Updated 25 January 2017

10 resolutions you can actually keep

New Year's resolutions usually result in one thing: guilt. Maybe you're setting the bar too high? Check out these ones you might actually be able to stick to.

New Year's resolutions usually result in one thing: guilt. By 4 January. Because you've smoked again, or ate a burger, or snapped at the kids, or slept late instead of going to gym. And then had two cups of coffee – with lots of sugar.

Ever thought that your resolutions fall by the wayside because you're too ambitious? You might just be setting yourself up for failure. What about starting small, and having a chance at succeeding? Then maybe next year you can tackle one of the biggies.

Why not make life a lot easier for yourself this year by trying out the following?

Two fruits a day. Right. We all know you should be having about five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. But have you had anything today? Or did your menu for the day so far consist of a custard Copenhagen, a hot dog, coffee (3 cups) and a piece of fudge? So let's start small. Buy a bag of apples or bananas, and take one of each to work every day. Just get into a new habit. Just do it.

Me-time at least once a week. You're on the run and the weeks slip by as you rush between work, home, shopping, kids and housework. You laugh at people who say you should take half an hour off for yourself every day. You try that if you have a toddler who even follows you into the toilet. But seriously, you do need time out every now and then. Get someone else to stand in for you, even if it is for an hour a week and do something you really enjoy – go for a walk, read a magazine, go and sit in a coffee shop, or phone a friend. Whatever blows your hair back. But time out every now and then is essential for your sanity.

Join the library. It's free. Unless you habitually take back your books four weeks late. But it can provide you with lots of entertainment. Books are expensive to buy, but that's no reason for you to stop reading if you're armed with a library card. And what's more, who knows which interesting like-minded souls you'll find between Q and R on the shelves? (But skip the magazine reading section – most people who hang out there look a bit like they should be on "Missing person" posters.)

Do a 10-minute clean. It's the end of the day and all you want to do is flop into your bed and leave the toys and the washing and the dishes. Quite understandable. But you will be surprised how much you can do in 10 minutes. Put a load in the washing machine, chuck the toys in a box, and just stack and soak the dishes in the sink. You will be so grateful in the morning.

Cutting coffee consumption. Lots of caffeine will increase your blood pressure. And do lots of other things to you. Stopping entirely with drinking tea or coffee isn't easy. But everyone can make an effort to cut down, or at least switch to a decaffeinated brand for the last cup or two of the day. It might even help you to get a good night's rest.

Hook your keys. Yes, you know. You spend at least 10 – 20 minutes a day searching for your keys. And if you have small children, they could be anywhere, including under the fridge or inside the linings of the lounge curtains. Put up a hook two metres (out of reach from someone knocking on the door) from the front door, and hang your keys there as you come in. You'll be amazed at how much simpler it can be to get up and go.

Go for a flu shot. Generally you ignore those pharmacy pamphlets that urge you to do this. But just think for a second – how much did you spend on flu medications this winter? Definitely much more than the odd fifty bucks an injection would have cost you. And then there were also the two nights you couldn't breathe because your nose was blocked, and you felt like a suma wrestler was sitting on your chest? The injection takes a couple of seconds, you can get it at the local pharmacy, and if you're on a medical scheme, chances are they'll pay for it. Do it before you realise your eyes have started to water and your throat feels as if a maniac with a razor blade has had a go at it.

Do a daily 10-minute walk. Studies have shown that this can reduce your chances of a heart attack by almost fifty percent. It's not that difficult to incorporate this into your day. Walk the couple of blocks to fetch your kid from school, or to the shop, rather than just grabbing the car keys. This doesn't take the kind of major commitment that a serious exercise programme would. While the latter is of course always desirable, this article is about those resolutions that you might be able to keep.

Make your bed. If you're one of those people whose house is always tidy, skip this paragraph. It's not for you. But for the rest of us, who have been known not to open the front door, because of the mess that lurked inside, let's get down to the nitty-gritty: did you make your bed this morning? (And while we're at it: where are the clothes you had on yesterday?) An unmade made bed seems to be the focal point of the disaster area that is your room. It will just make you feel better if you give the duvet a pluck. And it should take you all of three seconds. And spare a thought for people who still lived in the sheets and blanket days.

Cook and freeze. On the run, readymade foods provide short-term solutions – but they could also provide long-term financial and health problems. Live on junk food, and watch the money in your purse disappearing and your overall health deteriorating. Whether you cook one meal, or five, the time it takes you will be more or less the same. Things like soups and stews freeze very well, and will provide you with a healthy meal when you drag in through the front door at eight o' clock in the evening after a marathon AGM. In short - drive past the drive-through.

Take a multivitamin. A good multivitamin is a bit like a good partner. You need a dose of it every day and it takes care of you before you even know you need care. Ask your pharmacist about a good brand and you could save hundreds of rands that you would otherwise have spent on treating a variety of ailments.

Smile ten times a day. OK, most people are awake at least 16 hours a day. This roughly means smiling at someone once every hour and a half. Not at the same person, because he or she might just think you're on something. Or after something. But smile at people at work, or at the assistant behind the counter in the grocery store, or the petrol attendant, or even your children, and watch your stress levels go down. People are seldom rude or difficult to those who smile at them.


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