“Vows are but breath,” Shakespeare wrote, “and breath a vapor is.” That’s right: Even old Will had a tough time keeping his promises, centuries before the concept of New Year’s resolutions led to peppy, optimistic Januarys and utterly defeated Februarys for so many of us. If you’ve ever signed up for a gym membership on the first day of the year, or vowed finally to bone up on your French again, only to throw in the towel by Valentine’s Day, this one’s for you. Here are 40 resolutions to inspire you in 2019—from learning wilderness first aid to becoming a smarter shopper to taking a ceramics class. And to help you actually keep them, we’ve gathered some tips and sources that will get you started.
Tap into Your Artistic Side
You don’t have to be O’Keeffe, Astaire, or Keats to enjoy the benefits.
Take a figure drawing class
Why? Because drawing the human figure teaches anatomy, movement, weight, balance, color, shape, and emotion. The Art Students League offers life drawing classes (and, for members, open figure study sessions). Boulder’s Tinker Art Studio also has a nine-week course, including six sessions with models. Another place to practice: Boulder Figure Drawing, open more than 20 years.
Read two classics
Start by finding two books you actually want to read. (Finnegan’s Wake? Maybe next year.) Set a page goal per day as well as a routine, reading before bed, at lunch, or on your commute. Goodreads lets you track reading progress and chat with other readers. Tattered Cover hosts regular free book clubs.
Learn to dance
If you’ve always wanted to dazzle on the dance floor, start with the basics. The waltz, fox trot, swing, rumba, and cha-cha are easiest to learn, according to Arthur Murray’s experts. Denver Turnverein offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced classes, a great dance floor, lots of friendly partners, plus regular socials where you can practice.
Start a visual journal
If you shut your childhood diary decades ago and threw away the key, get back into the game with a visual journal. It’s a daily record containing blank pages filled with art (drawings, collages,…) and, yes, even words, about your life. To get started, check out the workshops at Art Makers Denver; you can also find online classes by Judith Cassel-Mamet at Craftsy.
The Art Students League of Denver and Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities have classes for various levels. “Sit in on a class for 15 minutes to see if you like the instructor,” says Shelley Schreiber of the ASLD. Be patient. “Ceramics isn’t easy. It can take years to be able to, say, make a set of dishes.”
Support local artists
Make it a point to visit at least one gallery each month, chat with the artists, and maybe even buy a piece that fits your budget. RiNo publishes a handy gallery guide, plus an artist directory that’s searchable by medium. The Santa Fe district hosts First Friday Art Walks year-round from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., with hundreds of artists’ work displayed in galleries, co-ops, and on the street.
Bring out the poet inside of you
If 2019 finds you with an itch to create something beautiful out of words, sign up for a poetry class at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. The nonprofit offers poetry workshops throughout the year, including an eight-week “Introduction to Poetry” beginning Jan. 7. Work with a small group of dedicated writers to create, critique, and edit your verse. Sing, O muse!
Dazzle in the Kitchen
Whether you can barely boil an egg or are Julia Child incarnate, there’s always room for improvement.
Do a kitchen inventory
Can’t find the pizza cutter? It’s time to reorganize. First, purge. “If it’s been six months since you’ve used something, consider tossing it,” says Samantha Tobia, home organizer at Demessify. Use these categories: keep, get rid of, and store somewhere else. If you use your roasting pan just for the holidays, move it to another area.” Next, group like with like. “Put all measuring cups in one cabinet, all cooking stuff in another, etc. Save buying bins and other supplies until the very end, and tell your family about the new system: If you don’t make it clear, it’s likely to get disorganized in a week.”
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” If Michael Pollan’s famous admonition is your 2019 goal, be inspired through these classes: “Living Well 101,” at Uncorked Kitchen, teaches how to cook with seasonal produce, whole grains, beans, and plant proteins. In “Healthy Habits!” you’ll make a filling grainy salad and a healthy soup, and “Vegetarian From Around the World” teaches how to make everything from Mexican salsa verde to Indian vegetable samosas, both at Stir To Learn Cooking School.
Set up a great home bar
It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Start with a few bottles of the most versatile liquors—whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, and tequila. Next, invest in alcoholic modifiers like bitters (angostura is crucial) and common liqueurs like amaretto (Disaronno), coffee (Kahlua), and orange (Triple Sec). Round things out with a stylish ice mold (large spheres always impress), a proper cocktail shaker, and a jigger. You can keep building over time. If more help is needed, try the Bartending School of Denver.
Up your spice game
Spices can make mediocre cooking good and good cooking great. This year, visit The Spice Guy in Aurora and stock up on some creative, versatile blends. Come spring, plant an herb garden with basil, dill, parsley, and the like; CSU’s Colorado Master Gardeners program is a great resource for tips and advice.
Make one new recipe each week
Too ambitious? Try one a month. The idea is to get out of your culinary rut—and check out some top bloggers. For family recipes, try twopeasandtheirpod.com or gimmesomeoven.com. Want vegetarian? Try ohsheglows.com or cookieandkate.com. Like sweets? Check out tarteletteblog.com or thewoodandspoon.com.
Raise your Style IQ
The world is your runway—or at least it could be, with a few savvy upgrades this year.
Add more color to your wardrobe
Black and white are safe—we get it. But you can’t look like a penguin all the time. If bold colors scare you a bit, go slow. Add a bright new bag to your neutral outfit, tie on a green scarf, let a lacy teal bra peek out from under your blouse, throw on a big-faced neon watch, paint your fingernails fuschia, rock a pair of red flats with your black jeans. The possibilities are endless.
Create an inspiration board
These days, you can do it online—and not just on Pinterest. Create style collages on Fashmates using the prepared fashion library and “clip” pieces from online retailers. Intelistyle, an app, and Finery, an app and website, catalog and style what’s already in your closet. Intelistyle also recommends items to buy based on your preferences and finds similar pieces, and Finery automatically adds pieces you buy to your account by connecting to your email.
Become a smarter shopper
A leading consignment website, The RealReal features mint-condition items from top designers at up to 90 percent off. Shop online a lot? Meet Try, the app and browser extension that enables you to try online items before buying. Items are shipped to you free; you have seven days to buy or return. Honey, another browser extension, finds and applies the best coupon codes to your cart. Budget for big-ticket fashion items with Reel. Select your desired item and set a dollar amount you want the app to take from your bank account daily or weekly and put toward the item. Once the full amount is collected, Reel buys the item.
Organize your closet
Make a mess. “Pull everything out of the closet,” says Denver image consultant and stylist Rachel Dee (racheldee.com).
Evaluate. “For each piece, ask yourself: Do I absolutely love this? Does this silhouette still work? Do I feel great when I wear this? Put anything with a no answer in a donate or trash pile.”
Reorganize. “Hang whole outfits together or organize by type and color.”
Find what you’re missing. “Lay out an entire type of clothing (like skirts) and ask yourself what you would put with each piece. If you have no idea, that’s a hole in your closet to put on your shopping list.”
Try on a crazy runway-inspired look
Leopard prints rule this year. The key is to treat it like a neutral. Plaids on plaids can be tricky; combine in complementary colors, similar pattern widths, or as a matching set. Yellow is set to be spring’s favorite fashion color. Wear it like a spot of sunshine.
Give Your Home Some Love
You’re making the rest of your life better—doesn’t your house deserve the same treatment?
Plant a kitchen herb garden
Brien Darby, a senior horticulturist and manager of Urban Food Programs, has these tips:
Choose herbs you already use. “Focus on annual plants like cilantro, basil, and parsley.”
Choose a pot at least 6 inches deep with good drainage. “Herbs can be grown together in one wide pot or in several pots at least 4 inches across.”
Set them in light. “Indoor herb gardens should get 8–12 hours of light a day; you may need a grow light.”
Make sure the soil is damp and high in organic compounds. “Herbs grown in pots require a fair amount of water. Depending on your home temperature, you may have to water up to three times a week. Soil should be slightly wet to the touch, but never soggy.”
Start a proper art collection
“Art offers something other investments don’t,” says Bobbi Walker of Walker Fine Art. “An art collection becomes a documentation of your life’s journey and, with quality art, will be something you love more over time.”
Find what you like. “Look at a lot of art. This is the only way you’ll find what styles, mediums, or genres you are drawn to. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone—challenge your eye.”
Research artists you love. “Once you find an artist you like, contact their gallerist to see examples of the artist’s work spanning a career. Read critical reviews and compare your impressions. Next, ask to visit the studio or view videos of the artist to gain insight into their intention. Then decide who you want to support.”
Shop your favorite galleries. “Find a gallery whose aesthetic is similar to yours and develop a relationship with the gallerist— that is your best resource for finding art.”
Add a wallpaper wall
“Wallpaper in a room is like a cute jacket to finish an outfit,” says Kim Layne of Kim Layne Interiors. “It’s an easy way to add another layer of style that complements and accentuates the rest of the room. We focus on adding layers of color, texture, and shine to achieve unique, sophisticated rooms.” Her favorite wallpaper lines: Ralph Lauren, Schumacher, and Kravet.
Make your home smarter
First, tackle the basics like temperature and lighting. The Nest thermostat and the Philips Hue smart lighting system don’t require extensive setup. Smart plugs like the Belkin Wemo Insight bring more wireless control to your “dumb” devices. And IFTTT, a free app, helps devices talk to each other and perform customizable functions, like automatically lighting the front walk for the pizza guy.
Install a great home music system
Nothing improves home media like a great audio system. These days, wireless is the fastest and easiest option, as it doesn’t require costly electrical work. Sonos is the gold standard in wireless home audio systems, with multiple options available: a two-room set ($379), four-room set ($729), entertainment set ($1,098), and more. The speakers are easy to install, sync to your smartphone, and come with Alexa voice control.
No excuses this year—we’re in Colorado, people!
Plan your first through hike
If you’ve never spent a night sleeping under the Colorado stars, now is the time to start planning your first thru-hike. To ensure safe conditions, start your hike no earlier than late June and no later than midSeptember. Make sure your hiking boots and other gear are in good shape (consult an expert at REI or Wilderness Exchange, if necessary). To plan your route, use the online resource AllTrails. Most important, never hike alone, and inform multiple people of your hike’s location, start date, and end date before you leave.
Learn basic bike repair
Every cyclist—serious or casual—should learn some basic bike repair. In Denver, Bikes Together is the perfect place to learn. Drop by this Denver nonprofit and attend the free Fix-Your-Bike program, a comprehensive workshop that provides access to the space, tools, and expert advice you’ll need to master rudimentary cycle maintenance. No appointment or sign-up necessary; simply show up during designated Fix-Your-Bike hours and Bikes Together will help with the rest.
Do a sunrise hike
Here in Denver, we’re so used to looking west (and in the evenings viewing beautiful sunsets), we sometimes forget that the eastern skyline offers some pretty epic scenery, too. The best time to catch it: at sunrise. So don a headlamp, pack a breakfast, and head out for a few of these favorite spots: Watch the sun rise over Denver from the top of Lookout Mountain in Golden, Royal Arch in the Flatirons, Sugarloaf Mountain in Boulder, and, of course, Red Rocks. Want to stay in the city? Venture pre-dawn to Sloan’s Lake or (if you want to stay inside) head to the top of the east-facing Ramada Inn right off I-25 at 2601 Zuni.
Volunteer to help maintain trails
Every step you take on a trail in Colorado is made possible by crews of volunteers who keep it safe and clear of debris. You can help, too. Volunteer for a single- or multi-day construction, maintenance, and restoration project with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, maintain one of 80 sections of the 486-mile Colorado Trail (with a little help from your friends, of course) through the Colorado Trail Foundation, or visit the Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado website to find projects.
Train for and join an obstacle race
If you’ve never competed in an obstacle race, Rugged Maniac is a great introduction to this fun (but taxing) form of exercise. Coming to Denver Aug. 10, this 5K race will have you commando crawling through the mud, scaling walls, jumping over fire pits, and—when it’s over—bragging to your friends. To train, you’ll need to work on your running as well as your total-body strength, which makes crossfit a great option for pre-race prep. CrossFit Denver offers personal and small-group training that will build the strength you need.
Take a wilderness first-aid course
A little emergency know-how is never a bad thing to have, so before the camping season starts, sign up for one of the three-day, 16-hour Wilderness First Aid courses offered by the Colorado Mountain Club throughout the year. The sessions cover numerous emergency situations you might encounter in the wild, like hypothermia and broken bones. All classes include a hands-on training component in the field.
Then Go Inside
Sometimes inner goals are the hardest—and the rewards the greatest.
Gain an extra hour for yourself every day
Start by keeping a time log, either in a small notebook or online (clockify and slimtimer are two free online trackers). Keep track of events in real time; don’t wait until the end of the day to recall what you did eight hours earlier. Be detailed (don’t just say “worked”—log how long you spent checking emails or worked on a specific project; at home, log how long it takes you to walk the dog or fold laundry). Keep the log for a week, then analyze how you’ve spent your time. What can you cut out so you have time for other important life goals, like exercising or writing your novel?
Invent an annual event to host
If you thrive on hosting and event planning, add an annual bash to your list of 2019 resolutions. It can be anything—a holiday celebration, a cookout, a murder mystery soirée—so long as it’s your baby. Research shows that people tend to recall three things about a great party: the first five minutes, the last five minutes, and the apex, an invigorating change halfway through the affair. Nail all three with a well-reviewed guide like The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters (Riverhead Books, 2018), by Priya Parker.
Eat more mindfully
Three simple ways to do so:
Never eat anything out of a carton, bag, or jar; instead, put your food on a plate.
Never eat standing up; instead, sit at a table, away from any phones or screens.
Try eating every dinner with chopsticks; they will slow you down and help you think about what you are eating. If you don’t have a pair, eat with your nondominant hand.
Become penpals with someone very different from you
Polish your epistolary skills by getting a pen pal. Pen Pal World, with more than 2.3 million users all over the world, assiduously protects your privacy; the free signup lets you contact three people within 24 hours; a VIP membership lets you contact 50 people. Interpals encourages practicing foreign languages with native speakers.
Learn not to procrastinate. Now.
Technology can help. Break the task—a work report, cleaning out the bathroom cabinets— into do-able chunks of time and get them on your calendar. Tomato Timer can help you do that. If you get easily distracted by technology, the app Freedom will cut off access to websites, apps, or the entire internet when you need to regain focus. Need help figuring out the steps to get your project done? Todoist will track tasks across your mobile and desktop devices.
Meditate each morning
Start small. Take five minutes each morning to meditate. Sit in a comfortable position, set your phone alarm for five minutes, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Inhale for four counts, hold, and exhale for four counts. If your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath. Once you feel comfortable with the five minutes, increase your time by a couple of minutes each day.
Sometimes the most prosaic accomplishments can feel the most satisfying.
Get professional headshots taken
Sending your résumé to casting directors? Want to update your LinkedIn photo? Professional headshots are never a bad thing to have. Book with Happy Hour Headshot, which provides headshots without the formality of sitting in a studio. Photos are taken outside, with an emphasis on capturing confidence and approachability. You’ll get multiple images, complete editing, and more.
Read up on your neighborhood history
The Denver Public Library’s Western History/Genealogy Department is a rich resource for learning about the lives and landmarks that make up Denver’s past. The library offers online neighborhood history guides, historic maps, genealogy archives, and a database that allows you to search the history of your house (or any historic building) to find out how old it is, who built it, and who has lived in it over the years.
Learn something new every day
Science has proven that learning new information improves happiness, prolongs life, and leads to a host of other health benefits. Capitalize on this evolutionary hack with Ted Ed, a database of short video lessons from the creators of Ted Talks. Topics range from philosophy to math to technology. Resolve to watch one per day (most are under five minutes). Want to dig deeper? The lessons include discussion boards and external resources. Some even link to full Ted Talks.
Upgrade your gadgets
Updating your electronics isn’t as hard as you think. First, identify which items are giving you trouble. Slow phone or laptop? The problem may lie in your operating system; check for updates at least once a month. If passwords are your problem, consider Dashlane, an easy and secure way to store and sync them all across your devices. You can check the condition of your phone or tablet’s battery with apps like coconutBattery. Free up storage on your laptop or desktop by performing simple tasks like deleting apps you don’t use, emptying the trash, and moving large files to a cloud storage service such as Dropbox.
Get your basic documents in order
Know where the following are: copies of your birth certificate, Social Security card, marriage license, and divorce papers (if applicable); passports; tax records going back three years from the date you last filed; records of financial holdings, including account numbers; insurance policies—medical, homeowner’s, and life; titles to your car, home, and anything else of value; a will, a living will, a health care proxy, and a durable power of attorney.
Find five podcasts to make you smarter
With hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there, a tool like Discover Pods is a great way to quickly find one you like. The database offers reviews, curated lists, and other resources to help you search. Download a few to your smartphone, and you’re ready to go.