This year, my family Christmas gathering consisted of me and my parents sitting 10 feet apart in the living room, watching the 2020 Yule Log Dumpster Fire. Needless to say, this year wasn’t the best of times and while New Year’s won’t change the numerous national and global issues we’re currently facing, I think we could all use a metaphorical clean slate.
I’ve put together a list of 21 ways to better yourself (or the world around you) without the typical pressure to lose weight. Instead of fixating on diet and exercise, these resolutions will focus on your personal interests, social relationships, as well as your mental and sexual health.
1. Schedule a therapy appointment
If you’ve never been to therapy before, this might be the perfect time to start. 2020 has been filled with all kinds of stressors that have probably been impacting your mental health, and it definitely hasn’t made things easier for those of us who already struggle with mental illness.
With so many options for remote sessions right now, therapy might be accessible without even leaving your home–provided you can afford to go. Check out what options you have available under your insurance plan or look into therapists who can offer sliding scale rates for sessions. Therapy is a huge step for some folks, but making that first appointment can really kick your year off right.
If you’re looking for a therapist who is down with kink and/or polyamory, try searching the NCSF’s Kink-Aware Professionals directory.
2. Become an ethical porn consumer
Sex workers have faced a lot of challanges this year with SESTA/FOSTA and social media banning the accounts of anyone doing sex work. One thing you can do to help is make a pledge to become an ethical porn consumer. Free tube sites for pornography are often full of unsourced and/or stolen porn that can actively harm sex workers. This year, go right to the source and buy directly from sex workers. You can hire a sex worker for a private session or purchase content directly from their website. If you follow sex workers on social media and make use of their free content, remember to tip your favorite content creators for all their hard work!
3. Invest in yourself
This year, you should be putting the most time and energy into doing things you find fulfilling or meaningful. Investing in yourself isn’t always the easiest thing, but it can be really rewarding. Whether you’ve been thinking about going back to school, taking an online workshop, or finally getting that tattoo you’ve been planning for, you should absolutely do more things that YOU want to do. Your happiness and well-being is an investment that is absolutely worth it.
4. Commit to only use body safe sex toys
Did you know that not all sex toys are safe for your body? In fact, unsafe materials are commonly used in lots of inexpensive toys that beginners tend to go for. Toys made of things like jelly are porous and can not only harbor bacteria, but also secrete toxic chemicals that can make you sick. It’s time to toss out all your jelly toys and invest in affordable body-safe options instead.
5. Expand your knowledge on something that interests you
Learning something new is super enriching and can make you feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. This year, try diving into some of the subjects you’re passionate about by reading more books, especially from a diverse pool of authors. For a fresh perspective, try reading something by one of the many amazing Black authors out there, as well as more women and LGBT folks.
6. Try something sexual you’ve always been curious about
Most of us have sexual fantasies that we’ve yet to act out in real life. Some folks hold onto their fantasies for years and avoid the potential embarrassment of asking their partner to try something new. This year, I suggest you try to take your fantasies to the next level–so long as they’re safe and consensual, of course.
Introducing a partner to kink can be really exciting and beneficial to your relationship. By being honest and communicating the desires you have, you’re more likely to have a fulfilling sex life and stronger relationship. Whether your fantasy involves some beginner anal play or diving into the world of erotic hypnosis, there’s no reason not to take some concrete steps in making your fantasies a reality.
7. Remove toxic people from your life
Most folks can relate to having someone toxic in their life. Maybe it’s a friend who doesn’t talk about anything but themselves or someone that causes you nothing but grief. Instead of tolerating people who make you unhappy, try taking steps to minimize their negative impact on your life. Think about the relationships you have, prioritize the ones that uplift you, and let go of those that don’t. Don’t put continued effort into making a relationship work with someone who has proven themselves to be a drain on your resources. You should focus more on spending time with people who make you feel better, not worse.
8. Do weekly check-ins with your partner
Last year, I introduced a check-in process with my partners that I read about on a fellow sex blogger’s website. The idea was simple: start a regular check in process with your partner to make sure everything is going smoothly. I decided to go for a weekly check-in, and have been really good at making sure I make time for that conversation each week. My 5 questions differ slightly from Taryn’s, but you’re fully encouraged to tailor the questions to your specific relationship. Having this check in process each week really helps my partners and I express things we need to express without the stress that comes with a “we need to talk” conversation. This process makes it easy and our conversations are always productive and respectful. I highly suggest trying something like this in your relationship, especially if communication is difficult for you. Practicing those communication skills are essential for a healthy relationship.
9. Start a Patreon, podcast, or Youtube channel
Creating some form of media to connect with others is great. If you’ve always thought about starting up a podcast, YouTube channel, or Patreon, maybe it’s time to start! With much of the world still in lockdown, having a personal project like this that you can do from home is a great way to stay busy and active in your online communities. Connect with others, express yourself, and maybe even earn some spending money on the side!
10. Be an active voter
Being an active voter is important, especially in this political climate. This year, make a pledge to stay on top of elections, even those at a local level. Keep yourself informed about what’s going on in the world and maybe even find out what kind of activism you can do to help your local community.
11. Ask for more explicit consent
One of the biggest foundations of kink and sex is the idea of explicit consent. While kinky folks are generally good at communicating consent via things like safewords, we could all probably do better at asking for explicit consent. Really think about the way you initiate a scene or sexual contact with your partners. Do you always ask for clear consent when trying something new? Do you involve your partner in a scene negotiation before playing with them? Do you have a set of safewords or a color check system to easily communicate changes in your consent in the middle of a scene? Try reading up on kink-specific consent practices (like the traffic light system, for one) to improve your understanding and communication around consent.
12. Put pronouns in your bio
If you’re cis and straight, you’ve probably never had to tell someone what pronouns to use for you. For trans individuals, sharing pronouns can be a stressful task. To avoid being misgendered, lots of trans folks put their pronouns in their social media bios or email signatures to let others easily see how to refer to them. The best way to normalize this practice is for cis folks to add their pronouns as well. You don’t need to identify yourself as cis or trans, but simply putting the pronouns you use (she/her, he/him, they/them, etc.) in your social media bio or email signiture can make it easier on trans folks trying to do the same. It’s also a really simple way to show your support for those who are trans or non-binary by acknowledging that we shouldn’t assume someone’s pronouns based on their name or the way they present.
13. Revitalize an old hobby
New hobbies are fantastic and highly recommended but I feel like after the year we’ve all experienced, a lot of us may want to look into revitalizing old hobbies, too. Many folks have had to give up a lot of their regular passion projects to the pandemic, and although we’re not in the clear to return to life as “normal” yet, there can be ways to pick up old hobbies safely. Since last March, there have been tons of online events that we didn’t have access to before. Folks are constantly hosting online classes, workshops, and social gatherings. Maybe spend some time searching for online outlets for your hobbies where you can connect with like-minded people, safely.
14. Start a sex spreadsheet
I’ve been tracking my sex life for almost ten years now through my sex spreadsheet and it’s made a really big difference to me. By keeping track of partners, details about what we did, and any birth control or STI risks, I’m able to take control of my sex life. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that all my sexual activity is documented and I could look back at any time to analyze patterns or trends and see what kind of factors affect the quality of my sex life. Your spreadsheet doesn’t have to be nearly as complex at mine, but even just noting dates of sexuality activity can help with things like assessing STI risks or family planning. Give it a try this year and you’ll see how useful it can be!
15. Fix your sleep schedule
This one is definitely easier said than done. Poor sleep hygiene is a common issue, but by making small lifestyle changes, you can work towards a more consistent sleep schedule. Make a set bedtime if you’re someone who tends to stay up longer than they should. Put your phone on the charger out of reach to avoid scrolling for longer than you intend to. Make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to not only get your necessary hours, but also the time it takes to fall asleep and wake up each morning. If you’re someone who needs 16 alarms over the course of two hours to wake up, schedule for it and go to bed earlier. Try setting up a specific ambiance for sleep each night tailored to your ideal sleeping conditions. For me, this usually means some white noise or Lo-Fi music, a cold room, plenty of blankets, low light, and maybe even some incense if I’m feeling fancy. Pamper yourself a little bit each night to get yourself excited to sleep.
16. Document more of your life
Whether you’re a writer who likes to journal or an artist who expresses themselves visually, documenting your life can be a wonderful thing for self-reflection. Looking back on something you wrote or created can be extremely meaningful down the road. Being able to express your thoughts and feelings as they’re happening can help you find inner peace when you need it most. This year, try living more in the moment and being true to your feelings as you experience them. Write more, take more photos, create more art, and give yourself time to really appreciate those outlets.
17. Get tested regularly
One of the most important things you can do for your sexual health is get tested for STIs and it’s time you made a commitment to keep on top of those screenings. How often you should be tested is going to depend on how many partners you’re having sex with, as well as other personal risk factors. Generally, I suggest that folks get screened with each new partner or every three months–whichever comes first.
If you’re nervous or haven’t been tested before, read up on what to expect from a standard STI screening.
18. Stay on top of birth control
Another important thing you can do for your sexual health is plan ahead when it comes to birth control. Many of us can probably relate to a time where we wanted to have sex but didn’t have access to birth control for one reason or another. Preparing can mean stocking up on condoms or maybe even looking into long-term birth control, such as an IUD insertion. With so many birth control options available, there are lots of options for you to try. Talk to your partner(s) and your doctor about which methods would work best for you and try to plan in advance so you don’t have to worry about not having your birth control covered.
19. Make a sexual bucket list
Making a sexual bucket list is a great activity you can do either solo or with a partner to help organize your thoughts and desires into achievable goals throughout the year and into the future. Start small, with things you can easily do at home, then work up to bigger goals that you might not even be ready for at the moment. Try breaking down those bigger items or complex scenes into smaller parts to help you tackle more of your list. See how many things you can try in the new year!
20. Support your favorite content creators
Supporting your favorite content creators is important, as many of them rely on their fanbase to continue creating, especially during these tough times. Whether you’re able to do something like pledge to their Patreon, tip them for specific content you got a lot out of, or just stay on top of retweeting, reblogging, or sharing their work with your followers, you can help grow their business and reach more viewers, resulting in even more content from them. Win-win-win! We all win when good creators can share their passions with the rest of us.
21. Make time for self care
One of the most important changes you can make for the new year is to focus on self care, whatever that means for you. Really give it some thought and put time and effort into creating a space or time block where you can recharge and destress. This can be anything from a nightly soak in the tub, to giving yourself the time and space to journal your thoughts, or even just setting aside some time each night to watch something that makes you laugh before bed. Do whatever is necessary in order to care for your needs.
There’s a lot you can do to better yourself this New Year’s without the usual pressure to lose weight. There’s so much more to leading fulfilling, happy lives than focusing only on this one aspect of physical health. I hope you’re able to take some of the ideas in this article to make some positive changes in your upcoming year. Wishing you all the very best in 2021!