Small Changes - Monumental Impact
Updated: Nov 1, 2022
I recently attended a workshop where they talked about a 1-degree shift. While 1 degree at face value seems like a small change, over time, it can make a monumental impact on your physical & mental health.
Let’s put a 1-degree shift in perspective:
You are flying from New York’s JFK airport to Tokyo’s Narita airport. The flight duration is about 14 hours long and 6725 miles. If your flight plan is just 1º off course, you will end up approx. 112 miles from Tokyo (in the middle of the Sea of Japan). The plane would be running low on fuel and passengers would be anxious and panicking in a crisis like that. Now imagine what 2º off course might look like - actually let’s not. You get the idea. A 1º change over a period of time can make a large difference.
Now let’s reframe a 1º change (or just a small change) in your life over a period of time and the impact it can make. Imagine you changed just one thing in your life (let’s say the equivalent of a 1º shift). If you’re a soda drinker (like I was) if you stop (or reduce soda consumption) you lower your risk of coronary heart disease by up to 20%. Furthermore, after quitting soda (or reducing your consumption), the other benefits include, healthier teeth (soda is as acidic as a lemon), greater hydration, cutting your sugar and calorie intake (140 calories and 32 grams of sugar per can), and lower your risk for diabetes by approx 25% (assuming 2 soda drinks per day). Cutting your soda intake will have a positive effect on your body and brain. Some of the health effects translate into healthier skin and teeth, brain development, mood improvement, strong bones, boosted immunity, and a healthier digestive system. These are just some of the benefits.
While we can take the rest of this article to evangelize the benefits of healthy eating, exercise, meditation, more sleep, mindfulness, taking walks, laughing, among other things, we’re going to focus on small changes that over time make monumental impact, specifically making a positive impact on improving your mental health without a ton of effort. Think of the 1º shift.
Your daily habits are rituals and coping mechanisms that have been formed throughout your life. There are healthy and productive habits that work for you and harmful habits that work against you. To start making a 1° shift in your life, make a list of all your daily tasks, habits, and coping mechanisms. Once you go through your inventory of habits, you can determine how small positive adjustments can lead to a massive transformation in a good way over time. We typically have goal-driven behavior which is an accumulation of multiple goals to achieve an outcome (think - lose 10 pounds, read 1 book a month, spend more time with family, spend 20 minutes a day focusing on mindfulness and gratitude, mediate for 5 minutes before bed, etc.).
Let’s say you have a goal to place in the top 25% of your age group in a 10K run (that’s the goal). The ones that typically achieve the goals are the ones that create strategies to help themselves achieve incremental improvements over time that build on one another to reach a goal - not just a random goal or dream but a goal with a system to get there. So how do we achieve the final outcome with small habit changes and systems? First, let’s set up a calendar for running and set dates and distance goals (coordinated habits and goals). Next, determine a reward for following up on your goals. A reward can be physical or psychological - some examples might be the satisfaction of sharing your progress with a friend or if you meet your goals for a period of time, do something to celebrate (eg. get a massage or give yourself a pat on the back). The next step is to make it easy on yourself by creating organized and achievable habits (systems). For example, lay out your running equipment (running shoes, watch, clothes, water, keys, media player with playlist, etc.) the night before and plan your route. Not only will it be more enjoyable and less anxiety inducing, it will be easier to get moving. Set realistic expectations and build them over time. If you start off saying you’re going to run 10K at a 7-minute mile, why don’t you start with a 2K run at a 9-minute mile. It’s much easier to succeed and improve when you set achievable goals and move the target appropriately over time. Most baseball Hall of Famers will tell you the game is won with singles and doubles. Don’t go for the grand slam right at the start. Build up your habits to achieve your goal with realistic expectations. Lastly, make your rewards satisfying. Track your running (mileage, time, speed) over time, and acknowledge yourself for your progress. Even if you have a bad week, injury, or setback, don’t stop moving forward. An old friend of mine who ran over two dozen marathons once told me, the key to finishing a marathon is to never stop moving. Once you stop - the chances of starting up diminish greatly.
Now imagine you start making small habit changes and the impact they will have over time. I can personally attest that the following habit changes have made my day more productive, my social-emotional wellness more regulated, and have brought me more joy throughout the day.
My simple habit changes include:
Daily To-Do List (2 minutes - written down on a pad)
Recognize 3 items to be grateful for and why (1 minute - either written or in my head)
Exercise 30 minutes a day (includes taking calls while on a walk)
Utilize my calendar for everything (keeps me organized)
Set up a meal plan for the week (10 minutes - written down)
Nightly prayer of gratitude (1 minute - in my head)
Habits are like compound interest, the more time goes on the more you feel the impact. If you continue to make small changes, you will see the effects over months and years to be enormous. Just remember, the effects apply to both good (exercise) and bad habits (smoking/drinking). Best to stay focused on the 1º shift in the positive direction.
For more information on how small changes can make a big difference over time, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Vessel Wellness, visit our webpage at: www.vesselwellness.com or call us at 855-967-8775.