How To Set Goals For Happier And Healthier You

Around the New Year or your birthday is the perfect time to press the restart button. Start by writing out a list of goals to get you where you want to be.

When it comes to goal setting, it can be challenging to know where to start. Here’s a look at some great ideas on what to focus on when setting goals for the new year. At the turn of the new year, I get excited about the opportunity to make changes in my life.

Most of us usually map out one or two goals like wanting to lose weight, get in shape or eat healthier. These are the most common goals, but what about the other areas that are just as important to our physical and emotional well-being? A social life, relationships, career, spirituality, creativity, joy, home environment, finances—these are all key areas that, if unbalanced, can leave us feeling unfulfilled and as if something is missing; they can also make it harder for us to reach the other goals we may have set for ourselves.

The truth is, if you want to succeed, you need to set goals. Without goals, you lack focus and direction. Trust me, I know! I am the queen of lacking focus and direction, but I am working on making changes in my life to set goals (gulp), make a plan and take action steps to get there.

So, let’s get excited! A future, healthy, happy you awaits! Let’s take a look at each of these areas and look for ways to balance the scale. Grab a pen and paper, find a quiet space and let’s get ready to set our intentions for this year!

Healthy Eating and Exercise

Gorgeous young woman at the gym eating salad

Let’s start with the goal to start eating more healthily. With all the new diet fads out there, it’s hard to know what to eat! Gluten-free, dairy-free, fat-free? Paleo diet? South beach diet? The Ayurveda way? Should I be a vegetarian? Vegan? There are so many conflicting dietary theories that it’s hard to know where to start.

We can get ourselves completely focused on “the diet”—whichever diet we might be trying—and quitting everything all at once and eating a completely restricted diet may work for a period of time, but we inevitably succumb to the powers of temptation.

So, this year, instead of focusing on denying yourself everything, focus instead on learning how to eat well by introducing one new healthy food item per day into your diet. Get familiar with new healthy whole foods and experiment with different ways of cooking. Once you’ve learned how to eat well, it will become second nature.

Let me try and simplify what to eat with a few simple steps in how to start making healthier food choices. First, stop buying processed junk—you know what I’m talking about. The Oreo’s, the Nutri-Grain bar, the Fruit Loops… if you haven’t taken the time to look at the back of these products, flip them over. There’s almost not enough room on the box for all the artificial, junky, ingredients!

Rule of thumb: go for products that contain less than 5 ingredients. If you have never been a label reader, start today! You will be shocked when you start really looking.

Shop as if you were living in a time before convenience trumped quality. Go back to a time when grocery stores were filled with farm fresh food produced locally, and if something wasn’t in season it wasn’t an option.

Stay away from the easy, convenient, prepackaged, highly processed stuff and focus on buying quality proteins (grain-fed, organic preferably) such as lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes and nuts, whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, millet), fruits and vegetables. Fill your plate with these whole foods, drink plenty of water and include healthy fats (extra virgin olive oil, avocado, coconut oil).

Focusing on these foods will set you well on your way to a quality, nutrient packed, healthy way of eating. As you start to add new and healthy foods into your diet, the unhealthy foods eventually no longer have a place on your plate and will be a thing of the past. And, you will be glowing because of it.

Try some things you haven’t tried before like a green smoothie for breakfast instead of toast, an herbal tea instead of coffee or a handful of almonds for a snack instead of a bag of chips. To get started, work on detoxification.

One small way to do this is to start adding freshly squeezed lemon to your water. One tablespoon of lemon in a filtered 12 oz. glass of water is a powerful digestive aid and liver cleanser. Do this two to three times a day (while staying away from all processed food) and you will be well on your way to ridding your body of unwanted toxins.

Rule number one of eating healthily is to plan ahead. Make a list of green smoothie ingredients, check out some great recipes for salads or healthy lunch ideas and head to the grocery store to stock up. Spend your Sunday cutting, chopping and preparing. Planning ahead will save you from ripping into anything you can get your hands on when hunger strikes.

Eighty percent of weight loss is about what we eat. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that a trip to the gym is going to completely erase the fact that you ate a whole pizza and bucket of ice cream last night.

That being said, though, exercise is still an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise provides physical and mental health benefits. Make some form of exercise a priority in your day by marking it down on the calendar—preferably at the same time every day—to help get you into the habit.

Just as you should experiment with new foods and new ways of cooking, experimenting with different forms of exercise is a great way to find something you love.

A few choices that come to mind are: yoga, pilates, cycling, running, walking, hiking, rowing and swimming. There are many workout programs, videos, gyms and 30-minute circuits out there, so find one that works for you. Find 30-60 minutes for exercise and work it into your day. Get up and get it done is my motto. The later the day gets, the less motivated most of us are to get in that workout.

Social Life and Relationships

With a tirelessly overworked society before us, rarely do we have time for a social life. A social life, by definition, relates to or involves activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other. In other words, get out and have fun with the people you love! Make time to spend quality time with friends and family.

If you are in a relationship that is no longer bringing you any joy, now might be a great time to make a change. Whether the relationship is with a boyfriend, husband or a friend, freeing yourself from a negative relationship can help you to focus on what it is that you need to be happy and healthy. Connecting with the people who bring us joy is essential to our well-being.

Make a list of the relationships you value in your life and make a goal to find at least 30-60 minutes per day to connect with someone on that list whether it’s gabbing over a cup of coffee, meeting for a glass of wine after work, an evening walk with a family member or neighbor or even a phone call. Quality relationships and family time will enrich your life and improve your health.


Happy Hipster Girl with her Dog and Bike in the City

When was the last time you experienced pure, unadulterated joy? I find joy in almost everything—so much so that my friends and family can’t help but laugh at me sometimes—but I am forever grateful that I can see the world in such a light. I feel joy when I hear my children laugh, when I see Christmas lights sparkling on a dark, cold night, when spring comes and the flowers color the landscape and so much joy when I am surrounded by the people I love.

This year, make a goal to slow down and enjoy the little things in life. Next time you’re rushing home from work and frustrated to be held up in traffic, take a look outside. Is the sun setting? Can you see the mountain tops in the distance? What do you see? Find joy in everything. It will make you a much happier person, I promise, and people will want what you have!


Spirituality is something that some people are born into. For those who have not been exposed to religion from an early age, or for those who aren’t particularly in line with their family’s religion, finding a spiritual practice can be extremely beneficial. What is a spiritual practice?

Basically, it’s any act or habit done with the intention of cultivating a greater connection with God/Spirit/Universe/whatever you feel connected to. There is a growing body of evidence indicating that spiritual practices are associated with better health and well-being.

There are the traditional religions and then there are other types of spiritual practices to try in this year, such as prayer, meditation, yoga or connecting with nature. My spiritual practice is nature. I feel a sense of peace and calm when spending time in a beautiful, natural setting. I feel a sense of higher power when the sun beats down on my skin and the sounds of nature quiet my mind. Try a spiritual connection of your own this year and see how it can be a powerful source of happiness in your life.


Creativity is an important part of a healthy, balanced life and yet it can be easily overlooked. There are countless psychological benefits to having a creative outlet. Some of us are already naturally inclined to express our creativity while others could use a push in the right direction.

A few creative activities to try this year are: painting, coloring, journaling, trying a new instrument, experimenting with cooking, free writing, taking a local art class or trying a new form of dance. There are many ideas, so try something new and see what calls to you.

Finances and Career

Cheerful business woman in sunglasses sitting at the cafe and talking on the phone

Oh boy, a tough one for all of us. Even though I don’t like to think so, and I would be quite happy to spend my days being penniless in an A frame on the beach, money makes the world go ‘round. It is true that money cannot buy happiness, but it can most definitely buy freedom to live the life you enjoy. But, at what cost?

If you are in a career that you are unhappy with, you may be thinking about a change, but it just seems too hard or unrealistic. Well, if you have been thinking about a change, what better time than the new year to make it happen! I am not saying that you should up and quit your job, but maybe look at a different position within the same company? Or, look at switching to a new department?

If you really do want to make a big change, start mapping out action steps to get to you where you want to be. If your new career involves going back to school, start looking at evening and weekend courses that will prepare you for the change. Make a list of all the little steps it will require to get you from where you are today to where you want to be. Having a clear action plan gets us excited about what’s ahead! How do you know if you will succeed if you never try?

As for finances, the first step is to recognize what your financial situation is: how much debt to you have exactly? Put it all out on paper. For some, this might be scary—I know it is for me—but know that the only way to take steps in the right direction is to know where you need to go.

Write out exactly how much you make in a month and how much you spend (rent/mortgage, car payments, bills/eating out, groceries, etc.). Get real with your finances. Know them inside and out and then you will know: are you spending more than you make? If you are, perhaps you need to start thinking about bringing in a second income or cutting back in certain areas. Are you spending $500 every month on restaurants or new clothes? Find ways to eat at home and stay away from the malls.

Make a plan to start paying your debts. Set a specific amount each month that goes toward your debts and pay more than just the interest. Getting down and dirty with your finances is a great step in the right direction to a healthier financial future.

Home Environment

This is a big one for me: I love my home and I can be quite the home body. Almost to a fault (say the people I live with), I am very OCD about my environment. I dislike disorganization and clutter, and I do not save anything, which is tough considering I could fill a room with my children’s collectibles and artwork.

My motto is if I don’t use it, toss it! What can I say, I feel more relaxed in a home space that is simple, clean and clutter-free. This is something that, with three kids, I have to work very hard at maintaining.

I am currently trying to find the balance in that because putting my decorative throw cushions back on the couch 50 times a day is not conducive to my state of mind. Sometimes, you have to let things go—but not everything. Living with clutter and having a disorganized home can leave you feeling frustrated, anxious and out of control. De-cluttering and organizing is a mental health thing. Trust me.

Get rid of the things you don’t need and you will feel as though a huge weight has been lifted. Look around your home and make a list of the places you know could use your attention. Is it your closet? Your kitchen? Your office space? Start with one room at a time and work your way down the list.

I hope that I have helped shine some light on goal setting for the new year. Share with me what your goals are. I’d love to hear from you!

About the author

Amanda Yeatman

Hi, I'm Amanda. I am an avid health & wellness enthusiast with a passion to help others live the life they desire through writing and counseling. I am forever grateful to be a mother to three little beauties, and I hope to pass my dedication for living an authentic life onto them.

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