Feeling like you’ve got a lot of things to change in your life is overwhelming. But making small changes will make it feel a lot more manageable. Here’s how.
Realising you’ve got to make big changes to your lifestyle to improve your health is daunting, especially if you feel like you’ve got a long way to go. Instead of making all or nothing changes you can only stick to for a short time, like embarking on a fad diet or a gruelling exercise regime, make small, consistent changes to reach your goals.
The 1% rule
One helpful way of thinking about this is the concept of aiming to make 1% progress each day. Writer James Clear, author of the popular and much-loved book Atomic Habits, recommends this approach for making habits stick. He says that if we’re 1% better every day, we’ll have made a 37% improvement in one year.
Just think how this can apply to your health: if you focus on making small, slightly healthier decisions every day, you’ll be well on your way to making a big change.
Setting great goals
Here are some tips to help you set your 1% progress experiments.
Be realistic. Make sure that what you’re setting out to achieve is possible. There’s nothing worse than setting a goal you’re unlikely to achieve. Sure, you can make your goal challenging but trying to do too much too soon will only discourage you and make you feel like a failure. If you’ve never run before, setting a goal of running a marathon is probably not a great idea. Instead, focus on completing the couch to 5k programme first.
If you’re not sure, scale it down to start or choose something you feel fully confident you can achieve and keep it small by focusing on one change at a time. Can you drink a glass of water with breakfast? Great! That’s much more achievable than one day deciding you’ll drink 3 litres of water every day.
Trying to do too much at once will make it more likely you’ll drop the ball on something. Then you’ll end up feeling like you’ve failed, when the reality is it’s hard to do several things at once, especially when you’re new to it.
Be specific. Clarity is essential. Specific goals help you pinpoint exactly what you want to achieve, which makes them easier to reach. Your main goal may be to ‘lose weight’, but that’s too vague: where do you start? A more specific goal might be ‘I want to lose 5% of my starting weight’.
Be positive. Instead of focusing on taking things away – not eating this, cutting out that – focus on what positive changes you can add to your life, like tasty, nutritious breakfast or healthy snacks you love. Choose changes that make you feel good and focus on changing your habits rather than changing the scales, that’ll come naturally.
Setting yourself up for success
Set reminders. Once you’ve set your tiny goals, stick them somewhere you’ll see them every day – reminders on your phone or on sticky notes on the fridge are great spots. Or keep track in your Healthier You journal.
Plan, plan, plan. Plan what you’ll need to do to make it a success. For example, if your goal is to go for a lunchtime walk 3 times a week, what do you need to make that happen? You might think about putting your trainers by the door to remind you or blocking some time in your work calendar so you’re not interrupted.
Set a start time. Figuring out what you can start on immediately when your motivation and interest is at its highest will make for a great start.
Speak out. Tell your friends and family your plans so they can encourage you and keep you accountable.
Stay strong. Change is hard and it often takes more than one try before we crack it. Don’t get disheartened if it takes a while to see any progress – the important thing is that you keep picking yourself up and trying again.
What little changes can you start making today?