by Cecilia Karl
We’re not big on New Year’s resolutions. Sure, there are countless years we’ve vowed to devote early mornings to the gym, lunches to salads and carrot sticks, and money to only that which is absolutely necessary. But over the years, we’ve learned a thing or two: New Year’s shouldn’t be about running yourself thin (literally), or starving yourself physically or financially. If the New Year has any bearing at all, it should be to refocus and reimagine—to reposition ourselves to live the fullest, happiest, most vibrant version of the lives we want to lead. So this year, that’s what we’re after—and we hope you’ll join us too. Here we give you six ways to refocus in the New Year and bring about slow, healthy change to make this one your best year yet.

Know Your Dough: We can’t be the only ones who have laid awake at night agonizing over our finances. Money woes have to be the most commonly shared anxiety. So this year, we’re promising to get on top of our pesky finances once and for all. Knowledge is power, right? So we’re aiming to track our finances—keeping record of what’s coming in and going out. Whether you use good old fashioned pen and paper, an Excel spreadsheet, or a budgeting program like the clean and simple Mint, keeping close tabs on your money will help you gain financial stability, and make certain you can cover the costs of what’s most important to you whenever the need crops up.

Expand Your Horizons: What better time to set the intent to learn and grow than the start of a new calendar year? Maybe this is the year you finally read War and Peace, or simply devote time each day to reading a good book. Maybe it’s time to venture out, explore, and savor the city. Or maybe this is the year you expand your skillset, picking up a class in the city on anything from pottery at your local park district, to beer brewing or sewing.

Do Good Deeds: Consider your karma in 2013 and give back to brighten the lives of others. Share your time for a good cause and we bet you’ll gain a greater sense of peace, joy, and calm while you’re at it. Volunteer at a shelter, like Sarah’s Circle in Uptown, which works to help struggling women back on their feet. Donate canned goods to the Greater Chicago Food Depository to help ensure food security for hungry families. Or, devote a few hours each month to mentoring an at-risk kid. For more ideas—big and small—for giving back and making a difference, visit our Giving Back Guide.

Nourish Your Body: All too often, we view the New Year as the start of a new diet so limiting and unimaginative we have a hard time just thinking about it. But this year, we’re here to propose something different—a focus on nourishment over dieting. We love the idea of filling our bellies with whole foods so delicious and complex so as to be deeply and richly satisfying. This year, we’re out to revel in good food; to find delight in our kitchens and joy on our plates.

Find Your Zen: Get in tune with your mind and body and usher in a sense of calm and peace to last throughout the year. Start a basic yoga practice at home with our beginners’ yoga series. Relieve stress, ease insomnia, and ward off tension with a meditation app like our favorite, Simply Being. Or keep it simple by spending some time strolling the city, getting your blood flowing and clearing your head. For more ideas on keeping calm in the New Year, take a peek at our Six Steps to Serene City Living.

Clean Up: Is cleanliness close to godliness? You’ll never know unless you spruce up your apartment for a change. Studies show that an organized and tidy living space means less stress and more joy for the dweller. Establish an easy routine throughout the week to make your bed, clean up the dishes, and stow away folded laundry. That way, you’ll never let a messy apartment get ahead of you, and you’ll have more time to reap the benefits of your labor. Got a closet mess on your hands? Take a peek at our Great Closet Clean-Up for more ideas on keeping things clean.