Lose weight, save money, quit smoking or spend more time with the family.
Sound ho-hum and familiar? If you’re anything like most people, that commitment to change you made as the fireworks welcomed in the new year may already be a distant memory.
In fact, one American study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found only eight per cent of people who set New Year’s resolutions stick to them.
Instead of committing to big, bold pledges you’re unlikely to achieve, here are some teeny, tiny changes that will have a big impact on your health, happiness and chances for success in 2016.
1. Swap lattes with the lot for green tea
“If you like your coffee with all the add-ons, like caramel sauce, syrups and cream on top, it’s going to stack on a tonne of calories,” says Lauren McGuckin, an accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.
“You’re essentially consuming an entire meal worth of calories and some with all of these add-ons.” Antioxidant-rich green tea is low in calories – and still offers a decent caffeine hit.
2. Colour in
Staying between the lines is more than child’s play and the adult colouring book trend is showing no signs of abating. Psychologists say it’s a form of mindfulness that can help to combat stress and anxiety and improve mood.
If you’re short on time, microvoluteering allows you to give back in small chunks of time, often from the convenience of your home with phone and internet-based tasks. Check out Go Volunteer and SEEK Volunteer.
4. Stand more, sit less
According to a growing body of experts, sitting is the new smoking. Spending too much time on your rear end – at work, in your car, on the couch – increases your risk of diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease, and is also linked to an early death. An Australian study suggests standing at least once an hour can help to alleviate the effects.
5. Turn off your phone before bed
Do you check Facebook and Twitter just before you go to bed? The blue light emitted from your smartphone can affect your sleep quality because it supresses sleep hormone melatonin. Put your phone aside at least an hour before you hit the sack for a better night’s sleep.
6. Ask for a pay rise
“This is a great way to increase your confidence,” says workplace psychologist Ellen Jackson from Potential Psychology Services.
“You can walk away not only with more money but with increased confidence in yourself and your ability to handle tough situations.”
She recommends being clear about what you want, what you bring to the organisation and remaining businesslike in the discussion.
7. Eat more plants
The evidence is stacking up in favour of a plant-based diet, which emphasises fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes and nuts. Why? It’s lower in calories and fat and is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
“It’s not necessarily just fruit and vegetables – think about all plant sources of food,” says McGuckin.
8. Focus on losing fat not weight
If you really want to commit to the most common new year’s resolution ever, exercise physiologist Dr Bill Sukala says changing your focus from weight to fat loss will yield healthier results.
“You have to take into consideration body composition because it’s not about weight loss, it’s about fat loss,” he explains.
Body fat scales or a DEXA scan – the gold standard of measuring body composition – can help to track your progress.
9. Find or be a mentor
“Working with a mentor provides you with inspiration, ideas, feedback, challenge and a door to a wider professional network,” says Jackson.
“Plus, there is a lot of research suggesting that mentoring younger people is a contributing factor to greater happiness and a sense of purpose in life for the mentor.”
10. Stop lurking on social media
Research shows that spending long periods of time looking at photos of friends on Facebook could cause us to become insecure about our body image.
The solution? Cut back on your social media usage and adopt a varied digital diet.
11. End a toxic friendship
“Humans are social beings and we thrive when we are in kind, loving relationships,” says clinical psychologist Dr Jo Mitchell, director of The Mind Room.
“A key to happiness is minimising toxic or draining relationships and investing your energy into the good relationships in your life, or creating new ones.”
12. Try interval training
Short on time to exercise? High intensity interval training (HIIT) provides similar fitness benefits to a continuous aerobic workout, like a long walk or jog, in a much shorter period of time – usually 30 minutes or less.
“It gives you more exercise bang for your buck because you’re doing higher intensity in a shorter amount of time,” says Dr Sukala.
13. Donate cash to charity
Foreign money left over from your overseas travels is literally worthless at home. Bankwest and Commonwealth Bank accept donations of foreign currency on behalf of UNICEF.
14. Dish up smaller portions
“Most people know what they should and shouldn’t be eating but when they do try to eat well they still eat way too much,” says McGuckin.
Aim to fill half of your (small) plate with colourful, non-starchy vegetables, one quarter with protein and one quarter with low-GI carbohydrates.
15. Holiday in Australia
According to Roy Morgan Research, Australians have an average of just under 21 days of annual leave squirrelled away. Saving it up for an overseas jaunt can be tempting thanks to cheap airfares and a strong Aussie dollar, but holidaying locally means you’ll spend less time flying and more time relaxing.
16. Be grateful
“Noticing what you have in your life and expressing gratitude for it is a simple action with a powerful boost for your own happiness,” says Dr Mitchell. “Plus, if you share your gratitude with others, it can also boost their happiness.”