made the difference for me. Hopefully what I’ve experienced will help some of you, and I’m sure you’ll have ideas for me!

Happy New Year 2019, Wellness Mamas!

I may be the original Wellness Mama, but the truth is all of you make this community what it is — a tribe of moms searching for better ways to care for ourselves and our families. I’m honored to be on the journey with all of you, and I wish each of you a very peaceful, happy, and healthy 2019!

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? What works or doesn’t work for your family? I’d love to hear your ideas for experiments, challenges, or resolutions!

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