the power of small changes
We live in a world where instant gratification has become the norm. The internet, and social media especially, have fed into this need for immediacy. This common expectation, however, ends in disappointment when we try to apply it to our quest for health and wellness. We know the basic steps we should take to improve our health and yet, all too often, we start off on a new diet or fitness regime feeling optimistic and determined, only to find, a few months later, that we just haven’t managed to sustain the changes that we were so enthusiastic about initially. The whole experience can be extremely disheartening and demotivating. The fact is that putting in place a framework for maximising health and wellness, is a long-term project. There are no instant results. Not really. To change your lifestyle for the better in the long term means changing behavioural patterns which have likely been ingrained for years. This can be an overwhelming realization. I know, because I have had to do it to support my own health. The good news, however, is that small changes, done consistently, can make all the difference to promoting a more healthy, energized, vibrant and nourished life.
When I was starting to think about improving and supporting my own health a few years ago, I went to visit a naturopath. Whilst the naturopathic doctor had lots of interesting and helpful insights, the very extensive and strict diet and lifestyle changes that he advocated, and recommended that I follow, really put me off. I was overwhelmed. It was too much and I wasn’t ready. I knew I couldn’t stick to it and, even before I started, I felt I had failed. I became stuck in a bit of a rut. Since then, however, I have very gradually introduced small changes in all aspects of my life, including nutrition, and I have been able to find a way of eating and living which works for me and makes me feel well, energised and nourished (most of the time). Much of this long process has been through a series of nutritional experiments to try to pin down exactly what does, and what does not, make me feel well. I’m not quite there yet, but I feel like a different woman to a year ago, and I continue to make tweaks and changes depending on my needs day to day. Some days are good and some days are not so good, but the scales generally tip in favour of the good days, for which I am so grateful. I am also aware that what I need to nourish my body and mind today may change in a year or two years or five years. We never know what life will throw at us to keep things interesting!
A few weeks ago I was looking through old emails and I found the diet regime that the naturopath had sent me. And guess what? The vast majority of the recommendations he had made for my diet, I have ended up adopting along the way, albeit in a very gradual and organic way. I strongly believe that I have been able to adopt the nutrition lifestyle that I have because it came about through making small, consistent changes, layer upon layer, in a manageable way. And I haven’t expected perfection. I have had days when all I’ve wanted to do is eat pizza and icecream. But I have tried not to beat myself up about that. I have eaten the pizza (or the cake, or the cookies) and moved on. There has to be some flexibility and fluidity in life. What has also been key in this journey is that each time I have made a change, I have noticed incremental improvements in the way I feel or the way I look and this has spurred me on to making additional small changes. Importantly, I have also learned to respect the journey of health and not to place unrealistic expectations on myself.
I was listening to a podcast the other day and the nutritional therapist being interviewed said that the best advice she could give when someone was thinking about making changes for their health, was to ask themselves whether they could imagine themselves doing that thing (or not doing that thing, as the case may be) in a year’s time. I think this is great advice. In other words, is the change small enough and easier enough that it is sustainable by that person? For example, say the person drinks 8-10 glasses of wine or a similar number of beers a week, has a very social job and likes a drink to wind down. Pledging to give up alcohol forever might not be realistic. A more achievable change might be to gradually reduce the number of alcoholic drinks slowly, week on week, to a more healthy level. Simultaneously, the relevant person could increase the amount of water they are drinking throughout the day and add more vegetables to their diet which would help with hydration and gut health. Suddenly the relevant person has put in place three lifestyle changes which are far more digestible (pun intended!), which will make them feel better day to day, and which will likely have a positive impact on their overall health. They might feel so much better that they then look to make additional small changes for their wellness. With the right support, this person could make small changes in a consistent way that will have a very powerful and transformational effect on their wellness.
What small changes could you make today that might help you feel more energised, vibrant and nourished?