2021 is just days away, which has me pondering New Year’s resolution ideas. If I’m being honest, my resolutions have only ever lasted a few weeks. But, hey, at least there’s comfort in knowing I’m not alone. In fact, about 80 percent of people tend to give up on their resolutions by the second week of February.
According to Nelson L. Tressler, founder and CEO of IGOTSMARTER, an app that helps people achieve their goals, one of the main reasons people give up on their New Year’s resolutions is because they use what he calls “annual thinking,” which results in “no urgency when it comes to accomplishing your goals.”
But, Tressler says, having an “accountability partner”—whether two- or four-legged—can help people break the cycle of failing to achieve their New Year’s resolution.
“You may be willing to let yourself down by not following through on your goals, but you are far less likely to be willing to let someone else down by quitting,” Tressler says. “Some studies show that we are 95 percent more likely to follow through with accomplishing our goals if there is somebody else who knows what our goals are—even if that somebody else is our cat or dog. Our pets are the last ones we want to let down!””
New Year’s Resolutions Ideas to Share With Your Pet
Time to team up with your furry friend and tackle the new year together. Here are some New Year resolution ideas for the two of you.
1. Get—and Stay—Active
During your pet’s annual exam (remember, scheduling this appointment is one of your New Year’s resolutions!), be sure to discuss your pet’s activity level—and evaluate your own while you’re at it. If your couch became your new office in 2020, you might want to make it a priority to be more active in the new year.
If your vet has determined your pet could use more exercise, aim to get it together. There’s no greater motivator to go out for a walk than your pup’s pleading eyes, if you ask us! Consider the following ideas for getting active with your pet in 2021:
- Go on more long walks and see if there is a new route you and your pup have yet to explore.
- Spend more time at the dog park. Be sure your pet is up-to-date on their vaccinations, first—and don’t let yourself get lazy! Throw a ball around and entertain your dog and their new canine friends.
- Play a game of tug of war. It’s great exercise for your dog and a great arm workout for you.
- Try leash-training your cat (learn how here), and check out these other great ways to help your kitty exercise.
2. Get Proactive About Your Health
Make the health of both you and your pet a priority. Start by making appointments to get an annual exam. Talk to your doctor about what you can be doing to be healthier. For instance, consider signing up for a vitamin subscription box from the millennial-adored company Care/Of. After taking a health quiz, they’ll provide you with a curated selection of vitamins, designed to specifically address your needs and arriving in an aesthetically pleasing packaging.
Then, talk to your pet’s veterinarian to make sure your pet is up to date on their flea, tick and heartworm preventatives and discuss adding any supplements to their diet, too. Just like you and your human-grade multivitamins, your pet may also get a nutritional boost from a similar, pet-friendly supplement.
3. Swap Screen Time for Playtime
Last February, I spent a weekend doing a digital detox to see if it would help me spend more quality time with my two dogs—and it did!
As Renee Solomon, Ph.D., a Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist and CEO/owner of Forward Recovery, told me at the time, “When people become obsessed with their phones and social media, they are not present in their lives with people and even their pets.” And, as Solomon also mentioned, spending more time with your pet and less time online can actually improve your mood.
Aim to put your phone on airplane mode for an hour a day and then spend that time chilling with your pet—going on an additional walk if your pet is up for it, playing with their favorite toy or trying some of these 15-minute games for dogs.
4. Cook More Meals at Home (Don’t Forget a DIY Treat for Your Pet!)
Sure, we’ve all been eating at home more during the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it was always healthy choices. Personally, I’ve been avoiding looking at my DoorDash history. Yikes!
According to a 2017 study published in International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, those who ate homecooked meals more frequently were found to have a healthier diet overall. So, if you’ve become BFFs with your local Postmate over the past few months, consider committing to cooking more meals yourself in 2021. Start slowly by just exchanging one take-out meal a week for a homecooked recipe.
To make this challenge more fun, try whipping up a DIY treat for your pet while you’re at it in the kitchen. (Isn’t cooking for others—furry or otherwise—always more fun than just cooking for yourself?) Here’s a list of our five best homemade dog treat recipes of 2020. Cooking for cats? Try this feline-approved homemade treat.
5. Try Meditation—and a Massage
We all know how busy life can get, so consider making self-care for you and your pet a priority in 2021.
Try committing to meditating at least a few minutes a day. Mindful mediation can actually help lessen feelings of anxiety and depression, according to a 2014 study. And, as a 2019 Washington State University study found, the stress hormone cortisol could be reduced through just 10 minutes of stroking a pet, so try incorporating your dog or cat into your new meditation practice.
In addition to inviting your pet to join your own self-care sessions, schedule some special time just for them. Consider treating them to a massage that can provide a host of both physical and mental health benefits, such as increasing circulation and promoting relaxation. Learn how to massage your pet here, and, if they like the sensation, add it to your weekly self-care schedule.
Why I’m Sharing My New Year’s Resolution with My Dog
Following Tressler’s advice, I decided to choose a New Year’s resolution that could benefit both myself and my dog, Lily, to keep me motivated throughout the year.
In 2021, Lily and I are committing to exercising more. Why? My pup had always been a slender, muscular Basenji mix who was always running and playing. But a sudden illness a few days after her fourth birthday resulted in several months of steroids—which led to her gaining about 10 pounds. Suddenly, she was a chubby pup who didn’t seem to understand where all her energy went.
A few weeks after Lily got sick, I was in a doctor’s office myself getting an ultrasound of my left ankle—and, ultimately, a diagnosis of Achilles tendinosis (an inflammation of the Achilles tendon).
Lily and I were like two peas in a pod: both sidelined from what we loved to do—run! But now that we both have clean bills of health, it’s time that the two of us got back to our favorite physical activities together. With mile-long runs and dog park play dates in our near future, I’m making the commitment for us both to exercise more in 2021. —Ashley Davidson