When it comes to New Year's resolutions, you know the drill. The dawn of a new year is supposed to be a time when we wipe the slate of the previous year clean and get to work on being our best selves — but for so many women, the theory of making a New Year's resolution turns into the practice of critiquing our bodies and stressing ourselves out. In a survey of 822 Bustle readers, 41 percent resolved to lose weight or exercise more in 2017, and 23 percent said that New Year's resolutions made them feel depressed, stressed out, or disappointed in themselves.
Rather than playing into this cycle of self doubt, Bustle is encouraging readers to rethink the concept of the New Year's resolution in 2017 — to start a resolution revolution, if you will. After a year where open season was declared on women's rights and women's bodies, it's imperative that we focus on making 2017 a year in which we empower ourselves, support others, and embrace who we are in real life, rather than tear ourselves down and make ourselves feel small or inadequate. It's time to focus our considerable energies on things that matter more than a number on a scale or a size on a dress. Things like volunteering for organizations that benefit women, girls, and members of the LGBTQ community. Things like taking the time to meditate so that we can face each day with a sense of calm and purpose. Things like playing sports or working out because it makes us feel strong and capable, not because it helps us to better conform to a misguided cultural ideal of beauty. Things that make us feel powerful and confident, and that help others to feel powerful and confident, too.
But you don't need to start a grassroots organization or run a marathon in order to make 2017 an empowering year. To get you started, here are 31 little ways to make 2017 the best year yet for the real you — not some mythical, idealized version of you that all those diet ads are pushing you to achieve. You got this.
Psst! Check out the "You IRL" stream in the Bustle App for daily tips on how to have an empowering 2017 starting Jan. 1. Right now, tweet @bustle about how you plan to make 2017 the best year yet. Use the hashtag #2017IRL, and your tweet could be featured on our app.
It can be really difficult to tell people no, especially if you like to please others. Here's the thing, though: saying yes when you know that you need to say no isn't good for anyone involved. When you put other people's needs above yours, you end up over-committing yourself at work, offering to run errands for your loved ones that you don't really have time to run, and having sex when you don't actually want to — all things that aren't good for you.
"It’s not just what you say, it’s the way that you say it," businesswoman Cindy Gallop tells Bustle. "So, tone and visible attitude and behavior has a huge part to play in [challenging] dialogues, and when you adopt the right tone, the right approach, you can say anything and get away with it." So the next time you feel like you're saying yes when you should be saying no, remember that saying no is healthy — and say it firmly.
Even if you enjoy reading, finding the time and patience to read can be challenging. Killing it at work, managing healthy relationships, and sticking to your self-care routine often takes priority over reading. That said, the health benefits of reading are extensive. Reading can improve your memory, inspire creativity, reduce stress, and even make you a better lover. Plus, you know, knowledge is literally power. (Thank you, Schoolhouse Rock.)
OK, so, no pressure on this, but amateur modeling is fun and empowering as hell, in my opinion. There are lots of ways to do it, too. If you're friends with any photographers, ask them if they'll give you a shoot in exchange for your promotion of their business. If you live near a university and you find nudity empowering, consider modeling for an art class or two. If you want to get even wilder than that (ahem, I do) then you might want to submit a sexy pic to the ladies over at Me In My Place. It's an Instagram account of, "real women in their own place." As a frequent visitor of the page, I can tell you from experience that, like the bio says, the account is "not too crazy and just a pinch of naughty."
In addition to being a great way to stay physically fit, self-defense classes can build self confidence, increase awareness, encourage self-discipline, and improve balance. On top of that, if you take a self-defense class or two, you'll be better equipped to protect yourself from bad people. So whether you attend one self-defense workshop in 2017 or sign up for a year of Tae kwon do classes, you're definitely going to feel (and be) more powerful for it.
To quote Amy Poehler, "It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you've been taught to feel sorry for." Saying sorry can become a habit. Habits can be broken, though, and this one definitely should be.
Don't get me wrong — you should still say sorry the next time you mess up at work or treat someone poorly. But if you find yourself saying sorry when other people bump into you, when you accidentally laugh super-loudly in public, or to preface chiming in at work, then you probably could stand to cut back on the apologies. For those times when you don't need to say sorry, but you feel like you've got to say something, here are a few examples of what to say instead.
Sometimes, the key to changing your life is starting small. Reading 10 minutes a day, drinking more water, hitting the gym a couple times a week, and going to bed even one hour earlier than normal are all pretty realistic goals — but sticking to even two of them could potentially change your life. Plus, the more little goals you achieve, the more your self-esteem will grow. Then, when you've built yourself up, you'll have the confidence and the ability to pursue bigger things.
Meditation is physically, emotionally, and mentally empowering. The practice not only improves everything from immune function to blood pressure, it can also make us more empathetic. On top of all that, mediation can literally free your mind from anxiety, (at least temporarily) and increase your pain tolerance. So, yeah, meditation is for badasses, and we should all be doing it daily.
"Take deep, cleansing breaths. They're very effective, always available, and free! [Deep breaths] are effective because they work on a physiological and mental level, settling your nervous system," Jodi Aman, a licensed psychotherapist with more than two decades of experience and the author of You 1 Anxiety 0, tells Bustle.
OK, so I'm not suggesting you should swear off pizza and ice cream. Hell, those are two of the best things about life. (Just ask Joe Biden.) That said, we all know that eating mindfully can help our bodies feel and function better, so if you want to feel good and kick ass, it may help to fuel up on the right things — whole grains, fiber, vitamin-rich veggies, healthy proteins, lots of water. You also need to be aware of how food can affect your mood, so here's an article that covers that.
You're also going to want to drink plenty of water. Tiye Massey, Director of Content at Clean, a 21 day detox program tells Bustle that "starting with your body weight in pounds and dividing that number in half. The number you end up with is the minimum amount of water in ounces we suggest drinking every day."
I'm not a religious person, but I often miss the comfort of prayer. If you can relate, then maybe it's time to create your own mantra. If you don't know where to begin on this, you can start with something simple, like these: "I have everything I need," or "I am a voice for peace." In time, you might want to create your very own.
Having a couple of go-to phrases that you know will calm you down or motivate you is super empowering. It's great for stopping panic in it's tracks, too. (In case you're wondering, my mantras include: "You are 100 percent safe right now," and "You are capable.")
For reasons that this ambivert will never fully understand, American culture tends to stigmatize doing things alone — especially if you're a woman. Don't let this bull deter you from spending time alone. Yes, socializing is important and loneliness can literally hurt us, but solo adventures can be awesome. So whether it's a trip to Asia or a trip to the movie theater, don't be afraid to do things by yourself. Or, you know, be scared AF, but do it anyway.
Poor posture can mess up your breathing, stress out your heart, lower your self-esteem, and even make you move more slowly. "How we carry ourselves has been shown to have an effect on hormones," Dr. Susan M. Day, M.D., orthopedic surgeon and clinical instructor at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, tells Bustle.
"Holding ourselves in a position of power has been shown to increase testosterone and decrease cortisol. The opposite is true for weak postures," Day says. So if you want to empower yourself physically, do what your grandma (probably) has always asked of you, and sit up straight. Then read these tips for how to improve your posture.
Speaking from personal experience, I know that asking for what you want in bed can be difficult if you're not used to it. If you're anything like me, the last thing you want to do is make your partner(s) feel insecure by correcting their "technique." That said, sex is supposed to be fun for everyone involved, and that means you, too — not just the lucky human you're in bed with.
On top of that, learning how to speak up in bed should improve your relationships, your sex life, and your self-esteem. "Women’s sexual drive, libido, arousal — much of it starts in the brain," Alyssa Dweck, M.D., gynecologist in New York, assistant clinical professor OBGYN at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and author of V is for Vagina, tells Bustle. That means we have a lot to gain from starting the sexual creativity outside of the bedroom, and in our heads. Plus, unless your partner(s) is the worst, asking for what you want in the sack should get easier with time.
The reality of a Trump presidency means any organization that aims to support marginalized groups is in need of support right now. As if that's not enough of a reason to consider donating your time and/or money to helping others, volunteering is an empowering way to spend your time because it helps you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself, and makes you realize that you are capable of bringing joy, comfort, and support to other people. "Get involved in the community, help other people, and you will feel empowered, like you can change the world instead of being a victim of it," Aman tells Bustle.
If you don't dig tattoos, then skip right over this part. If, however, you've always wanted a tattoo or you want another tattoo, then save up the time and money to get it done. In my experience, getting inked can feel like a feminist act. Plus, recent studies show that women with tattoos have higher self-esteem than women who don't.
Listening to music is one scientifically-proven way to better yourself. Listening to music on the regular increases motivation, improves cognitive function, eases pain, and even helps us sleep better. Music can also induce a meditative state, which is great news if you're trying to mediate more.
If you've always wanted to learn another language, but you're kind of broke and don't have a ton of free time, then you should download Duolingo on your phone. The app allows you to set realistic, language-learning goals for yourself so you don't get overwhelmed.
Personally, I shoot for 10 minutes of language practice a day, so I usually have my French and Spanish lessons completed before I've even finished my first cup of coffee. It's not much, but I can already tell it's positively impacting my self-image and my focus.
If you're not being yourself, then you're not going to feel empowered. It's just that simple. Being yourself isn't always as easy as it sounds, though. This is especially true if you're not sure who you are. Luckily, you don't have to have yourself all figured out to live authentically. Here are some tips on how to have a healthy relationship with yourself, no matter what's going on in your life.
Self-care is inherently empowering. As Audre Lorde put it, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." So if you haven't already done this, now is the time to customize your very own self-care regimen. Here's how to get started.
If you're a gifted artist, take time to paint. If you cook delicious food, eat out less. If you play guitar like the millennial Jimmy Hendrix, spend more quality time with your instrument. Whatever you're naturally good at, do more of it. Doing what you love, and doing it well, will leave you feeling inspired and capable as hell.
Being assertive is hard, and research shows that women are definitely penalized for it. You should still resolve to be more assertive this year, though; because assertiveness often goes hand in hand with confidence. It's also an important skill to possess for the sake of your overall well being. "[Worrying] that you are 'less than' what you are supposed to be makes you not trust yourself, and then you're ripe for anxiety," Aman tells Bustle.
Exercise is natural way to fight depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. On top of that, exercise has been proven to boost creativity and it literally builds brain cells. So, whether it's a hardcore gym session or a walk in the park, daily exercise of some kind is key. Try to celebrate exercise for how it makes you feel, not how it makes you look. “Jumping and even dancing can also help with lymphatic function and only takes a few minutes a day to feel the benefits,” Massey tells Bustle.
Whether you're currently working your dream job or not, working hard will boost your self-esteem, your bank account, and your resume. So if you're doing what you love, work hard. If you don't like your job, work hard anyway. Whatever you're doing for work right now, do it well until you can do what you want.
No matter what field you're working in, (or want to be working in) cultivating relationships with other badass professionals in your industry will be invaluable to your career advancement for so many reasons. If you're new to networking, here's how to do it.
Multiple studies have shown that we become who we hang out with. So if your friend group spends more time gossiping than discussing their ideas and goals, you either need to talk to them about it or find better friends. I know it sounds harsh, but no one wins in toxic friendships.
Solo travel boosts self-confidence, improves problem-solving skills, and teaches flexibility — all empowering things. So whether your budget will only allow a weekend road trip to the other side of your state, or you can afford to spend a month in France, don't underestimate the empowering effect of traveling alone. Personally, very few things in life have built up my self-esteem more than the time I've spent traveling solo.
If you're anything like me, then you're probably obsessed with success and mortified by failure. Here's the problem with that: while it's important to strive for excellence or whatever, failure is a natural part of life. More importantly, failure is part of success.
"This society that we live in is all about, 'if you fail, you're a loser.' No — fail forward. It's amazing," THINX CEO and cofounder Miki Agrawal tells Bustle. "You took that chance, you were in the ring. We need to champion people who get out there and put themselves out there ... we need to champion people who take a leap and not tell people to stay in their safe jobs."
If you're a sexually active cisgender woman who has sex with cisgender men — and you haven't found a birth control method that you can stick with yet — then you need to change that in 2017. (Unless you want to conceive this year, of course.) Personally, I'm sticking with condoms for the time being, because IUDs freak me out and hormonal birth control messed with my mental health.
In the words of Rachel Zoe, "Style is a way of saying who you are without having to speak." So whether you feel your most confident in all black or bright patterns, wear what you want to and always dress your best. (Whatever that means to you.)
This one should be a given, but dating people who undervalue you is not going to leave you feeling empowered. (Believe me, I'm the Queen of this.) No matter how much you care about them, don't keep dating people who treat you poorly. It's OK to know what you want and need out a relationship and then settle for nothing less. Even if that means being single and not dating anyone for awhile.
Adopting a pet might sound like a lot of work, but if you're like me, then you'll find the experience empowering. Personally, I feel like pets add purpose to your daily life and make hard times easier to handle. On top of that, the mental and physical health benefits of caring for pets are extensive. Just make sure you truly have the time and space for a new pet before you commit.
Humans are hardwired to be negative. (Seriously, it's part of the reason our species still exists.) That said, experts agree that learning how to practice gratitude daily is essential if you want to lead a happy and successful life. So, there you have it. If you want to be empowered, be grateful for what you have while working for what you want.
Good luck, and Happy New Year!
Check out the "You IRL" stream in the Bustle App starting on January 1 for daily tips on how to have an empowering 2017.