Best New Year's resolutions for your age

Instead of making typical New Year's resolutions this year, start making goals that benefit you at each stage of your life. We talk to psychiatrist Dr. Janet Taylor on how setting age-appropriate goals can help you stick to your resolutions and make 2016 your best year yet


A new year brings hope and can trigger a desire to change an aspect of your life. An optimistic spirit of “new year, new me” motivates many to make a New Year’s resolution. Nearly fifty percent of Americans will declare to do more or less of something in their day-to-day lives. Losing weight, exercising on a regular basis and becoming adept at financial management usually top the list of resolutions. If you are like most of us, good intentions may gradually turn into setbacks or flat out despair when a well-thought plan evaporates like smoke. The reality is that only 8 percent of folks will succeed at keeping their New Year’s resolutions.

“Research shows that change is a mixed bag for folks, especially as we age,” Dr. Christine Whelan, faculty member at University of Madison’s School of Human Ecology, said. “It’s exciting and scary, and might seem like a big effort to undo so many of the habits we’ve created over the years.”

Resolutions may fail because people may not be ready for change, or their goals may be too lofty or hard to measure. However, those who are able to keep their goals on track report being able to connect to a sense of purpose, and have goals that are in alignment with their core sense of values.

“It is important to view one’s self and strengths to feel stronger and get personal reinforcement from small successes,” Rich Feller, a Thought Leader with Life-Reimagined (AARP), said.

What’s important to you in your 30’s may differ at a later age. The ability to reflect on your lived experiences can trigger a desire to change an attitude or behavior.

Here are resolutions to consider:

In your 30’s
1) Turn off technology and tune in to each other. Engage in more face-to-face time. Good relationships can contribute to a ‘good life’.

2) De-stress. Identify one source of stress for you. Know how your body feels when stressed and how it impacts your thoughts. List three healthy coping mechanisms and choose one to use daily.

In your 40’s
1) Do a relationship check-up. Sit down with your partner and ask three questions. Do we understand each other when we communicate? Is our relationship where we want it to be? What is one thing that each of us can do to improve our relationship. If you are single, ask the same questions of yourself. How is your communication with others? Think about an outside relationship with a family member or co-worker, and identify an action that you can do to improve a desired outcome.

2) De-clutter. Clearing out a physical space helps you relax and process with more clarity. Begin with one drawer, closet or area. Mindfully throw things away by only keeping what brings you joy or is essential to your life purpose.

In your 50’s
1) Eat this, not that! Inform yourself about your eating patterns. Keep a food journal for one week by writing down everything that you eat and drink. Reflect on it and find one thing that you can do to make your meals and eating patterns healthier.

2) Just do it! Say YES to something or someone every day for a month. Notice how it feels and the freedom of being fearless.

If you are 60+
1) Make a doable bucket list.  Don’t hold back. Choose one item from your list. Write down a date and go for it.

2) Talk to your health care provider yearly about recommended health screens. Make a commitment to schedule and complete them. Remind your loved ones to do the same.

As you make your New Year’s resolutions change your mindset from “I want” to “I am and will” because of a renewed sense of your own purpose and values. Reflect on your life and understand “the why” behind your goals.

Janet Taylor, MD, MPH is a New York City psychiatrist and Life Reimagined Thought Leader. As a Thought Leader for AARP's Life Reimagined movement and the Life Reimagined Institute, she works with the world's leading experts in personal development, aging, transitions, and reimagining life, to help develop the groundbreaking Life Reimagined programs and services. She attended the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky for Undergraduate and Medical School. She received a Master’s of Public Health in Health Promotion/Disease Prevention from Columbia University. She was a recipient of the 2008 Woman in Medicine Award (National Medical Association- Council of Women’s Concerns).