It can be overwhelming, can't it?
There's so much advice around on how to live a healthier life. We're told to:
- lose weight this way
- get more energy that way
- feel more zen by doing this
- add more zest by changing that
Little wonder that sometimes we don't know how to start, and our desire to transform our lives falls by the wayside in a heap of half-neglected dreams and hopes.
Is there a simple way we can make big changes to our lives?
One thing I've discovered for myself is, that if we want to see long-lasting results in our life, it's often best to start small.
Here are 5 simple ways that we can add to our life today that can yield huge benefits down the line.
1. Start Your Day with a Morning Prayer
Taking time in the morning to spend a few minutes in prayer, can set the tone for your entire day.
There were times I used to wake up, and the first thing on my mind was all the cares and anxieties of the day. I saw everything through a negative lense, and that had an impact on how I viewed my entire day.
Finally, I made up my mind to start the day on a more positive note. I decided to be more intentional of expressing gratitude and saying a prayer of thanks first thing in the morning.
This connects us with something deeper than ourselves, providing comfort and strength, especially when we feel overwhelmed by the anxieties of life.
Researchers from a 2015 study on depression and anxiety found that people who lived with long-term health issues and who also practised spiritual disciplines, including regular prayer, had higher levels of hope and optimism than their peers.
2. Change Your Breakfast
Like everyone else, I'd heard the medical advice about eating five fresh pieces of fruit and vegetables a day. So I'd dutifully buy brocoli, spinach and cabbage - promise myself I'd eat them, only to find them wilting and unloved in the vegetable drawer of my fridge a few days later.
So I made the simple decision to have a green smoothie for breakfast.
That was a simple decision to make - but it had a profound effect on my diet. I went from being an occasional consumer of vegetables to eating kale, spinach, swiss chard and red cabbage on a daily basis.
I found I ate more carrots and apples too. As a result of that small decision, I was able to lose the extra pounds I had gained as a side-effect of pain medications. It was also easy for me to make healthier food choices throughout the day, once I'd had my green smoothie fix that morning!
So - if you want to start a positive habit, pick something small and doable - then run with it!
Tip: If you are new to smoothies, why not try this Kale and Melon Smoothie? A deliciously easy way to disguise kale, and get your morning off to a healthy start.
3. Save your change
This is a wonderful tip that I learned from my friend, Sarah.
Sarah and her husband love to go on holidays abroad. In fact, she's sunning herself somewhere of the Caribbean coast even as I write this.
When I asked her what their secret was, she said it was all to do with saving £2 coin.
Now £2 doesn't sound like much. However, Sarah and her husband had turned this into a regular habit. Whenever they went to the supermarket, they asked the cashier if she they could have some of their change in £2 coins. On some weeks they were able to save several £2, and on other weeks they didn't. What they found was, that by the end of the year they regularly saved over £500 with very little effort which was enough to treat themselves to a short break somewhere.
The average working American spends ona average $11 twice a week on lunch. But if they saved their cash and chose to carry sanddwiches to work instead? That's an extra saving of $1000 per year - and that is not a small sum at all.
And if they choose to invest the money they saved?
And the best thing about it? The change was so small that they didn't even miss it.
Tip: Why not start today with saving a pound day?
4. Cut Out Sugar from Your Tea
I love English breakfast tea.
I especially adore a good cup of Earl Grey tea with just that hint of bergamot essential oil. For years, I made my cuppa with demerara sugar, thinking it was a healthier choice than white. Until one day a nutritionist told me that demerara sugar didn't really have much nutritional value at all.
Since that conversation I made the decision to stop adding sugar to my tea.
At first it tasted awful. My palate was so used to its sugar quota that the unadulterated taste of tea just seemed wrong. I didn't swap it for other sweeteners or honey - it took a few days, but I gradually got used to the taste of sugarless tea.
And do you know what? Now - if someone inadvertently gives me a cup of tea with sugar, I just can't drink it all. I've managed to retrain my palate!
Tip: Commit to trying tea without sugar for 21 days. Not only will you be taking a small step to help your health, you'll also save yourself approximately 40 calories per cup.
5. Use Your "Grey Time" Wisely
Life makes so many demands on us.
There are emails to answer. Phone calls to return. Meetings to arrange. Appointments to attend... little wonder that many of us never get round to doing what we really want to do.
In these situations we often live reactively rather than responsively. Reacting to what happens around us instead of responsively to what is important for our long-term goals and visions.
Mark McGuinness, a London-based coach, talks of the importance of setting your priorities early in the day rather than being continuously focused on other people's schedules.
We need to:
- prioritise our creative work
- respond to more tedious work or tasks later in the day
Sometimes its easy for us to procrastinate and delay what is most important to use because, on some level, we are actually intimidated by it. In those cases, it's easy for us to keep ourselves busy by slavishly working our way through emails.
The best way I found to discipline myself was by adapting a form used in CBT where you have to account for every hour of your day (copies in resource library).