Sure, swearing off sugar for life or vowing to run 5kms a day sounds mighty virtuous. But for most of us, that kind of dedication just isn't realistic. And you know what? That's okay.
Because when it comes to making healthy changes, baby steps are a whole lot better. Folks who make just one small tweak to their food choices or activity levels each week lost more weight and took more inches off their waist compared to those who tried to overhaul their routines, found a recent study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
Of course, you can bring about positive changes in any area of your life using the small-change approach. Whether you're trying to eat better, move more, manage your stress, or strengthen your relationships, taking it one tiny tweak at a time is the key to real - and long-lasting - success.
Here are 13 simple shifts to try in 2020.
1. Eat all your meals off of a salad plate. We scarf down a whopping 92% of what we pile onto our plates - no matter how big or small they are, says recent US research. Trading your dinner plate for a salad plate is an effortless way to serve yourself a little bit less - and chances are, you'll still feel satisfied.
2. Take one-minute stretch breaks. Staying limber can help stave off injuries and make it easier to keep doing the activities you love. (What would Saturdays be without tennis or golf?) But you don't have to hit up weekly hour-long yoga classes to reap the benefits. When it comes to improving your mobility, building a few 60-second stretch breaks into your day is just as effective, experts say.
3. Have a real-food snack. When the midday munchies strike, trade the usual cookies or chocolate for something minimally-processed, like fruit and nuts or plain yoghurt. Whole foods are more nutritious, but that's not all. They can actually boost your kJ burning, since research shows that your body is forced to use more energy to break them down.
5. Swap white bread for whole wheat. Or, find other ways to sneak more fiber into your diet - like having oats (think porridge or muesli) for breakfast instead of a muffin, or tossing a scoop of beans to your salad. Simply eating more roughage could be enough to help you shed 10 kilos in a year, suggest findings published in The Annals of Internal Medicine.
6. Draw out your stress. Next time you're THISCLOSE to losing your mind, try putting pen (or crayons) to paper. Repetitive, creative activities like doodling or colouring are soothing because they encourage you to be in the moment instead of worrying about your problems, experts suspect. If you're not a natural Picasso, don't worry. It's about doing something aimless - not being perfect.
7. Move for just five more minutes. Trying to kick your exercise routine up a notch? You don't have to dive into training for a marathon. Just start by tacking a little extra time onto your workout. Five more minutes of brisk walking will burn an extra 100 kilojoules. Do it every day for two weeks, and you'll torch almost 1400 kilojoules, which is equal to an inced donut.
8. Use a little less sweetener. Ditching sugar altogether is a recipe for deprivation. Instead, find ways to use just a little bit less - like adding one less sugar sachet to your coffee, or cutting the sugar in your favourite biscuit recipe by 1/4 cup. Your taste buds will adjust, and over time, you'll actually come to prefer the less sweet flavor, suggests one recent American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study.
9. Plop a plant on your desk. It's no secret that spending time in nature makes you feel good. But even tiny doses of green can have positive effects: Employees whose workspaces are decorated with plants report being happier on the job and have an easier time concentrating compared to those who work in plant-free spaces, found one British study.
10. Sync your bedtime with your partner's. Research shows that couples who go to bed at the same time tend to be more satisfied with their relationships. If your sleep schedules don't match up, find ways to connect before the early bird dozes off. Take a bath together, have sex, read to each other, or even just tuck your partner in before you head off to do your own thing. It makes a difference.
11. Watch more funny videos. Next time the you-know-what hits the fan, give yourself permission to take a five-minute YouTube break. Believe it or not, watching that baby goat riding in a shopping cart has the same calming effect on your brain as meditation, experts say.
12. Sip milk instead of a nightcap. The alcohol in that glass of wine or cocktail disrupts your sleep cycle, leaving you groggy in the morning. But milk contains the amino acid tryptophan, which helps you feel sleepy. Have a warm glass with a drizzle of honey - the carbs from the sweet stuff help make tryptophan more available to your brain.
13. Carry your laundry upstairs in batches. Rather than try to haul everything up in one impossible load, take a few separate trips. Tacking on just three minutes of extra stair-climbing per day burns enough kilojoules to help you shed an extra kilo per year. Go ahead - step to it!