Small lifestyle changes are easier to achieve and maintain
Think you have to spend hours at the gym or switch to a stringent diet to improve your health?
While you may believe that big changes are the only way to achieve results, small lifestyle changes can actually make a big difference to your overall health and well-being.
“When changes are too drastic, they may be overwhelming,” says Lina Dajani, MD, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Torrey Pines. “Small lifestyle changes are easier to achieve and maintain. They are more likely to become habits and lead you to success.”
Try these five small changes to make a big impact on your life.
1. Shake up your routine a little at a time
Once a week, try a new food or recipe
It’s a great way to expand your culinary skills, and you just may discover a new favorite. Tastes change over the years, and the squash you hated as a child may taste delicious as a creamy soup.
If you’re looking for ideas, try some plant-based recipes. They not only provide health benefits, they are tasty.
Take a walk after dinner, instead of watching TV
One hour of rapid walking after a meal cuts the rise in blood fats by 12 percent. Plus, it gives you valuable “family time,” away from the distractions of home.
Try a new workout
If you usually run, explore a spinning class. If you’re a Pilates devotee, try a yoga class. “You’ll work different muscles, avoid exercise burnout, and most likely enjoy the new experience,” says Dr. Dajani.
Go someplace you’ve never been before
If you can visit a foreign country that’s always intrigued you, great. But even venturing into a new store or checking out an unusual art gallery can energize a routine day.
Write a letter instead of e-mailing
Handwritten letters have become so unusual in our fast-paced world, and they give both you and your readers a reason to slow down and enjoy heartfelt communication.
2. Keep it simple
Read a little at a time
Instead of vowing to “read more,” resolve to read one chapter (or a certain number of pages) of a book each day, or even each week.
Learn one new word a day
Treat yourself to a “Word-a-Day” calendar and expand your vocabulary without even really trying.
Exercise in small batches
No time for 30 minutes of exercise? Three 10-minute blocks of activity can add up to the same heart-healthy benefits as a full half-hour. Remember, the whole point is to get moving. No need to make excuses. Just do it.
3. Make small changes in your diet
Go light on eggs
Whip up an omelet with one whole egg and two egg whites, and save 10 grams of fat and 100 calories over a three-egg meal.
Make your baked goods lighter
Replace oil or butter in baking recipes with the equivalent amount of unsweetened applesauce or other pureed fruit. Your baked goods will be lighter, healthier and every bit as tasty.
Work in vegetables
Next time you make soup, pasta or scrambled eggs, toss a few handfuls of fresh chopped vegetables into the mix.
Make one vegetarian meal a week
Browse through the vegetarian cookbooks in your bookstore, or search online for appetizing suggestions.
4. Practice kindness
Surprise someone with a little gift for no reason
A silly card or a single flower can make someone’s day, and you’ll feel better for having done it.
Socialize with older relatives and neighbors
Older adults who make a point of spending time with others may feel less stress and have a greater sense of well-being.
5. Be good to yourself
Give yourself the gift of silence
Schedule 10 minutes a day all to yourself, with no TV, cell phones, e-mail or other distractions. A little silence goes a long way toward reducing stress.
Keep a journal
Take a few minutes to reflect on your successes or write down your worries.
Put a sticky note with the word “breathe” on it someplace where you will see it often — on your computer, for example. Whenever you see it, focus on taking 10 deep, full breaths. Focused breathing, including breathwork techniques, slows your heart rate, reduces stress and helps you feel calmer and more relaxed.