9 Small Healthy Habits To Kickstart Big Change
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I know from personal experience that the hardest part of any endeavor is just getting started.
You've probably experienced this challenge as well. Whether you want to pay your bills, go for a run, or clean your house, just getting out of your chair and taking that first action feels so herculean. The mental battle against inertia and dread is exhausting, so you give up before you ever start.
What if you could do something to quickly overcome those negative feelings, so that first step isn't so daunting? In my own work on forming habits, I've found you can bypass most of the dread and inertia by making the first action really, really easy.
In fact, the first action can be so easy that it feels ridiculous NOT to perform it. And when you give yourself permission to stick with that easy first action as long as you need to, then you eliminate the fear of failing or giving up too soon.
It's actually vital to your success in creating a habit that you stick with the easy actions for a week or more before you make it harder or add more time. You want to first establish a regular routine of performing the habit, even if it's for just a minute or so.
With any new habit, you'll need to attach the habit to a trigger — a previously established daily habit like brushing your teeth or making your morning coffee. Perform your new habit immediately after the trigger. This helps remind you to perform the new habit and cements it by connecting it to something you do automatically.
In the meantime, let's take a look at 9 healthy habits you can begin right away to kickstart big life change:
It took me a long time to establish a running habit — years in fact. I always tried to do too much, too quickly. Even if you've been a runner in the past, and now you're starting up again, begin really slowly.
In fact, for the first few days, just put on your running shoes and stretch for a minute or two. That's it –you don't even need to run yet. After a few days, walk outside and run for a minute after you put on your shoes and stretch. Then slowly increase your time running as you feel comfortable.
The important thing is consistency. Put your running shoes in a place where you can see them to remind you to put them on every day, immediately after your trigger. You might download a beginner's running app on your iPhone to help you slowly increase your time and distance.
Rebounding is one of my favorite exercises because it doesn't feel like exercise at all. It feels like being a kid again, jumping around on a trampoline for fun. Not only can you lose weight rebounding, but also the exercise has loads of other health benefits. You can read about the benefits in this post.
Get yourself a decent rebounder that is safe and won't fall apart after a few jumps. I use the Needak Rebounder Platinum Edition Half Fold Soft Bounce. It's a top-ranked rebounder, and it works great for me. The Mini Trampoline Cellerciser Rebounder is also a good choice. Turn on some music or your favorite TV show and jump or run on the rebounder for just a few minutes to start. You don't have to leave your house to develop this healthy habit.
3. Resistance Training
Do you want more toned arms? Stronger legs? Washboard abs? Whether you want to lift free weights, do some lunges or squats, or perform sit-ups, just start with a few. You don't have to jump in with three sets of twenty. Just do one set of three to six repetitions. It will only take a few seconds to complete, but remember to be consistent every day. After a few days, increase the number of sets or repetitions.
The most important factor is consistency. Over time, you WILL see your muscles getting more and more toned. Make it really easy, but try not to skip a day. You might want to rotate muscle groups as you begin increasing your reps so you don't over-work your muscles.
4. Add A Veggie
Develop a healthy habit of increasing your vegetable intake daily. Make it easy by adding just one additional vegetable to your diet. Decide on the meal or snack in which you'd like to add your veggie.
Use the meal preparation as your trigger. You might want to plan in advance the veggie you'll add to your diet so you can purchase enough of it for a full week.
You could add spinach or red pepper to your eggs in the morning. Or you could make a breakfast smoothie with strawberries, bananas, a cup of kale or spinach, and some almond milk. Add a baked sweet potato to your lunch or eat some raw carrots with hummus for a snack. Build up to adding more and more veggies to your diet. You'll find the healthier you eat, the more likely you are to drop some of your unhealthy eating habits.
5. Drink Water
I start my day with a full glass of water as soon as I wake up. I put a glass by my sink and use brushing my teeth as the trigger. Most people are a bit dehydrated throughout the day, and having enough water is essential for your brain function and energy. Water also flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells, and creates a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues.
Start by adding one full glass of water to your daily water intake. You might do it in the morning like I do, or pick another time of day with a trigger that works well for you. If you aren't a water drinker, continue adding this habit throughout the day as you work up to the recommended amount. According to the Institute of Medicine, men need 13 cups of water daily and women need 9 cups.
6. Add Omega 3
Omega 3 fatty acids can benefit your health in more ways than you can imagine. They improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, dementia, depression, ADHD, and asthma. They also improve heart health, as well as your skin and hair. Omega 3's curb inflammation and protect against strokes. Since your body doesn't produce it naturally, you need to create an Omega 3 habit.
You can get Omega 3 fatty acids by eating certain types of fish like wild salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines. Walnuts and flaxseed, as well as flaxseed, canola, and soybean oils are also good sources. And you can take a fish oil supplement or krill oil supplement if you'd prefer.
Start your Omega 3 habit adding one serving of Omega 3-rich fish to your diet a week. Or put a bottle of supplements next to your water glass, and take a supplement when you have your first glass of water.
7. Declutter Your Home
Simplifying your home and minimizing your possessions has a profound effect on your mental health. Material possession require time, energy, and money to maintain. If you aren't using many of your possessions, you feel guilty and agitated because you aren't sure what to do with them. They feel like dead weight you have to drag around with you.
A more streamlined home with fewer possessions gives you renewed energy, inner peace, and more mental and physical space to enjoy the meaningful, joyful parts of your life. Start by decluttering one small space — a drawer, the top of a table, or one kitchen shelf. Allow yourself five or ten minutes a day to work on purging and organizing after your trigger.
If you need some guidance, check out my book with co-author Steve Scott called, 10-Minute Declutter: The Stress-Free Habit for Simplifying Your Home.
8. Practice Breathing
I know, breathing comes naturally, so why should you practice it? I'm suggesting you practice mindful breathing to calm you and help manage stress. Mindful breathing simply means you focus on each breath, mentally following the breath in and the release out.
By following the breath, you focus your mind back to the present moment — rather than allowing it to careen into worry about the future or thoughts of the past. As you are aware of your breathing, your anxious thoughts settle down and your body relaxes.
Mindful breathing is the foundation of a meditation practice. You can easily begin by simply stopping in your day and silently breathing to a count of ten, mentally counting on the out-breath. This will take less than a minute. Over time, you can add another ten-count or count to a higher number. You can read more about mindful breathing here.
9. Practice Affirmations
Affirmations are short, positive statements you repeat mentally or verbally to assert the truth of something that you want for yourself. The science of neuroplasticity has already proven that repetitive thoughts and actions can alter the neural pathways in our brains and even support physical change in our bodies.
Affirmations impact your conscious and subconscious mind, ultimately influencing your behavior, actions, habits, and reactions. It just takes a few minutes a day to practice affirmations. One of the best ways to practice them is out loud in front of a mirror. You can also write them in a journal as you speak them.
A great time to practice them is first thing in the morning so that you set an intention for the rest of your day. Speaking them right before bed is also good, as you allow your subconscious mind to process them as you sleep. Here's a post I've written with 101 affirmations you can use.
You don't have to commit a lot of time and energy to launch a healthy habit. Just a minute or two a day of practice is enough to get the ball rolling so the behavior becomes a regular part of your daily routine. As the habit becomes more automatic, you'll find it's easy to increase the amount of time you spend on it.