Wow, we made it! Awe say goodbye to the infamous 2020 it’s time to start looking to the future, which for many of us means New Year’s resolutions.  

When it comes to resolutions, I’ve always been aware that committing to do too much could mean giving up quickly. So, last December, I hatched an almighty plan. In an attempt to gradually change my behaviour, decided to take on a different environmental, feminist, health, or creative challenge every month, and talk about what happened in a vlog. At the end of each month, I could choose if I wanted to continue with my new behaviour or not.  

And boy, what a year to do this! It’s been a rollercoaster of a year in so many ways, and my monthly challenges are no exception. Here’s 7 things that happened when I turned my life into an experiment this year.

1) Coronavirus changed everything

Well, it wouldn’t be a blog about 2020 without mentioning the inevitable c-word, would it? Like everyone, I had so many plans for this year that were stopped in their tracks in March, but it’s funny how so many of the challenges I’d planned naturally became my everyday way of life during the pandemic.  

I wanted to spend a month cycling everywhere I go, but when lockdown started, cycling was my only way of getting out and about. I explored more of my local area than I ever had before and particularly fell in love with the Quietways cycling routes. Pedalling through the back streets of London is quicker, safer, you see more interesting things, and as we discovered in Hubbub’s Air We Share research, it’s a great way to reduce your exposure to air pollution too.  

Inspired by our Why Wing It? campaign, I was going to plan a fun staycation in 2020, but soon enough, that was my only way of going on holiday! My birthday trip to the Isle of Wight was lovely. The sea was surprisingly crystal clear for the British coastline and it was great to connect with the beautiful countryside we have here in the UK, without having to go very far. 

The plan was to give up Ubers, but there was soon no need when I was always at home and cycling everywhere. And with not wearing make-up for a month...well that pretty much sorted itself out. I was going to stop drinking, but the closure of clubs and pubs has meant I’ve barely drunk all year – what’s the point when you can’t embarrass yourself in public?! 

2) I changed my relationship with health 

The very first challenge I took on this year was giving up smoking. As one of the most commonly littered items in the UK, a big cause of plastic pollution, and the obvious health implications, after 10 years of smoking, it was time to call it quits. I went about it in a slightly different way than with past attempts, inspired by a book from the 80’s that my mum gave me, I made stopping smoking an actively positive experience - and it actually worked. That’s right, I’ve lasted 365 days without a cigarette! And what good timing, really, in a year where health has been one of the most prominent issues.  

And the health theme continuedspent 2 months learning all about the body positivity movement. There’s a lot of misconceptions around health when it comes to what your body looks like. People are assumed to be healthy if they’re thin, and unhealthy if they’re fat, but I learned that health is about so much more than a number on the scale. In fact, I let go of scales all together and learned about intuitive eating, a way of removing negativity around food and learning how to listen to your body. I quit the gym and focused on finding the types of exercise that I want to do because they’re fun or good for my mental and physical health, rather than to change my body. Through breaking my routine, I found that I’m not a fan of HIIT workouts or running, but I do love cycling, weight training and yogaand this helped me create a more body-positive exercise routine. 

3) I felt closer to my community 

Community has been more important this year than ever before, and some of my challenges brought me closer to the people and the space around me. Over my time at Hubbub, I’ve worked on various anti-littering campaigns, and always admired the passion local volunteers have for cleaning up their area. So, I was thrilled to give it a go myself when I spent a month litter picking in Greenwich. It’s not the most glamourous job, but I felt I made a tangible difference to improving my area, and the jolly comments from passers-by made me feel more connected to the people around me. 

And I felt a similar effect when I gave up plastic food packaging. As it turns out, plastic is everywhere! Shopping in supermarkets was suddenly very difficultso visits to the local bakery and greengrocers became part of my weekly life. I’ve always quite enjoyed the anonymity of using automated self-checkouts, but when I braved the threshold of the independent shops, loved that they recognised me each time and that I was able to support local businesses.   

Towards the end of the year, I joined the committee of our Tenants & Residents Association, and so far, I’ve decorated our Christmas treeand helped create hampers for our vulnerable neighbours. In the New Year, I’m excited to bring some Hubbub magic to the estate – we’re creating a giant present (like we did in Doncaster earlier this year) to reach out and increase engagement with the TRA. 

4) I got creative  

Anything artistic is right up my street, so I had to throw in some fun and creative challenges for good measure. As someone who was living with several key workers at the start of the pandemic, I thought it’d be really interesting to document our experience. I captured footage from the beginning and in May I took part in an online Documentary Foundation Certificate at Raindance to help me create a film from it. The course was absolutely brilliant, but it also helped me realise I didn’t have the footage I needed to make the hard-hitting documentary I dreamed of, but I did make a rather fun tongue-in-cheek video from the footage I had. 

My favourite challenge this year was when I upcycled a table. I’m the kind of person that never throws anything away, so for years I’ve held onto broken bits of jewellery, friendship necklaces I’ll never wear, beads, sequins, random toys and mementoes, even broken pieces of tiles that I found in the alleyways of Oldham when I was working on our #LoveWhereYouLive campaignWell, it wasn’t in vain. This year I finally found a use for it all. 

Inspired by the amazing creations of Muck n’ Brass and The Myr Tree Dorota Grabkowska made for #LoveYourForest, I decided to take all my bits and bobs, along with a few treasures I found during my litter picking challenge and set them in resin on a tableThe finished result isn’t the most polished or perfect creation, but I love it – it contains tokens from every era in my life so far, and I will keep it forever.  

5) I surprised myself 

Every month this year brought new learnings, and each was uniquely challenging in its own way. But some were easier than others. To my surprise, giving up dairy was the easiest of all my resolutions. Don’t get me wrong, I love cheese, a lot. But what made it so much easier than becoming an all-out vegan was keeping eggs on the menu. This opened up a whole load of meals and helped me transition to being vegan more gradually. Plus, the vegan cheese market has seriously upped its game recently – my fave is the Morrisons smoked cheddar. Yum.  

The most difficult challenge was, embarrassingly, giving up dating apps. It’s probably both a blessing and a curse to be single in 2020. Although I wasn’t able to date properly and the apps can be a real chore, they also provide you with new people to talk to and help you feel connected to a world outside your bubble in a time where socialising is at a minimum. So that challenge only lasted 2 weeks!

6) I burnt out, and then I chilled out 

The Resolution Project was started with the idea of gradually changing my behaviour, but what I hadn’t taken into account was that with every month that passed, there was more and more for me to do if I wanted to keep up these new behaviours. One month I even decided I wanted to start my own business selling my artwork as prints – and it was when I completely failed at that, I realised had burnt out.    

So, I just gave myself the month off! It had been a big old year and I’d already done way more than required of me, I owed myself a break. And I planned the next month accordingly by trying out different types of meditation to have a little more me-time. My favourite was doing meditation alongside yoga – who doesn’t love a good shavasana?

7) I saved money 

So, after all this hard work, have I saved any cash? I’ve done some number crunching and am pretty impressed with the result.  

After spending a gigantic £499 at the Pret and Tesco Express next to the Hubbub office in 2019, another challenge I’d planned to do was making my own lunches. That happened quite naturally through the plastic food packaging challenge, and then, of course, we were working from home and homemade lunches were a way of lifesaving me £364 this year. 

Also, did I mention I gave up my smartphone for a good chunk of the year? Yep, I spent the first 8 months of the year with this stylish flip phone. I learned a whole lot from the process, but I also made a saving too! I only spent £103 on my phone bill this year, in comparison to last year’s £243. 

Giving up my phone, cycling everywhere, and not being able to go on nights out, meant I used Uber much less, and it saved me £276 (and a whole lot of air pollution!). 

Finding an exercise routine outside the gym saved me £225 and not smoking gave me the biggest comparative saving, going from around £390 per year on tobacco, to £0! 

And then my biggest overall saving was on the London Underground. In 2019, I spent £1325 on TFL, whereas this year was only £359 – saving me a whopping £966 and bringing the grand total I’ve saved this year to £2361! 

This amazing result would no doubt have been very different if the pandemic hadn’t happened, but it goes to show how much is possible when you make a few changes in your life.  

To wrap up, some advice for setting your resolutions...

As you can tell, The Resolution Project has changed my life in so many brilliant ways this year, but a big challenge every month is a lot to take on. So, my advice, as you’re sat at home thinking about the year ahead, would be to consider choosing one small goal each month, or perhaps a few big ones to focus on all year. Mine will be training for a long-distance cycle, planning a documentary and creating a sustainable beauty routine.  

We’d love to hear your resolutions, let us know @HelloHubbub on Instagram, @HubbubUK on Facebook and Twitter, or email us at [email protected] 

Want to find out more about what I got up to this year? Check out my YouTube channel at Hey Nonny Vlogs and let me know what you think!