7 ways to build wilderness into your New Year's resolutions

Nature provides a free gym to those who have fitness on their resolution list. 

ArildNybo, flickr

Each year, almost half of American adults make resolutions on New Year's Day. These Americans are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than those who don't make resolutions. 

This year, you can achieve your goals by incorporating adventures into wilderness into your plan. Here's how time spent outdoors in wild lands can help you make your efforts more enjoyable

1. Goal: Better health and fitness. Many New Year's resolutions are related to weight loss and smoking cessation, both of which can be aided through exercise. The best way to get active is to get outdoors, where beautiful scenery provides instant rewards for your endeavors. Plan to add regular hikes, trail runs or nature walks into your workout for a great calorie burning activity that won't feel like drudgery. 

Photo: Hiking can add strength and endurance training to any workout routine. Image by rtadlock, flickr. 

2. Goal: Spending more time with family. Regular trips to nearby natural places provide opportunities for family bonding and for forming lasting memories. Children will especially benefit. If hectic schedules get in the way of your family time, make a point to schedule outdoor excursions on your calendar a few weeks in advance. This will ensure that the time is protected and that your family gets loads of quality together time. 

Photo: Continental Divide Trail by Bob Wick, BLM.

3. Goal: Manage stress better. Stress may be unavoidable, but research has shown that even short periods of time outdoors can improve your ability to think clearly and help improve your mood. Don't forget to get out and take advantage of these natural stress relievers.  

4. Goal: Save money. You'd be surprised how much money you can save by planning more of your leisure events at nearby wild places where entertainment is free. Need ideas? Instead going out for drinks, grab a bottle of wine or a thermos of hot cocoa and head for your favorite vista for a night of stargazing.  Or instead of paying for the entire family to go to the movies, take the kids ice skating or sledding. If you already do these types of outdoor activities, just add a few more to the mix to add up the savings. You can accomplish your thrifty goals too by camping and cooking outdoors instead of paying for a hotel and restaurant meals.

5. Goal: Learn something new. The outdoors offers unending opportunities to challenge yourself and expand your horizons. Whether its taking up a new sport like snowshoeing or climbing, or learning how to identify edible plants or bird songs, wild places are ideal for acquiring and mastering new skills. For guided programs, check out our national parks. Most offer classes in topics from botany to wildlife to how to fly fish.

Photo: A ranger helps a visitor use a solar telescope at Joshua Tree National Park, by NPS, flickr.

6. Goal: See the world. International travel isn't cheap, so if you're goal is to see more of the world on shoestring budget, consider starting with some of the magnificent places right here in America. Our nation is home to almost 60 tremendous national parks and more than 100 national monuments, all of which offer unique and iconic American travel experiences.

7. Goal: Give more to others. If you want to give back, consider volunteering at a public land near you. Not only will you be helping visitors but you will be contributing to efforts to maintain these places for countless ones in future generations. Your tasks may even involve some of your favorite outdoor activities! Ask your local forest, refuge, park or monument about opportunities or visit www.wildernessvolunteers.org or recreation.gov for more information.

Remember, the best ways to ensure that you keep your resolutions is to set realistic goals, make a plan. We encourage you to choose one or two of the goals above and focus on them for the year ahead.  And even if you don't succeed 100 percent, remember that the journey of  a thousand miles begins with a single step. If nothing else, you'll enjoy some great time in nature.