New Year’s Resolutions are made far more easily than they are kept. By April, treadmills are gathering dust, self-help books are flooding the dollar bin, and grand plans to organize the garage are all but abandoned, much like your motivation.

For animal lovers who are human enough to struggle with these yearly reinventions, involving pets and wildlife in your plans may be the approach you need to succeed. Here are some of the most common resolutions people make every year and some helpful hints, with an animal-friendly twist:

1. Be more fit and active. Year after year, this is one of the most common resolutions reported, but without creating a realistic or measurable fitness plan, it is hard to stay on track. The secret to success this year may just be your dog. Studies have shown that dog owners are more likely to get the exercise they need than non-owners. Try setting a strict schedule for walks, before or after work, and increasing the amount on your free days. Dogs are creatures of habit, and will hold you accountable if you try to slack off in a few months. To keep it interesting, make a list of parks and trails in your area and try to visit a new one each month (or each week, if you’re feeling ambitious!)

2. Quit smoking. If you’ve decided to ditch tobacco, congratulations! It’s a very difficult habit to break, but keeping your pets in mind can help you strengthen your willpower and avoid lighting up. Pets are greatly affected by the dangers of secondhand smoke, but luckily, they can be great motivators. In a 2008 study, nearly a third of smokers who owned pets reported that more information about the dangers of secondhand smoke to their pets would motivate them to seek help quitting.

3. Volunteer more often. Perhaps it’s the charitable nature of the holidays that makes us wish we could do more, but every year many Americans set New Year’s goals to prioritize giving. For animal lovers, there is no shortage of worthy causes. Research local and national organizations to see how you can donate your time and talent to help animals and wildlife in need. You can even involve your pets with programs like animal-assisted therapy, provided they meet the health and behavior requirements. The Red Cross and ASPCA are just two organizations that train owners and their pets to visit nursing homes, hospitals, and institutions. VolunteerMatch is a great resource to find volunteer opportunities near you.

4. Be smarter with personal finance. People at all income levels resolve to be thriftier every year, and although pets can be quite expensive, there are many resources to help lower the costs of care. Amazon offers a Subscribe and Save program that can save you up to 15% on expenses like litter and food (and they’ll deliver for free.) Phone apps like GoodRx and Pet Care Services help you find the lowest prices on services and prescriptions for your pets, as well. Remember that keeping your pet healthy with small measures, like keeping them up to date on shots, will help you avoid the cost of a sick pet.

5. Eat healthier. One of the best ways to eat more nutritious food and reduce animal suffering is to be smarter about your meat and dairy consumption. Whether you choose to eliminate animal products from your diet altogether is a personal choice, but designating certain days of the week to be “meat free” can help you discover new, healthy foods and plan delicious meals around plants. Try this delicious spin on Northstar’s veggie burger!

6. Manage stress. We take to meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and medicine to reduce stress, so why wouldn’t we use animals? While chronic stress should be discussed with your doctor, try confronting smaller stressors at home by taking a break to pet, play, or take a walk with your animal to clear your mind. If you’re having trouble concentrating at work, embrace the ‘Power of Kawaii’. You can thank Japanese researchers for their study that links looking at photos of cute animals with better concentration and less stress.

7. Take a trip. Why go to Orlando again when you can wash elephants in Thailand? Or feed sloths in Costa Rica? There are plenty of destinations that offer you a chance to observe or support wildlife while getting a nice tan. If you prefer to stay in-state, check out the Lake Erie Birding Trail  – a great guide to the 312 miles of shoreline bird locales. You’re likely to see more wildlife than you knew existed in Ohio.

8. Spend more time with family. This is all too common a resolution for parents who work often. Luckily, some of the best ways to spend time with kids is to pique their interest in animals. Together, try building a bird feeder for your window and researching avian life in your area. Take a stroll around the wetlands or nature preserves in your area. You’ll have not only these neat experiences together, but so much to talk about and plan afterward. – Erin Norris

Erin Norris is a freelance writer based in Columbus, Ohio. She enjoys baseball season, historical biographies, and the company of her mischievous tuxedo cat. 

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