Inch by inch wellness is a cinch. If you’ve been around me for a while you’ve heard me say this many times before. When I work with clients one on one or when I speak to small groups or huge auditoriums my approach is the same – small changes create big shifts. I feel so strongly about the power of this simplicity that it has been the overarching theme of my blog for nearly three years and is even the title of my radio show. Choose one small change at a time to move you forward in your wellness journey.
There is a caveat to that. If you are in an acute health crisis you may need to take a more dramatic approach to get your body out of crisis mode. Only you and your healthcare practitioner can know that. However, for the rest of us, it is good to deepen and broaden our knowledge about health and wellness and then take it one step at a time. Unfortunately, that is not what most people do.
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’re freshly charged up to get your health under control, lose that extra weight and get more energy. So you’ve got a plan to juice every morning after your daily 30 minute power walk that was preceded by your 15 minute meditation session. Then you’re going to pack your healthy lunch to take to work so that you don’t grab something from the vending machine. You’re going to spend your lunch breaks doing chair yoga in your cubical and then hit the gym on your way home. When you get home you’ll fix a low-fat, high protein dinner with lots of veggies. You’ll take a hot shower with lavender oils to wash away the day and be in bed by 9pm to ensure you get a full 8 hours sleep every night. Your perfect wellness day!
How long does that last? All of those individual healthy habits are wonderful. They’re even better in any combination. But when your typical day/week/month/year has been pretty much the opposite of that for quite a while you can’t expect to zip from zero to 60 overnight. It isn’t fair to your body, mind or spirit. You try, but when it doesn’t work out perfectly you get disappointed and then The Committee in your head starts talking trash. The next thing you know you’re saying forget it and buy a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. We’ve all done this to ourselves in one form or another…maybe not quite to this extreme, but you get my point.
I want you to be well. I want you to move forward on your wellness journey in the best, most comfortable and feel-good way that actually improves your health and well-being. That is why I promote small changes. I also know and teach how the small changes truly can create those big shifts that you’re seeking by often impacting all Four Quadrants of Wellbeing (mechanical, chemical, spiritual/psychological, energetic). I’ll get into how they create big shifts in my next blog. But right now let me share the top 5 reasons why you should stick to small changes.
You can really see/feel the impact. There is a reason why scientists make micro adjustments when experimenting or testing a hypothesis. If they apply too many change agents then it would be difficult to know how each agent impacted the study. The same is true with your body. If you suddenly change a lot of things in your behavior, eating habits, sleeping, etc., all at once you won’t really know how each action is making you feel. I speak about “Body Talk.” If you make small changes then you can really listen to your body and feel how that particular change is making a difference (or not) and adjust accordingly – more, less, or different.
You can avoid overwhelm, physically or emotionally. When you pile on the changes, especially when they’re significantly different from the lifestyle you had been living before, it can feel overwhelming. You can create a lot of stress both in your mental space and in your body when you try to take on huge or many dramatic changes at once. Why put yourself through that if you don’t have to? Small changes, one at a time, gives you the ease of focus.
You can handle imperfections better. Look, none of us make perfectly perfect healthy choices 100% of the time. That is especially true when you’re working on changing habits. If you choose to make small changes you are less likely to slip into an All-or-None mindset if you slip up one day. You know what I’m talking about…when you say yes to the birthday cake in the office Friday afternoon even though you’re trying to cut out sugar, and so later that night you say, “Forget it. I might as well have Chinese take-out and cheesecake tonight.”
You can focus on creating a new healthy habit. Research tells us that it takes a minimum of 21 days to create a new habit (90 days to really ingrain it). If you’re serious about making changes in your health and wellbeing then these healthier actions need to be long-term habits, not do it and done quick fixes. Habits take time and focus when they’re new to your routine and mindset. If you take on one small change at a time it will be easier to give it the attention and intention it deserves to become a new healthy habit.
You will feel the compound effect of success. Let’s face it, when you succeed you feel the drive to create more success. Well, for all the reasons already mentioned, it is easier to be successful in making lasting healthy lifestyle changes when you take them on one at a time. Every single day you are successful it gives you the zing of pride and self-satisfaction, not to mention improving your health and feeling better, and that motivates you to keep it up. When you’ve built up that bank of success you’re more capable of handling a small debit if you don’t quite make it happen on a particular day. You’re less likely to fall into the All-or-None pattern because you’ve felt success consistently and know you can get back there tomorrow, or with the next healthy choice you make. The compound effect of success spurs you on to take on new small changes when you’re ready and feel more confident in your ability to make them stick.
Small changes are the best approach to creating healthy habits to improve your wellbeing. Now, how can you apply this to your wellness journey? What small change will you focus on first?
Originally posted January 21, 2015