‘Fess up: how many times have you started a new week, month or year with the best of intentions, only to find yourself falling short (and feeling defeated) only a few days in? It probably goes a little something like this:
- SUNDAY: “I’m so excited about this week ahead. Tonight I’m going to bed by 9pm so I can wake up early and get to the gym for an hour before work!”
- MONDAY: “I did it! I got up, went to the gym, drank a green protein smoothie at home instead of stopping for a fast food breakfast, and I feel great.”
- TUESDAY: “Oops. I overslept my alarm… Oh, well. I’ll try to take a walk during my lunch break and eat a healthy dinner.”
- WEDNESDAY: “I’m still so full from that pizza and cake I ate for dinner last night. I can’t believe I forgot it was John’s birthday and I’d agreed to meet everyone out to celebrate! I probably should have gone for a run this morning but I was just too tired. Maybe tonight?”
- THURSDAY: “I’m so frustrated with myself. I really wanted to do better this week in terms of my health and fitness but I only stuck to it for one day! Forget it. I’ll start again next week.”
As a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, I absolutely want people to make big, dramatic and effective changes to their lifestyle, so they can lead long, healthy lives. But those changes must be sustainable, and taking on too much, too soon – without a realistic approach toward making and keeping good habits – just leads to failure and frustration.
So, start with these five steps. They’re fairly easy and they’re all about giving yourself a routine that sets you up for success!
Park far away from your destination and walk the rest of the way
Now, let me be clear: I do not subscribe to the theory that this enough. Truth be told, I always cringe a little when I hear advice to “just take the stairs!” because that level of activity just won’t have a major effect on your health or fitness – and too often gives the illusion of a healthy step, leading people to treat themselves or overindulge later.
However, when you make the choice to park and walk, whether it’s to the office, into a store for errands, at your apartment complex or somewhere else, you are intentionally changing your pattern, and that can lead you to change other patterns.
Plus, even a short distance can help you feel invigorated and to help you understand how great activity can feel, not just physically but mentally as well. Those steps add up!
Shop the perimeter and then only go in for specific items
The perimeter of your grocery store is where the really good stuff is: fresh produce, dairy and eggs, fresh seafood and meats and more. Once you start maneuvering through the aisles, though, you’ll find yourself tempted by processed foods in bright, colorful wrappers.
You may not be able to avoid all of the junk food or treats, and for this step, that’s okay! Again, it’s about making intentional choices. So, hit the perimeter first and then decide: what do I really need to get from the inner aisles? Instead of zig-zagging through them all, go directly to the items you can’t do without, put them in the cart and move on.
Even better? Order online! Then there’s no way to cheat and shop where you shouldn’t.
Go to bed 10 minutes earlier
Just 10 minutes! I’m not asking you to give up a full night of binge-watching your TV shows or even passing up chances to socialize with friends. But instead of going to bed at 11, aim for 10:50. Set an alarm if you need the reminder, and remember to leave yourself enough time for your bedtime routine (brushing teeth, reading a few pages of a good book, etc.).
Ten minutes of sleep over a week gives you more than an extra hour of rest. And if you can do 10 minutes, you can do 20. If you can do 20, you can do 30. Soon, you may find that you’re able to go to bed a full hour earlier than you normally did.
Keep a food journal
Notice that I didn’t say anything about actually changing your eating habits. Just write down everything you eat and drink over a week’s time. If and when you’re ready to make some adjustments, this journal will be crucial in identifying some of the times and meals at which you can easily cut out items.
For example, when I journaled a week of eating, I realized that on 6 out of 7 days, I had a third cup of coffee in the afternoon, which I usually served with cream and some sugar. Trading that coffee for black tea was a big step in starting to scale back, and later, I was able to drop that caffeine (and sugar) source altogether.
Get your ommmmmm on
Meditation is not easy (at least not for me!), but taking a few moments – even just 60 seconds – can really make a difference. And this doesn’t have to be super spiritual stuff: just close your eyes, take some deep breaths and try to quiet your mind.
Think of something that makes you happy, or feel at peace. Use this time to reflect on the day and celebrate the small steps you took. After all, we don’t always give ourselves the credit we deserve (and if you need something to focus on before closing your eyes, I love this print!)
Small steps to big changes
Are you sensing a pattern? These small steps are about choosing to make changes instead of just doing what you’ve always done. Once you get out of your habits, you can ditch the bad ones and build some new, better ones.
Do you have any small changes to add to the list? Things that have worked for you on the road to a healthier, happier lifestyle? Follow Café Quill on social media or leave a comment to join in on the conversation!