I’m a creature of habit — in grade school I would hate having to move desks! It seems like such a small thing but I remember having such an issue with this. But sometimes change is good and can present you with opportunities you wouldn’t necessarily come across (like sitting next to a cute boy in class!)
Ditch the Resolution for Small Changes
by Brett Blumenthal
Change, even that which is positive, is difficult: the older we get, the more difficult habits are to break; the more we have done something one way, the more difficult it is to do it another; and, the longer we think a certain way, the harder it is to change our perspective. Yet, we assume that making change should be achievable within a very short period of time. Unfortunately, the instant gratification we crave is exactly what hinders us from attaining success. The key is to acknowledge and accept that change takes time and requires a longer-term commitment.
If you’re embarking on a resolution for big change in the coming new year, I’d like to propose you take a new approach: trade in the big and lofty change for small, yet meaningful modifications. Over time, you’ll have made many small steps towards the big goal. This approach is more successful for the following reasons:
1) One Big Goal = Many Small Steps. Every big goal, such as weight loss, requires many smaller actions, such as cutting out bad foods, exercising, and eating healthy foods. Breaking a big goal into smaller components makes the process more manageable.
2) Extremes Don’t Work: Overhauling our life, or more simply put – going from all to nothing, or vice a verse – causes burn out. Taking a step-by-step approach, however, makes change seem less overwhelming.
3) It Feeds Our Need to Succeed: Attempting to do everything at once, but ignoring each small step we take along the way, doesn’t give us a sense of accomplishment. Allowing ourselves to master small adjustments, gives us an opportunity to feel successful, and the motivation to forge ahead towards the bigger goal.
In my book, 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You, I provide readers with a road map to make small modifications to their lifestyle on a weekly basis, so that at the end of one year, they feel happier and healthier due to the weekly accumulated effects. I stress that it is important to be holistic in one’s approach, focusing on physical well being, mental well being and the health of your personal environment, as all are instrumental in creating a healthy and happy lifestyle.
Putting it into Action
If you are resolving to live healthier in 2012, consider approaching it in the following way: In week one, choose a modification that seems manageable and focus on that one modification alone; in week two, take on a new modification, while still incorporating that of the first week; in the third week, add in a new change, while incorporating those from the previous weeks; and so on. Make sure that you are patient with yourself, enjoy the process, and remain forgiving if some modifications are difficult.
Although there are hundreds of modifications one can make towards better health, here are some changes to consider for the first several weeks of the process:
1. Indulge wisely: Healthy eating is important, but so is the art of indulging. How you indulge, however, is what’s essential. Enjoy indulging one day a week. This accounts for only 15 percent of the time, which helps to keep your cravings in check.
2. Laugh out loud: Laughter provides physical and emotional benefits. Practicing laughing every day can ease tension and anxiety and promote a healthy social environment. Build in laugh time through funny movies, comedy shows, having fun with family and friends, and playing with children.
3. Incorporate regular and routine activity into your lifestyle: Choose to be active in your everyday life. For instance, opt to walk as much as possible. This helps reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, both of which can contribute to heart disease. Regular activity can also help to reduce your risk of some cancers, strengthen your bones and muscles, and improve your overall mood.
4. Keep it clean and green: Eliminating environmental toxins can be as easy as changing your household cleaners to those with a Green Seal. Many chemicals in cleaners can be hazardous to families and pets. Invest in chemical-free cleaning supplies this year for a healthier household.
5. Build healthy and supportive relationships: Loving and supportive relationships are important to our overall outlook and mental well being. Avoid unhealthy, or negative relationships, as these can be detrimental to one’s health. Invest time in those relationships with individuals who bring positivity to your life.
Making small changes may seem “small” at first, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly they add up to big, glorious change!
Adapted from Brett Blumenthal’s 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You (January 2012).
Brett Blumenthal is best-selling author of 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You (January 2012) and Get Real and STOP Dieting! (December 2010). Blumenthal is CEO of Be Healthy, Inc., which is holding Be Healthy Boston– an urban wellness retreat at the Westin Boston Waterfront.