My Take on New Year’s Resolutions (+ The Best of 2020… Whew!)

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Why I dont make new year resolutions and what I do instead
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Wow… what a crazy 525,600 minutes this year has been! For many of us, the intense challenges of 2020 have been a rollercoaster, a teacher, a frustration, and a very very long 12 months.

While it’s tempting to skip over this look back at 2020 altogether, I know I learned many valuable lessons and I don’t want to miss out on really driving those home. Many good things happened too in the middle of it all.

I’d also love to hear any lessons learned for you this year, or what you’re planning to do work on in 2021… please let me know in the comments!

But first, a little review on my approach to New Year’s resolutions overall…

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. After a few years of trying to set and keep New Year’s resolutions, it became clear we needed a different approach in our family.

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) went 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 2020? Here are some favorite experiments and challenges we’ve tried over the years (and I share a full list of mini-experiment ideas 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

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):

  • Replace conventional cleaners and detergents with natural ones (get 15% off my favorite starter kit at Branch Basics with code MAMA15)
  • Swap out plastic cups, plates, or silverware for nontoxic alternatives
  • Clear the mental clutter and reconnect by setting a digital day off (use a kitchen safe if you have to).

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 are headed in the world and environment, 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 2020!

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.

How I’m Starting 2021

So after the year we’ve had, how do we jumpstart for 2021? This answer will be different for each of us of course, but I can tell you what I’m doing.

These are just the highlights… take a listen to my 2020-21 New Year’s podcast for all the details on my 2021 projects, systems, and experiments for this year!

A Water Fast

I usually spend the first week of the year getting focused and writing down some experiments, systems that will take me where I want to go that year. One thing that helps me do that is a week-long water fast. It’s amazing what comes to the surface when you challenge your body and remove something that usually takes up a lot of my time and energy (food).

Reading a TON

I’ve always been a (speed) reader, but last year I read more than ever! Here are some favorites on my nightstand right now:

Personal Challenge: Making Videos!

I’ve never been one to enjoy being on video, so in 2021 I will be pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and sharing more with all of you by video. I’m grateful for the inner work that has helped me become more confident and at peace with myself and ready to do this! I’m also taking voice lessons and doing some stand-up improv to really challenge myself in this area.

But before we rush on from 2020, let’s look back on all that happened…

2020… A Wellness Mama Year in Review

It helps to find the good (even when it’s hard!), so here is a look back at some of my favorite things from 2020:

Highlight of 2020: Getting Fit!

You all know this has been a long journey for me, but I’m so enjoying challenging my body and appreciating it more for what it can do. This year has been full physical challenges that work my vestibular system as well as muscles: pole vaulting, learning how to do a headstand, sauna challenges, putting up a hangboard in our house, and making the hallway into a gymnastics runway. The kids still outdo me but I’m proud of the progress I’m making toward a happier, healthier body and mind.

Some of you have asked for more specifics on my fitness routine, so look for more on that in 2021.

Biggest Lesson Learned: The Value of Family Time

A lot of New Year’s resolutions are about becoming more efficient and organized. I’m all for that (I’m writing a book about it in fact), but one takeaway from 2020 is I want to keep more unstructured family time and time with my kids at the forefront. Even though we were all home in 2020 more than we want to be, I really enjoyed being able to slow and focus on them and their projects, so we’re keeping that in an intentional way in 2021.

Favorite Christmas Memory: Handmade Gifts

Natural and DIY Christmas Gift Ideas

No 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!

My Favorite Product: Still My Sauna!

I’m kind of partial to my new Wellnesse shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste, but after careful thought I had to choose my sauna (again!) as my favorite health product. Nothing beats the quality family time combined with proven health benefits. After all, what else can claim (based on research) a 40% reduction in all-cause mortality?

We have a barrel sauna in the backyard but I also discovered and fell in love with this more portable (and much more affordable) sauna from Creatix this year.

Favorite New Recipes

I’ve always liked recreating my favorite restaurant meals at home, but lately I’ve really been branching out into new ingredients by experimenting with recipes from around the world. Look for lots of Korean inspired recipes on the site this year!

Summer Meal Plan

Best Time-Saver in the Kitchen: Still 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!

Giving Back in 2021…

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!

Happy New Year 2021, 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 2021!

How was your 2020? Are you ready to face a new year or still recovering from the last one? I’d love to hear your lessons learned and what you’ll be up to this year!


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Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


39 responses to “My Take on New Year’s Resolutions (+ The Best of 2020… Whew!)”

  1. erin hassan Avatar
    erin hassan

    can you tell me the book you talked about with jo disanto podcast which you said was about ” knowing your enemy more.. giving you the right to your opinion”. please

  2. Melanie Avatar

    Hi! Thank you a million because you are the first place I come for so many things ?? Happy New Year! I’m trying to find more information in your “systems “ you talk about to organize. Can you point me in the right direction please? Melanie

  3. Amanda Thiessen Avatar
    Amanda Thiessen

    I’m glad I found your blog, Katie, and I’ve enjoyed many of your posts. Congratulations on getting your own product company going!!?
    I’m starting a blog this year too, and one of my first posts is about making and keeping resolutions this year (I’m all about reaching goals and becoming your best self… Not on your own but with the help of our Creator). Happy 2020!!

  4. Holly Avatar

    You rock Katy! Thank you for all your hours of research and inspiration. Cheers to 2020!

  5. kathleen kahl Avatar
    kathleen kahl

    Happy New Year Wellness Mama and family! I hope 2020 is filled with many blessings for all of us!
    Congratulations on starting up your new company. I can’t wait to get the toothpaste. I have never found one I love that is chemical free and have made my own from your recipe. Will be great to have the option of using yours now.
    Keep up the good work!

  6. Becky Avatar

    I agree with you that I don’t like resolutions. I think another big part of why they often fail is because the best goals are quantified and have a clear measure of success or failure along with being reasonable and manageable. I set goals for the year instead with clear ways on how I’m going to accomplish said goal. I may not always make them, but every year I make great progress.

  7. Magdalena VanBuskirk Avatar
    Magdalena VanBuskirk

    Love! So inspiring. Can you send a link with the Journal you like to use? I want to get one but never used before. Thanks!

  8. Lila Nicole Avatar
    Lila Nicole

    Love this post! And love the idea of experimenting (of course, anything Tim Ferriss says is pure gold!).

    And it goes perfectly with my number one goal for the new year – to get out of my comfort zone and try new things. I want to get fit and experiment with new workouts so I can keep my training spicy!

  9. Jacqie Muscha Avatar
    Jacqie Muscha

    I agree with many of the other readers…awesome end of year/beginning of new year blog post. I personally don’t like resolutions myself but am calling this year my year of biohacking where I “experiment” with different supplements and food plans (aka diets) to see what works best for my body and what gets rid of the ailments I suffer most with. I will experiment with reading a different health book each month and see what resonates with me and my body the most. Most of the books I have on my list have come from your suggestions or the people you interview on your blog. Great stuff! Thank you for all that you do! And cheers to your year of experimentation!!!

  10. Jammie Avatar

    Hi Katie, How do you get around immunizations for your family when traveling outside the US?

  11. Kristen Avatar

    So many great tips! Is this red light therapy the same as LED light therapy?

    I really don’t make resolutions but more of intentions and how I want to feel. I like your idea of challenges!

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