A little while ago I wrote about how effective it can be to start small when you’re making changes to your health and fitness. If you’d like to be healthier this year (or any time), you don’t have to overhaul your entire life to make it happen. In fact, that might be the worst thing you can do, finding such a challenge too overwhelming to make it stick.
Here are 10 small changes you can start making today that might help you improve your health in 2016.
Add a handful of spinach to everything
Smoothies, pasta, pies, sandwiches, shredded up in your taco mince, sauteed next to your eggs and bacon — you name it, you can throw a handful of spinach into it. If you finely chop it first it’ll cook right down so you can’t even taste it but you’ll get some goodness out of it. Win! (P.S. Want more ideas for easily adding veggies to your diet? Sorted).
Set a water alarm
You know you need to drink a fair bit of water every day, right? (Here’s 34 reasons why more water makes you awesome). I’ve been a water guzzler for so long it’s second nature to me, but if you’re not used to it it can seem hard and boring to drink. Try setting an alarm on your phone to go off every 2 hours and when it does, have a glass of water. Then after a few weeks, make it every 90 minutes or every hour. I also find that if it’s in front of me I’ll drink it, so when I’m out at a cafe or restaurant I make sure to ask for some water for the table. And if you really truly find water too dull for words, try these fruit-infused water recipes instead.
Walk just a little further
This is an oldie and a goodie. Park further away from the shops. Get off the bus one stop early. Do a lap around the block before heading into your office. If you’re feeling really energetic you can even get off the train one stop early (if that’s geographically possible). I don’t like waiting around so if there isn’t a tram coming for a few minutes I’ll usually walk up to the next stop. And if you’re a competitive person grab yourself a pedometer and try to reach a milestone every day, working up to 10,000 steps.
Stretch every day
Stretching can help relieve muscle tension, improve your flexibility, and boost your energy. I also find it tends to still my mind a little as I focus on holding and deepening the stretch. Whether it’s at the start of your day or to work out the desk-related kinks in the afternoon, take a few minutes each day to stretch out your limbs, back, neck and shoulders.
Put treats out of sight (and keep healthy stuff at hand)
When you’re peckish and standing in front of the fridge or pantry you’re going to go for what’s immediately in front of you, even if you know there are better choices in there. So hide your treats (or stop buying them at all) and keep fresh, healthy snacks right at the front or even out on the bench so they’re super handy.
Sleep makes everything better. Everything! You’ll have more energy, you’ll be able to concentrate better, and it’s easier to roll with the punches when you’re well rested. Take some time to figure out how much sleep you really need each night (I need 7-8 hours pretty consistently) and then prioritise getting it. Adjust your schedule to get to bed earlier, set up a bedtime routine to help you wind down, and set up your bedroom to encourage good sleep (dark, cool, and electronics free).
Start a food journal
Lots of people recommend doing this when trying to lose weight and it can be a useful exercise even if you’re not. The most obvious benefit for me is it makes me think twice about what I’m eating — I don’t know about you but I’d rather have a record of eating a giant salad than 4 donuts!
It can also help you realise how different foods affect you. For example, awhile ago I tried being paleo-ish and that helped me to realise that my body doesn’t particularly like wheat (even though I lo-ooove bread and pasta). When I wasn’t eating it I felt great, and when I started to eat it again I felt bloated and sluggish.
Add exercise to your schedule
When you’re busy it’s really tricky to make time for exercise. Either your days are jam-packed or your social life keeps up late so you don’t want to get up early to exercise (or both!). You might have every intention of hitting the gym on your lunch break but before you know it you’re eyeballs-deep in a project and it’s 4pm. Oops.
To help you meet your intentions, make appointments with yourself and keep them. Non-negotiable. If you have a meeting scheduled at 7am you’re not going to stay out drinking; take that appointment with yourself seriously too.
Prepare your meals in advance
This is one of those things where investing the time upfront pays off down the track. My neighbour spends Sunday afternoons doing a big cook up of his lunches and dinners for the week ahead so he’s got a fridge full of great, healthy meals that he can grab without thinking about it. If you’re anything like me, being unprepared at meal times usually ends with buying overpriced and/or unhealthy takeaway. This year one of my changes is to pre-cook meals, want to join me?
Whether it’s how hungry you really are or how different things are making you feel, practice being more away of your body, your surroundings, your habits, and how you feel. Everyone is different and what works for me won’t always be the same for you. By tuning in and paying attention, your body will naturally guide you to the right choices for you.
What’s one change you’re going to make this month to improve your health? Share it in the comments so I can cheer you on 🙂
**Remember that this is advice based on my own experience only. Take care when starting any new health program and have a chat to your health care professional to make sure your changes are safe for you. Good luck!
P.S. Are we inbox buddies? If you’d like to get my newsletter each month, sign up here!