It doesn't matter if it is 2012 or 2011, the U.S. government has compiled a list of the most popular New Year's resolutions that make our lists on a yearly basis.
Drink less alcohol: whether it is a resolution to cut down or simply stop, alcohol consumption is a winner each year. Because of the growing obesity problem in the country, many diets or weight-loss programs advise us to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed in any given week. High in carbohydrates, alcohol's calories and carbs can be better used on something more filling or healthy.
Eat healthy food: Continuing with the previous theme of getting healthier, picking food for meals and snacks that doesn't send our daily sodium and caloric intake through the roof has become a bit easier. Because of statutes now in effect both on the state and national level, restaurant chains are required to disclose the calorie count of each offering and provide customers with disclosure of the mean's protein, fat, carbohydrate and fiber content.
Get a better education: Whether it is adding to the education one already has or switching learning institutions for your children or yourself, many Americans are going back to school. Whether it is technical training, accumulation of new skills or getting a GED or a college degree, there are many choices that allow for online and part-time classes to fit every schedule.
Get a better job: Finding employment that is an upgrade in income or status might require learning new skills or finishing a degree. It seems to go hand and hand with getting a better education.
Get fit: It can mean anything from merely moving off the couch or the office chair to walk all the way to hiring a personal trainer or joining a gym. Gym memberships spike in January each year, but the commitment to continue into February and March seems to be a bit more difficult that signing yourself up.
Lose weight: Coupled with eating healthier and getting fit, losing weight will be a natural consequence. For those that would rather tough it out and follow a formal diet, recent studies have shown that more people lose weight and keep it off longer when they follow the Weight Watchers program.
Manage debt: After the credit and housing crisis of 2008-2009, many Americans cut up credit cards or stopped using as many as they used to. Managing debt doesn't have to mean eliminating it altogether. Many credit counselors advise clients to use revolving credit but use it wisely and pay it off timely.
Manage stress: For some Americans it means anger management. For others it means limiting the stress triggers in their lives. Many healthcare professionals suggest aerobic exercise as a way to deal with some of it and of course there are a host of medications that can manage the worst of it.
Quit smoking: As local and state laws came into effect in the last two decades, the places where a smoker can light up in public have been severly limited. Quitting might require help, whether it is in the form of counseling, an over-the-counter medication or the cooperation of family and friends.
Save money: There is a load of free advice from experts like Suzy Orman or tried and true methods that require discipline. In conjunction with reducing your debt, saving money can also be one of the ways to eliminate a stress trigger for many.
Volunteer to help others: A worthy resolution and with so many Americans in need there is no dearth of organizations, on a local or national level that can help you accomplish your goals. Pick something specific like working in local schools, helping at a homeless shelter or teaching someone to read.
Reduce, reuse or recycle: Some people resolve to reduce clutter and have yard or garage sales. Others stop buying new versions of consumer items they already own. Others learn that recycling isn't' as difficult as once thought with the number of community recycling programs that pick up.
Take a trip: With recent statistics showing that Americans don't use all their vacation time they are given by employers, resolving to take a trip might be the one way to ensure you take some down time. Even the popular "staycations" that were the result of the economic downturn don't preclude traveling locally to see something you just don't take the time to do. Visit local museums, parks, attend free concerts or just take a long drive that takes you somewhere you've never been.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons/Kvasir