50 Things for a Better 2020

Pouring coffee from a thermos into an enamal mug out in nature.

Kicka här för hela inlägget på svenska: 50 idéer för ett bättre 2020

Initially, the plan was to divide these “50 things” into categories – let’s say some for body, some for soul, some for planet, some for wallet etc. – but we quickly realized most could be tied to more than one. For example: one thing we’re going all in on is baking all of our bread ourselves, no buying. You could argue that’s a good thing for our wallets, because it’ll save us money – but also our bodies, because we’ll be eating purer products, our minds, because we’ll get relaxing moments of baking in the kitchen often, our planet, because of less plastic waste and more sustainably sourced ingredients… hence, we’ve put together one big list of 50 things to do, keep in mind or ponder for a better and happier 2020 for all. We have also created a one-sentence, downloadable PDF version of the list for those of you who might like to print it out and put it on your fridge. There’s both a Swedish and an English version available, and you’ll find the files at the very bottom of this page. Some things on this list of course won’t apply to you, and not all of them can be “checked off”, but we’ve included boxes to tick anyway, since that can be very satisfying and fun. If you like this, please share it with friends and family – that is by far the best way you can help support us so we can produce more of the content you like. Thanks, and have an awesome 2020!

1. Read before bed.

It’s hugely beneficial to avoid staring at your phone before you’re falling asleep. Instead, make this your reading time! Books or magazines, you choose. Allowing for a moment’s worth of calmness promotes an easier time falling asleep – and staying asleep, for that matter.

2. Try a new (seasonal and local) vegetable every month of the year.

Explore offerings beyond your staple ingredients and help promote biological diversity by doing so. We all know carrots, potatoes and green cabbage, perhaps, but what about salsify, Jerusalem artichokes, candy beets, celery root, rutabaga, chard, dino kale and savoy cabbage?

3. Get reusable produce bags.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to ditch the plastic ones you grab at the store and then toss into the recycling bin the second you get home.

4. Plan your meals – and save both time and money.

A tip is to make one day of the week your designated “food planning day”, and don’t forget to 1. include lunches 2. go through your fridge + pantry as part of it, to prevent food from going bad and 3. write a shopping list in conjunction with the meal planning.

5. Explore a new place in your home country.

We don’t have to travel far to see natural beauty – it’s right around the corner for those who bother looking for it. Skip the plane and shoot for a local type of vacation, and then tell others what they’ve been missing out on!

6. Join an environmental action organization.

Signing up for a monthly donation involves only a small sum for most people, but put together, it can make great things happen. If other types of “good deeds” seem too much work, this is by far you best bet when it comes to contributing to positive change.

7. Mend your things!

Make it a commitment for the year to actually sit down to mend clothes/items that have broken in one way or another. It’ll instill in you a feeling of accomplishment, on top of all the other benefits (such as preserving planetary resources and money). We feel great whenever we pull out the little sowing kit and patch up a pair of running pants.

8. Put up a bee hotel!

Whether on your balcony or somewhere on your property, bees are desperately seeking for shelter in cities as well as countryside. As their natural habitat (i.e. nature) is shrinking, it’s crucial we help them out and provide roof over their heads. A small act, but with infinite effect.

9. Keep phones and other electronics out of the bedroom ALWAYS.

We have an old-school clock radio for time in the bedroom and that’s it.

10. Set aside a designated food budget for each month.

Ours is SEK 3000 (USD 300) per the both of us, including all meals as well as household consumables such as toilet paper, detergent and dish soap. Make yours one that you think is achievable, even if it seems “too much” to begin with. It’s way better to start out gently and see how you like the concept as a whole, and then lower the amount as you learn how to stay cheap.

11. Plant pollinator-friendly flowers.

Whether you have a planter on your balcony or a whole property to play around with, spend a few minutes googling before you choose your flowers for the season. Some (let’s say mint, cosmos and borage) are very popular and beneficial for our struggling pollinators out there, so why not make sure the soil you’re in charge of provides both beauty and food for those in need?

12. Stretch every day.

It can mean one minute in child’s pose or a whole routine, but giving your body the teeniest bit of attention and stretch out your tissues every day will make a difference. We promise. It also makes you leave screens behind and just breathe for a while, which will give your brain a much needed re-set.

13. Give yourself five minutes before you check your phone in the morning.

Get out of bed, go to the bathroom, turn on the kettle, light a candle. Then grab your phone. Don’t let that screen be the first thing that greets you.

14. Make a habit out of checking for used before buying new.

Habits are habits for a reason – and therefore hard to change. Buying things new is a deeply ingrained behavior – but it serves neither your wallet nor our planet. Resources are precious, and it’s time we start treating them as such. Can we make buying new the exception and buying used the go-to shopping method? We’re committed for sure, and plan on not purchasing a single new item when preparing for our baby’s arrival. Hard when you see all the ridiculously cute outfits out there, easy when you think about how those came about and who’s paying the price.

15. Buy organic and local fruit and vegetables whenever possible.

It’s not nearly as hard as it sounds – all that’s required from you is a touch of imagination. In today’s western world, we’re used to having access to everything all the time. Avocados from the other side of the world? Sure. Tomatoes all year round? You bet! Fresh berries for my morning smoothie even in the midst of winter? Of course! This is far removed from what is normal and natural, and we believe treating food items as the very seasonal products as they are will completely revolutionize the way you see, handle and appreciate food. Yes, #stayinglocal can feel limiting to begin with – but it’ll get easier and easier the longer you stick with it. Ways to make it feel more doable: have a designated “cheat day” per week, or two if that will make you at least give it a go. Or you can flip it over, and start with one local day a week and build from there. All positive change counts!

16. Make good things easy to do and bad things hard.

A general piece of advice in order to counteract what humans do best, which is going for the easy route. When we make good habits easy to stick to, we’re far more likely to succeed. One good example is the simple act of placing your phone beyond an arm’s reach if you want to cut down on screen time. Most of us won’t get up and go to the phone to habitually scroll through social media – but we’re very likely to do so when the phone is right in front of us. List bad habits that you have and want to get rid of, and think of ways to make these behaviors more difficult to carry out. The same thing goes for the good things you already do or would like to start doing – but think of ways to make these easier for instead. The human brain is brilliant, but it’s also lazy and thereby easy to trick. Use that to your advantage!

17. Never lazy-watch TV.

We’re both allergic to TVs being on without anyone actively watching, and never put it on unless we have something we want to watch. It’s a waste of energy, focus and brain space, and you’re much better off investing your time into something that actually benefits you. People can postpone a 30 min workout for days, but zooming out in front of a random TV-show? That we happily do. TV is awesome and can bring both joy and knowledge – but make sure you’re in control.

18. Learn the name of + how to identify three birds and three wildflowers you didn’t already know.

Common knowledge for all our ancestors but a world away from the things the modern person cares about. Today’s complete disconnect between humans and nature stands in the way for environmental action, large-scale as well as small. Many of us don’t feel nature in our hearts the way we’re meant to, which leads to more of a shoulder-shrug type of response to alarming news about the status of our planet. Connect a little, this year! Learn some bird and flower names and feel part of what ultimately gives us life, every day.

19. Avoid palm oil.

It’s as simple as that. Some experts say “certified” palm oil is fine, but as long as some say we should avoid it all together, we’ll choose that route. It isn’t harder than flipping over packages, reading ingredient lists and refraining from buying if you spot “palm oil” somewhere in there. Most of the time, there are other alternatives.

20. Make sure you get enough fiber!

Our fiber intake has somehow become the one part of nutritional science that most people seem unaware of. Grams of protein, simple or complex carbohydrates as well as types of fat are all talked about (and sometimes obsessed over), but who here knows how many grams of dietary fiber we should try to eat in a day for good health benefits? A whopping 25-35 grams is the answer, and studies show that most of us don’t even get close. Whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruit make up fiber-rich food sources (note: fibers only exist in plant-based foods). Adding some oat bran or wheat germ to your breakfast bowl is a smart fiber-hack.

21. Prioritize and value sleep.

Getting enough sleep unfortunately isn’t very hip these days. Some think saying “oh I only sleep 4 hrs a night” is a testament to their successful, busy lives, others feel it makes them seem lazy and not driven enough if they’d admit to sleeping properly each night. There are also those who feel it’s totally uncool to go to bed early. We’ll state this once and for all: prioritizing sleep is the easiest, most efficient and by far cheapest way to maintain good health. We go to bed around 9:30pm every night and try to set ourselves up for a good night’s sleep as best as we can (see #1, #9 and #32), and we can’t even tell you how much better we feel in every single way now, compared to constantly lacking sleep when living busy and stressful lives in New York.

22. Become a regular at a farmers market.

Browse all the varieties that never make it to the supermarket’s more generic-looking shelves. Just seeing the plethora of fruit and vegetables being grown in your local area will get you excited, we promise!

23. Set goals to which the road is joyful.

In other words, don’t shoot for an ultra if you hate long runs. Don’t say you’ll bake all your bread if you hate baking. We need increased happiness and joy as the driving forces behind change – because only then will it be long-lasting and create genuinely positive vibes that others can take part in.

24. Try car-free commuting once a week – if you rely on a car.

We all have different life situations to cope with – so if you typically drive every day, could you make it a challenge to not once a week?

25. Grow something!

Whether edible plants or flowers, caring for something from seed to fruit or blossoming is a highly rewarding and grounding experience for the human mind. Have you always dreamed of growing vegetables but never gotten around to it? Make this the year you start.

26. Find an exercise routine that makes you feel good.

Moving your body IS necessary for good health – mental as well as physical. But struggling with motivation and dreading the sessions is terrible. Can you find a routine that you actually look forward to? Changing activities is one thing you can do – finding company is another. Some of us also respond well to “rewards” of different kinds – such as, “if I keep up my exercise routine, I have deserved a spa day/a new book/a fancy dinner out/a pair of new pants”. This is great if it works for you – just make sure whatever reward you’re looking at is a sustainable one (keep #14 in mind).

27. Unfollow all social media accounts that take more energy than they give.

It thankfully isn’t more complicated than that. If posts from this one person or that one account stir up feelings of inadequacy, anger, frustration, jealousy etc. – go unfollow immediately. Social media is great in so many ways, but it can be toxic too. Make sure you surround yourselves with accounts that inspire you and make you grow.

28. Pack a snack/lunch/meal and head into nature.

Yes! Make it a new habit – or do it at least once – where you pack something yummy and head outside. It doesn’t have to be a grand adventure – it can be a slow walk to a pretty place in a nearby nature reserve, or simply a stroll down to a bench in a park close by. Spending time in nature makes you relax, breathe and think more clearly – and you also give yourself a moment to connect with it.

29. Get rid of everything you don’t actually need – sell, donate or recycle based on the item in question.

Depending on the size of your home, set aside a relevant amount of time to go through your stuff and divide it into first a “keep” vs. “get rid of” pile. Then, you turn the “get rid of” into “sell”, “donate” or “recycle”. You’re going to feel lighter afterwards, we guarantee it, and your home will feel more at peace without unnecessary items laying around collecting dust. As a bonus, you could potentially make some money as well, and help save the world by preventing someone else from purchasing something new. It’s a win-win-win without an end.

30. Write down a list of 10 things more or less unrelated to consumption and money-spending that make you happy.

It’s as simple as it sounds. Just do it!

31. Pick up trash when you see it.

Yes, it stinks that everyone isn’t as responsible as you are, but for those of us understanding littering is bad, we just have to get over it. Doing good feels good.

32. Try to end all screen time – except TV – at 8pm.

Phones, laptops, iPads away. No social media triggering comparisons and negative thought loops – only carefully selected TV offerings that will do you good and promote a calm night’s sleep. And make sure you place your phone further away than an arm’s length. We keep ours on the kitchen counter when we’re on the couch, so as to prevent picking it up and checking Instagram out of pure habit.

33. Summarize your spendings after each month.

Where did your money go? Add everything up and decide if you feel comfortable with what you’re looking at or not. Are there recurring debit/card charges that you don’t really like seeing so many of? Target one area per month and see if you can change something. Eating out a lot? Bring lunch to work, socialize at home and plan your meals every week. Hefty bar tabs? Ponder your drinking habits. Do these serve you, or are you perhaps paying a high price for something not even making you all that happy in the end? Creating new contexts in which to see friends could be one solution. Spending too much on groceries? Consider eating more plant-based food cooked from scratch, avoiding speciality items and making big batches.

34. Practice saying no by thinking about what you say yes to instead.

Saying no to a party can be saying yes to a well-needed relaxing evening by yourself. Saying no to cramming yet another work project into your agenda can be saying yes to getting off on time on Friday and having time to pick up the kids. We’re trained to want to please and be liked, hence many of us find saying no a hard thing to do – especially if it involves a superior at work or a close family member or friend. We need a change of perspective here, because why do we feel like it’s ok to sacrifice our own well-being in order to meet someone else’s requests? Of course there are times when that’s the appropriate thing to do, too, but many of us are way too good at treating ourselves as less worthy of… well, you fill in the blank. Perhaps time to recover, sleep, exercise, eat nourishing food? If we switch the perspective and focus on what you’re saying yes to when saying no, it can get easier. We practice this all the time – and it gets less difficult for each occasion.

35. Use your body to commute to work if possible.

Walk, run or bike and save money on a gym pass as a massive bonus. Why do we put up with the infinite stress of crammed subways and CO2-spewing cars and traffic jams, only to later on go run on a treadmill inside? Combine the two, and you’ll start to feel like a million bucks. There’s a concept called “voluntary discomfort” that is thought to bring a higher sense of happiness and satisfaction than anything else, and that makes total sense to mention here. By voluntarily putting yourself through something uncomfortable – let’s say riding your bike to work despite rain and cold temperatures – and not choosing the easy way out – let’s say hopping in the car and driving there instead – you’ll get a buzz unlike anything coming from a “comfortable” choice. This, in turn, makes us happier people. Keep that in mind, and make sure you include a good dose of voluntary discomfort in your life.

36. Analyze your time-spending.

If you feel like you have “too little time”, sit down with yourself and analyze where your time goes every day. Social media? Work? Commuting? List relevant things. It’s sometimes embarrassing, often uncomfortable and always 100% worth it, taking a close look at how you spend your time. Becoming aware of how you invest your 24 hrs a day is the first and most important step towards change.

37. Bake your own bread – but only if you like baking.

Or, of course, if you would like to learn how to – but not because you feel you should. In that case, that energy is better invested where you get joy out of it. Baking your own bread could save you money, ensure that fewer and purer ingredients enter your body and generate fun moments in the kitchen, but only commit if you actually find it enjoyable.

Easy Overnight Rise Bread Rolls

Dutch Oven Grain Bread

38. Create a calm and centered home.

Does your home make you feel at peace? If not, change what disturbs you. Most people appreciate an orderly, de-cluttered home but few feel like that’s their reality. What can you do to make yours closer to your ideal? Fewer items, a cleaning schedule, better storage? Solutions are often many and within an arm’s reach in this department.

39. Swim in a lake or ocean as often as you possible can.

Whether summer or winter, letting your body be immersed by water is a revitalizing experience. The sensation afterwards is often that of feeling alive. And why wouldn’t we want more of that? See #35 for more thoughts on the power of voluntary discomfort.

40. Ask yourself (and repeat when needed): how would I live my life if no one was watching?

How does that idea differ from your current life? What can you change?

41. Take a look at your friends: do they all give you energy and make you happy?

“Breaking up” with friends not benefitting you is incredibly hard but just as necessary as ending a destructive love relationship. We feel stressed at the mere thought of having many relationships to entertain and care for and stick to fewer and closer friends, but we’re all different. Just make sure the people you surround yourself with are of good for your personal wellbeing.

42. Make a habit out of eating fruit or berries with breakfast every morning.

This is a great way of making sure you’ll meet the “500 g of fruit and vegetables a day” recommendation, besides the fact that it’s delicious. Just make sure you choose seasonal and locally sourced produce – and definitely stay away from fresh berries outside of the summer season. These have most likely been flown in, and their climate footprint is sky high (no pun intended). There are typically locally sourced berry options available in the frozen food section.

43. Turn off social media notifications and set a limit to how many times in a day you’re allowed to check your email.

Just go ahead and do it!

44. Watch as many sunrises and sunsets as you possibly can – and be present when you do.

We rush past gorgeous skies on our way here and there all the time, and miss out on so much prettiness when we stare down at our phones, but allowing yourself to be immersed in one of nature’s most beautiful sights (that even happens regularly) is a balm to the soul.

45. Make vegetarian the new food norm for you and anything but an exception.

We all know what the world as a whole needs to do food-wise for the climate: throw away less and eat more plant-based. The mere idea of giving up all animal-based foods can (naturally) turn people off, which is why complete absence might not be the best route to go for. If you can instead create a foundation of vegetarian eating and treat any exceptions to that as a special occasion and really appreciate them as such, then we might be on to something that could work on a global scale.

46. Buy cabbage instead of iceberg lettuce.

Iceberg lettuce can be great in certain contexts, but let’s make a few things clear: most people buy it out of habit, only to create the classic iceberg lettuce-tomato-cucumber side salad and call that their vegetables of the day. Iceberg lettuce is also primarily water, and thus provides close to zero nutritional value. When in season where you live, please go as lettuce-nuts as you want. But the rest of the year, how about swapping the dear iceberg for a green cabbage head? Cabbage is available locally sourced most of the year, doesn’t need greenhouses to grow and is very affordable. And the best part? It’s jam-packed with nutrients.

47. Hang out with a friend and do something good at the same time.

Combining social stimulation with carrying out good deeds, making your life simpler and taking care of your health is excellent. Suggestions include: picking trash, mending things, baking bread or pastries, making granola, prepping food for the week, going to a farmers market, exercising or bringing food to eat outside instead of going out to a restaurant.

48. Bring lunch to work.

If not already a habit, let’s make 2020 the year it becomes one. Everyone wins.

49. Compost.

Yes! Either through your landlord or communal bins, make sure your (unavoidable) food waste doesn’t go to actual waste. Organic material is supposed to be returned to the ground and turned into healthy soil, not being wrapped up in plastic and placed in landfills, or burnt.

50. Avoid flying.

The single biggest thing most of us can do to minimize our CO2-footprint just had to make the list. We all know there are valid reasons for certain flights, but the truth is most could be avoided. If your reason isn’t quite waterproof, consider a different option.

Click here to download a PDF version of the list: 50 Things for a Better 2020.pdf.

For the PDF version in Swedish, click here: 50 idéer för ett bättre 2020.pdf.

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5 thoughts on “50 Things for a Better 2020”

  1. Love this list! A few things already checked off, some are goals for 2020: baking our own bread more often, buying and focusing on locally produced and seasonal foods, and less screen time.
    Thanks for a well-thought out list!

    1. Sophia & Michael

      Makes us so happy to read, Marie! Hope you and yours are off to a good start so far 🙂 Thanks for following along!

  2. Pingback: 50 idéer för ett bättre 2020 | Live Slow Run Far

  3. Hi guys, bumped into you after last year’s Jättelångt race (grabbed some food afterwards in the restaurant) and just stumbled into your blog again after being inspired during lockdown to think about tackling Ultra Vasan next year. Really inspiring to read about your lives out in the archipelago, and this was a great list to look through. Hope all is going well with the new arrival and to bump into you again at some race in the future. Cheers, Deri

    1. Sophia & Michael

      Hi Deri! Oh, how fun to hear from you! How are things? So happy to hear the reason you found your way here – Ultravasan is such a dear race of ours and we’re definitely going back soon. We’re sort of debating between the Fjällmaraton 100k or Ultravasan next summer (too close to do both, it seems – probably only 2 weeks apart). Even though I’m just about starting up my running again after giving birth, both Mike and I are so excited about racing again. You can tell where your mind is at when it’s all running podcasts in your ears 🙂 Let’s stay in touch and make sure our paths cross again.



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