Thoughtful challenges, habit-forming rituals, and the convenient excuse to simply learn something new—without the overwhelming pressure to transform into a beautiful butterfly by the end of the year.
The “new year, new me!” narrative is tired. But who doesn’t love the alluring captivation of a fresh start? No matter the state of the world or our current personal hardships, January brings special magic for new beginnings.
When my son was born with an ultra-rare diagnosis, including a limited life expectancy—seven years ago, celebrating the new year took on new meaning. Since then, I have found the new year’s to be an extra opportune time for intentionally adding enrichment and honor to my life.
I’ve compiled a few of my favorite ways to creatively ring in the new year from the past seven years, as well as additional suggestions after polling friends on Instagram.
1. The 52 Hike Challenge
A few miles out in nature, closing the year with a sunset hike, or welcoming in the new year with a sunrise jaunt are both beautiful rituals.
If you’re looking for more, consider the “52 Hike Challenge.”
From the 52 Hike Challenge website: “A challenge where you will gain physical fitness, mental well-being, make new friends, explore new places, and connect with family, friends, and yourself through nature.”
Connecting with other participants on outside adventures, as the pandemic drones on, has obvious health benefits, as does simply getting out and exploring new places once a week on your own or with a buddy. The AllTrails app is a great place to discover new trails for outdoor enjoyment in your area or any destination. Journaling about your weekly hikes or walks could be a thoughtful addition as well.
2. Six weeks of sobriety
While attending the Elephant Academy Write your Heart Out course earlier this year, we were encouraged to choose a specific mindful life challenge to commit to over the six weeks of class. Six weeks is the sweet spot for forming new habits. I chose to not wear my shoes indoors for the entirety of the course, and it definitely stuck, as I write this many months later.
Limiting alcohol intake is a popular New Year’s resolution. Challenging yourself to six weeks of sobriety will carry over long past the 42 days, providing a genuine shift in perspective. Or, maybe even better, over those six weeks, you may find your alcohol-free life to be vastly improved and quit the booze altogether. This happened for my husband and I, going on four years ago, while a few weeks into a 100-day alcohol-free challenge. We haven’t looked back since!
3. Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Days of Yoga
I discovered Yoga with Adriene in a time of significant darkness back in 2016. I typed “sad yoga” into YouTube, which prompted her “Let it Go” practice to pop up. This vinyasa flow reignited my love for yogic movement. For the three following years, I took full advantage of her annual 30 Days of Yoga with a new practice every day in January. An unexpected benefit was connecting with friends and other people all over the globe who are were participating.
At the time, I didn’t have the funds to attend in-person yoga and sincerely appreciated Adriene’s 10 dollars per month membership or free videos on YouTube. In our current times of virtual everything, you may have local yoga instructors offering something similar. Or, maybe hybridize the options by finding a couple of in-studio or virtual classes locally, then take advantage of Adriene’s daily offering on the off days.
4. Start a fun journaling project
Purchasing a book full of prompts and setting a regular time to journal will keep the writer’s block (and excuses) out of the way whilst providing creativity to your writing. There’s an abundance of options available with a variety of topics. Getting our thoughts and goals down on actual paper is powerful. I’m personally excited to start making my way through Glennon Doyle’s newly released Get Untamed: The Journal in early 2022.
5. Loosely commit to cooking one new recipe a week
Treating ourselves to a couple of new cookbooks (thrift stores are a great place to look) written by a specific author or focusing on a particular cuisine type provides easy inspiration. Committing loosely is key. Shooting for two or three new dishes a month is a realistic and approachable goal, keeping it fun and low stress.
6. Marie Kondo the crap out of your home
A full-on January “declutter to donate” is something I start craving and itching for in the late fall months. Closets, drawers, Rubbermaid totes in our garage—nothing is safe! The process has gotten significantly easier over the years, as we’ve bought less with much more intention going forward.
As basic as The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has become, Marie Kondo’s book is still considered one of my personal top 10 life-changing books. Having a home that consists of only the items that spark joy—and I’m the opposite of a minimalist—brings me immense happiness. The lack of thoughtless clutter and the act of donating the items that no longer serve helps my anxiety, too.
7. Learn something new
Choosing a topic to hone in over the next 365 days could open doors to passions you never knew existed. A friend who chose to lean into Ayurveda in 2021 made this suggestion. The possibilities are obviously endless, but a couple I’m personally considering are delving into the magic of the lunar cycles or the art of Tarot reading, allowing me to finally put my deck to use more than the random pull with Sunday morning coffee.
8. Start an easy daily gratitude practice
Pam Grout’s book, Thank & Grow Rich: A 30-Day Experiment in Shameless Gratitude and Unabashed Joy, is, in my humble opinion, the perfect book to start the new year with. I read it back in the fall of 2016 and the simple practice is still with me today. The book is lighthearted, quirky, and powerful. It comes with actual gifts: a sign, a totem, an answer, and a present from the natural world.
My experience was legit, in receiving an out-of-the-blue request from a local news station to interview me on my tiny Etsy business in mid-November of 2016—providing me with a fun opportunity and an onslaught of pre-holiday sales. Maybe a reread is overdue.
9. Treat yourself to a new self-care practice
Bath bombs and CBD-infused lotions are great, but I’m talking about practices that can be regularly incorporated into our lives to provide long-term benefits. Two of my favorites are The MELT Method and Wildling Beauty.
10. Choose an intentional word for the year
This is similar to a resolution, but without the overwhelming pressure. Many choose to view it as what they want to be anchored in or their overall theme to strive for in the new year. With it being a single word, the choice can be as broad or specific as one wants.
Mine last year was “enrich,” and I’m leaning toward “trust” for 2022.
I’d love to hear yours in the comments!