“People can achieve remarkable changes in their lives one small step at a time. The day-to-day choices you make influence whether you maintain vitality as you age or develop life-shortening illnesses and disabling conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke.”
Edward M. Phillips, Director of the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine, Harvard Medical School.
With small changes to your daily routine, you can achieve lasting, dramatic results. Some of us know what we have to do to improve our health… but still, we don’t take action. Why is this? A special health report from Harvard Medical School explains why.
The study showed that it took on average 66 days for an action to become automatic (a habit). This is a good point to remember when adopting a new behaviour – it doesn’t happen overnight.
Below are the 7 tips from Edward Phillip’s article ‘Simple Changes, Big Rewards: A Practical, Easy Guide for Healthy, Happy Living’ (2010):
– Dream BIG: this is inspiring to those around you!
– Break big dreams into smaller steps towards success: bite off manageable chunks
– Understand why you should or shouldn’t make a change: what is holding you back?
– Commit yourself: make written/verbal promises to friends/family or publicly (there’s nothing like a public Facebook declaration to help you stick to your goals!)
– Give yourself a medal: health changes are often incremental so celebrate your small successes along the way! * Tip: download the app ‘attaboy!!’ for a little confidence boost.
– Learn from the past: when things don’t work as planned take a moment to think about why… then congratulate yourself for having taken that step in the first place.
– Be thankful for what you’ve done: even if you don’t quite reach your goal – give yourself a pat on the back because you attempted it and that means you’re on the road to change.
What happens when you hit a wall, run off course, fall off that wagon?
These suggestions will point you in the right direction:
– Always have a plan: don’t rely on ‘winging it’, have an action plan and stick to it.
– Set off at a reasonable pace: Avoid injuries by going at a careful pace and slowly implementing new exercise.
– Envision a happy outcome: rather than a mantra of “I must meditate everyday” (which, lets face it, could lead to disappointment if you fall off course). Instead, look at things through a positive frame: “meditating everyday makes me feel calmer”
– Expect lapses: embrace them as part of the process!
– Live in the grey zone: Throw away ‘all or nothing’ thinking – don’t let little slip ups snowball. So, if you eat that piece of chocolate cake, or forget to pack a healthy lunch, just reframe your thinking to simply ‘begin again’ right away, don’t view it as a hall pass to overeat for the rest of the day.
– Accept full responsibility for making the change: remember that you are the only one who can really motivate ‘you’, so be your own cheerleader… it’s up to you.
Enjoy the process and stay positive. Focus on the things you’ve achieved and the progress you make along the way.
You’ve got this!