How to Get Healthier by Taking Small Steps
One of the biggest obstacles some people face when it comes to becoming healthier is a lack of belief. Most people who are unhealthy want to change their lives and become healthier, but they have a difficult time believing that they can accomplish their goals. They cannot picture themselves changing their diet, being slim and in shape, not smoking, going to bed and waking up earlier, meditating every morning, or exercising every day.
Our beliefs play a big role in determining what actions we take. I know this because I have struggled with my own beliefs in the past. People generally do not take any action if they do not believe that they can accomplish their goals. In other words, it is difficult to achieve if you do not believe.
If you had asked me 15 years ago if I could imagine myself exercising regularly, losing weight, going to bed and waking up early, meditating each morning, adopting a healthy diet, and practicing gratitude consistently, my answer would have been a resounding NO. I simply could not picture myself doing these things because I was so used to my unhealthy lifestyle. It was as if I was too deep in a hole to see the light.
However, it is possible to become healthier despite negative beliefs. How? By simply taking 1 small step each day. You could go for a 3 minute walk, go to bed and wake up 5 minutes earlier, meditate for 1 minute, eat an apple at lunch, smoke 1 less cigarette, give thanks for 1 thing before you go to bed at night, etc. Just take 1 small step each day, even if it is a baby step.
Most of us only think of the long run and the big picture when it comes to becoming healthy. And sometimes that seems so far away that we cannot see ourselves ever reaching that goal. The person who is overweight cannot imagine being slim and in shape. The smoker cannot see himself being a non-smoker. The nocturnal party animal cannot envision being in bed by 10pm and waking up at 6am. The non-meditator cannot imagine sitting down and focusing on their breath for 20 minutes. The unhealthy eater cannot picture eating a diet consisting of lots of fruits and vegetables and little to no meat. There simply is a lack of belief and confidence.
I have learned that small actions can be the spark that lights the fire. It is like planting a seed that eventually grows into a big, healthy tree. But you must light that spark or plant the seed first.
Even if you are obese, you can go for a 3 minute walk. If you are a night owl and hate mornings, surely you can go to bed and wake up 5 minutes earlier today. If you have never meditated in your life, you are still capable of sitting down in silence for 1 minute and focusing on your breath. If your diet consists mainly of fast food, you can make the effort to include half an apple at lunchtime. If you have never practiced gratitude, surely you can give thanks for 1 blessing before you fall asleep tonight. Just take 1 baby step each day.
Small steps sow the seeds of belief. If you make the effort to walk for a mere 3 minutes today, you will develop the belief that you can walk for 3 ½ minutes tomorrow. If you go to bed and wake up 5 minutes earlier today, you will develop the belief that you can extend that to 6 minutes tomorrow. If you meditate for 1 minute today, you will know that you are capable of meditating for 1 ½ minutes tomorrow. If you eat half an apple at lunch today, you will form the belief that you can eat ¾ of an apple tomorrow. If you give thanks for 1 blessing today, you will form the belief that you can give thanks for 2 things tomorrow. The small steps you take each day will become the foundation of your beliefs and strengthen them each day.
The interesting thing is that once you start taking small, manageable steps every day, you will become more confident and learn that you are capable of making the changes necessary to become healthier. Each small action you take is like placing a brick down in order to build a house. Initially you may not be able to picture the house, but as you place a brick down each day, you start to see your house taking shape and you finally are able to envision the house you are building. You may even start placing more bricks down every day because you are excited about your new house and can picture it in your mind. That is how small steps work.
Very often, taking small steps to become healthier in one area of our lives also encourages us to take small steps in other areas as well. For example, if you start walking for a few minutes each day, you will feel better and have more confidence. This, in turn, might lead you to eat that apple at lunch and sleep a little earlier at night. In other words, there is a trickle-down effect.
When I was severely out of shape and started exercising for a few minutes each day, I started to become conscious of my eating habits and slowly started eating healthier. I also started sleeping and waking up a few minutes earlier each night. This was a gradual process but it was extremely powerful. I started improving my health one small step at a time. There were times when I faltered, but I resumed taking small steps the next day because I knew that the small steps were eventually going to help me achieve my health goals.
So small steps in one area of your lives often spur us to make small changes in other areas. Interestingly enough, when we start incorporating small but consistent changes in our lives in different areas such as exercise, diet, sleep, meditation, etc, the effect becomes exponential. You will start to see more significant results. It is like a seed that takes a while to sprout, but, once it does, it starts to grow faster than ever before.
No matter what your current health is like, you can make small changes and eventually reap huge benefits. Remember:
- Choose one change you would like to make and take small steps today (for example, walk for 2 minutes, or eat an apple at lunch, or meditate for a minute).
- Be consistent and take a small step every day. Slow and steady wins the race.
- Slowly increase your effort each day (for example, if you walked for 2 minutes on the first day, walk for 2 ½ minutes the next day; if you ate an apple at lunch on the first day, perhaps add a few carrots the next day).
- Gradually incorporate changes in other areas of your life (for example, if you initially started out focusing on exercising for a few minutes each day, start to make small changes in your diet or sleep).
- Focus on the small steps each day and not just the end result.
We can all start improving our health by taking small steps today. The key is making small improvements consistently each day. You have what it takes. Start today.