With it being halfway through January, most of us have already made our New Year’s resolutions – and promptly started to neglect them. So rather than sweating over the guilt from breaking our own half-hearted promises to look like Lara Bingle by March, why not use this year to improve yourself in a less predictable fashion. Here are my top suggestions for self development – no diet required.

Read more
From making you more empathetic to staving off Alzheimer’s disease, regular reading does wonders for your brain and state of mind. Studies have shown that reading can be therapeutic by assisting in the reduction of stress, while improving your mood; so rather than trying to switch off after a big day by watching telly, curl up with a good book – evidence suggests you’ll sleep better for it too. And it’s not all rest and relaxation, despite being a super soothing pastime, your brain is actually hard at work. Reading improves your memory, expands your vocabulary and builds your analytical skills – all while you’re chilling out. So for a brain boosting resolution, get between the covers.

Learn to cook
For me, learning to cook not only established my independence once I had moved out, but also became a creative outlet. Learning new dishes expands your knowledge of cultures and tastes, but is also a great way of gaining an understanding of nutrition and health. Nurturing yourself and the people around you with home cooking is a wonderful way to bring people together, but also expand your skills. Currently I’m loving When French Women Cook, a gastro-memoir by Madeleine Kamman.

Create a savings plan
Savings is an essential element of a working life. Whether it’s about putting pennies aside for a dream holiday, or starting your own nest egg, savings can make a huge difference. As a general rule, putting ten per cent of every paycheck aside is a perfect start; it’s too little to feel you’re depriving yourself of your hard earned funds, but enough to build upon. It’s a fact of life that there will be unexpected costs, having savings works as a security net to save you from hitting the credit cards too hard if things do go belly up, and are a brilliant motivator to help you achieve your goals. Try setting up an automatic transfer every time you get paid, then before you know it you’ll have a reserve.

Learn a language
Besides being somewhat sexy and exotic, a new language can give you an all-round better brain. Studying a language means you’re better able to understand the subtle nuances of words that can sway our feelings. This means you’ll be able to make more rational choices and, as studies have shown, build more sophisticated decision-making skills. Bilingual people have been shown to be superior at multitasking and focusing too, so odds are you’ll be better and more effective at work (and play). You’ll have a sharpened grasp of your first language too and significantly reduce your likelihood of dementia. Organised and sexy? Can’t wait.

What new goals have you set for yourself this year?

Kate Jones blogs about writing and pop culture at Calvicle Capitalism.