5 New Year’s resolution ideas to keep 2021 realistic and sane

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If you made it through 2020 in one piece, we salute you.

Now, after the year from hell, there’s no reason to torture yourself with unrealistic New Year’s resolutions. Dropping 10 pounds — who’s gonna notice? Toning up for the beach — what’s a vacation?

Instead, the start of 2021 is a good time to go easy on yourself and make sane, actionable changes. It’s amazing what a few small fixes can do to improve your body, mind and life.

Wake and shake

Forget the punishing fitness routine — the most important thing you can do for yourself, according to personal trainer Mansour Mbaye, is move your body after getting out of bed.

“If you sleep in a bad position, you’re going to wake up feeling tight,” said Mbaye, who can be found teaching socially distant group classes in Morningside Park every morning. The fitness guru, who goes by @manotrainer on Instagram, said you have to stretch your muscles before getting down to work: “If you go right to your desk without moving your body you’re in for trouble.”

He suggests committing to this simple, daily practice that takes less than 10 minutes. Within five minutes of waking up, air out the overnight kinks by bending your hips to the right as far as you can, then repeat over to the left. Then, to rev up your lower body, do 20 slow, gentle squats. Strengthen your core by doing 10 situps and 10 pushups (either modified or classic military style) and end with a feel-good yoga pose such as downward dog and a few deep breaths.

Set limits while working from home

Thanks to the pandemic, the boundaries between work and home have officially been breached. And it looks like it will stay that way for the foreseeable future — which is all the more reason to make subtle improvements, said Scott Sonenshein, co-author of “Joy at Work” with Marie Kondo.

Start by finding ways to delineate when work starts — and when it ends, he said. How to do this when your boss is emailing you 24/7? It’s easier than you think.

Create a symbolic commute

This could be a walk down the hallway in your apartment building, or a concerted effort to step away from your home workspace. Sonenshein takes it outside: “In the morning I like to walk around the block and then walk into my house to start work,” he said. “Then, at the end of the day, I ‘commute’ back with another walk, which signals to everyone in my house that my work time has ended.”

Hide your devices

“Emails are intrusive, not just because of the time it takes to read them. It takes 23 minutes for the brain to recover — to pick up from where it left off,” he said. It bears repeating: You’re not giving yourself a break if you go through your emails. You know to put your devices down at the end of the day, but take it a step further: Set them in a drawer — and close it! — till morning. 

Don’t let work consume you

While we’re socially distancing it’s easy to let work take over, especially if you have few hobbies or things that occupy your time. “Instead of saying, ‘I have nothing going on, I’m going to dive into work,’ carve out space for yourself,” he said. “Close your eyes, listen to music and give yourself down time to be able to mentally recover.” 

Pick legit 4 p.m. snacks

It’s not just boredom driving your mid-afternoon cravings — 4 p.m. tends to be the witching hour when cortisol and blood sugar levels naturally drop. Plus, you probably haven’t eaten much since lunch.

“Most of us do better when we eat every three or so hours,” said Isabel Smith, an integrative registered dietitian in private practice in New York City. So what’s the best thing to reach for? Surprise: it’s leftovers.

“Food is always going to be more satisfying than snacks,” she said. “Leftover pasta with chicken is a perfect snack since it has a little protein and a little carbs,” she said. “If you have half an avocado in the fridge from last night’s guacamole, top it with salt or chia seeds or throw it on whole-grain crackers or a piece of toast. Or, make a mini-antipasti plate with a slice or two of turkey, grapes, cut-up veggies and a tiny piece of cheese.” Keep it around one ounce of cheese (either two small dice or a couple of slices) and you’re golden.

Still, working from home means working just steps from the pantry. We hear you and so does Rachel Krupa, CEO of the Goods Mart, a better-for-you convenience store in Soho. Next time that tin of stale Christmas cookies beckons, here are some healthy snack swaps flying off Krupa’s shelves.

The old: Fun-sized candy bars

The new: Gwell Energy Bites, $3.75

Made with matcha, cashews and coconut, these macaroon-like bites will “keep you fueled all afternoon,” said Krupa. “This local brand out of Harlem is known for their functional and delicious treats and these are no exception.”

The old: Peanut butter cups

The new: Mid-Day Squares, $3.95

Sweetened with dates and yacon syrup, each pack “has 8 grams of fiber, 12 grams of protein and not tons of sugar,” Krupa said.

The old: Potato chips

The new: Symphony Chips, $4.95 (7 oz.) and $1.95 (1.5 oz.)

“These are non-GMO, no-MSG, all natural, vegan and are seasoned to perfection,” she said. “They were created by Andre Anderson, a former Las Vegas chef known for his spices.”

The old: Flavored tortilla chips

The new: Tia Lupita Cactus Hot Sauce Tortilla Chips, $5.95

Made with Nopales cactus, not corn, these crunchy chips are higher in fiber than your average dunker. The brand makes a killer hot sauce, too!

The old: Sweet granola bar

The new: Mezcla Japanese Matcha Vanilla Protein Bar, $2.75

“These are sweet, but not too sweet, and the ingredients are simple,” said Krupa of the bars which boast 10 grams of protein. “Pea protein, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, organic vanilla extract, Japanese matcha from Shizuoka Prefecture in Japan — yes, they know where it comes from.”

The old: Beef jerky

The new: Union Pepperoni Crisps, $7.95 (also available on Amazon)

“These are pure protein,” she said. “The ingredients are pork, paprika, salt, garlic and that’s about it. No mystery meat.”

Conquer clutter

There’s no way you’re going to Marie Kondo your entire place — even if you’re tempted to toss out everything you own after spending so much time at home.

Instead, focus on high-traffic areas or clutter “zones” — including the entryway, medicine cabinet and Tupperware drawer — that drive you nuts, said Laura Kinsella, founder of Urban Organyze, a New York City home organizing company that helps simplify and style your space.


This is a great place to start because so much accumulates there, said Kinsella. “Be surgical about what you’re keeping,” she said. “Strip away trash — half-full bags of Goldfish, stilettos you wear every six months and now, never, and dirty disposable masks.”

Once you’ve pared it all down, create landing spots for the things you want to keep. “Set up a bin, bowl or drawer for phones, keys, wallets and create a COVID station for hand sanitizers, masks, goggles and face shields,” she said. If you don’t use something every day — such as a jumbo box of disposable face masks — tuck it away, said Kinsella.

Medicine chest

Throw out all the old and expired items that are only clogging this limited space, Kinsella said.

First, empty the entire medicine chest. “You’ll lose steam if you remove things item by item and you won’t be able to see if you have 15 deodorants by looking at one,” she said. “Pare down to your daily essentials: mouth care, eyes and face. Consider storing less frequently used items or seasonal items like sunscreen under the cabinet or in a closet nearby.”

Another hack from Kinsella? Stock up on small, clear acrylic trays ($3.99 and up from Container Store), which will help you section off items on the shelves and keep them organized. Simply slide out the whole container rather than grabbing for your individual item — it’ll eliminate the possibility of putting something back where it doesn’t belong.

Tupperware drawer

If you’ve been leaning on Seamless through the pandemic, and you’re not packing lunches, you’re probably overloaded on to-go containers, said Kinsella.

First thing’s first: tackle loose lids. “If you have a random lid that doesn’t match a bottom, recycle it,” Kinsella said. Keep the good stuff — “I like containers that nest inside each other like Russian dolls” — and organize the lids near the bottom of the drawer, so that they’re unlikely to move around when you open it. As for those takeout containers: “Save only a couple of meals’ worth and when you get a new one, recycle the old ones, especially if they’re broken or stained,” said Kinsella.

Make sleep sacred

Pandemic-related insomnia is at an all-time high. To give yourself a chance of getting a good night’s sleep, you need to rethink your nighttime habits, said Courtney Bancroft, a New York City clinical psychologist specializing in insomnia and sleep wellness.

Getting a good night’s sleep requires patience and a little willpower, she said. “Try to tap into what it’s like to put a young child to sleep … you wouldn’t give a child chocolate and have her talk about a mean friend at school before bed,” Bancroft said. “Yet we expect to fall asleep immediately after watching the news or reading something upsetting.”

Make time to wind down

Give yourself 20 to 45 minutes of chill-out time every night. Turn off the TV, stop trying to solve the day’s problems and settle down with something relaxing, such as a cup of chamomile tea. “The timing doesn’t have to be strict,” she said. “Some days you’ll need more soothing than others.”

Pick a proven sleep enhancer

Reach for magnesium-rich foods, such as nuts, or take an Epsom salts bath — magnesium works with the central nervous system to promote calming — but don’t overdo it on food and booze. “You don’t want your body to have to focus on digesting,” she said. “That won’t help you sleep soundly.” And even though alcohol is a sedative, even small amounts can actually disrupt your sleep patterns according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Dream up a mantra

Tailor a word or phrase that matches your belief system and repeat it to yourself as you’re lying in bed, as many times as you need to feel calm. “I suggest phrases like ‘I’m safe,’ ‘Resting is good for my body’ and ‘Sleep is healing,’ ” she said. Consider this a personal bedtime story that will, with any luck, last all year long. 

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