Small Changes Lasting Results

People think that you have to do something huge, like go to Africa and build a school, but you can make a small change in a day. If you change Wednesday, then you change Thursday. Pretty soon it’s a week, then a month, then a year. It’s bite-size, as opposed to feeling like you have to turn your life inside out to make changes.~Hoda Kotb

Want to feel better, strengthen your relationship,  build your self esteem, lose weight, increase your fitness, eat healthier or give more generously? There’s a small change for that.

Small changes are the most effective changes. Radical changes are difficult to maintain and often leave us disappointed and discouraged.

I have been a faithful follower of Leo Babauta and Courtney Carver for years. Both of these bloggers have achieved amazing life goals one small change at a time. You can learn more about their journeys at their respective sites, Zen Habits  and Be More With Less.

Here are a few ideas to get you started on your own small change path:

Increase Your Physical Health

If you are not regularly exercising at the moment, add 5 minutes of walking to your day. Just 5 minutes. The reward is not so much the physical change (for now), it’s the difference in your emotional state. You are spending 5 minutes of this precious day doing something for you. Get some fresh air. Use the 5 minutes to listen to a song you love, or to think of what you are most grateful for today. If you find yourself wanting to walk further, great! But there should be no pressure to do so. At the end of a week,  add another 5 minutes.

If you are a regular exerciser, think about your motivation. Are you exercising because you enjoy it or is there an element of self-punishment or the elusive pursuit of perfection involved? Re-frame your workouts as time for nurturing yourself. Make a point tuning into your self-talk. No discouraging or harsh words allowed. Support and encourage yourself as you would a beloved friend.

Looking for an easy way to improve your diet? Drink a smoothie for breakfast. Better yet, make it a green smoothie. Angela Liddon has a wonderful post (with recipes) on how green smoothies helped change her life.

Improve Your Emotional Well-being

Journal. It needn’t be anything fancy. It doesn’t even half to be complete sentences. Just grab a notebook or a journal and write down 5 things you’re grateful for everyday. This simple exercise can change your outlook significantly.

Limit your exposure to social media. Be mindful of the time you spend there and what you are feeling. It’s so easy to compare our inside’s to others’ outsides. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy.”

Limit your exposure to other forms of media as well. 24 hour news, reality TV, crime shows. Much of what is available for our consumption is negative. Pick what you really enjoy and turn off the rest.

Strengthen Your Relationship

Eliminate the words “always” and “never” when you are communicating your needs or frustrations with your partner. These modifiers are rarely true and can put your partner on the defensive making it more difficult for her/him to really listen. Limit your discussion to the specific thing you are upset about. Your partner will feel less overwhelmed and attacked and you will likely get a more empathic response.

Remember what you love about your partner. Keeping the good in the forefront of your mind, especially when you’re frustrated or angry can help you keep things in perspective and reduce conflict.

Give Back

Nonprofit Tech for Good lists 29 online stores for various nonprofits. Products range from handmade soaps, bags, jewelry and home accessories to toys, children’s books and pet items.

 Nonprofit Shopping Mall lets you choose a charity and donate a portion of your purchase from dozens of big name online retailers.

The organizations listed above make giving back incredibly simple. There are many other organizations like these. You can find the top 100 nonprofits on the web at www.topnonprofits.com.

Flexibility and Change

The most important part in incorporating these changes is building in flexibility. Sometimes you won’t walk for five minutes. Some mornings you’ll have donuts instead of a smoothie. Sometimes you’ll say “always” or “never” (or both!). This is okay. Expect that there will be times when your plan falls apart. Just pick back up the next day, or the day after that and move toward your goals with small, steady steps.

I would love to hear from you! What other small changes would you add? How do you feel about small v. big changes?

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