Have you ever wanted to make a change in your life, but the challenge seemed too daunting? And then some positive thinking person came along cheerfully reminding you that big changes are just a series of small changes.
Why is it that the smallest personal changes that we want to make often require the greatest amount of discipline? Maybe when something is easy to do, it’s also easy NOT to do (*thanks to Jim Rohn for that sentiment).
Or maybe, as previously mentioned, to tackle the big change, we really do need to break it down in order to consider the fundamentals.
Basics, fundamentals, and building blocks… oh my!
So today we’re going to talk about three of life’s fundamentals that can make a big difference in your life, both physically and mentally, simply by implementing small changes.
I’m talking about the three most basic things we do without even thinking or paying much attention: eating, sleeping and breathing.
The ‘easy’ thing about these building blocks of life is that we have to do them no matter what, which is like having at least half the work done for you, right? Unfortunately, that can also mean it’s half the problem. Just because it’s easy to eat, sleep and breathe doesn’t necessarily mean we’re achieving the results we’d like from the way we choose to perform each of these actions.
You’ve probably already figured out where I’m going with this. When I say eat, I mean eat right, when I say sleep, I mean get enough sleep, and when I say breathe, I mean exercise and move your body.
1. EAT (as in, eat right)
We all eat, and we all (well most of us) know how we should be eating. We’ve been told how to eat right and were taught in school that we should eat a balanced diet, but we generally don’t do it. Yes, we say we want to, and sometimes we plan to, but it just isn’t that easy.
So when I talk about making a change in your eating regimen, I don’t mean you should go on a fancy weight loss plan, crash diet or anything like that. Just start with something simple like cutting out junk food. If that seems too daunting, start with cutting out one thing like sugar-filled drinks, keeping junk food down to a single meal once a week, or something simple that when you think about it doesn’t make you cringe or feel like you're missing out.
Start slow, start small… do just one thing for say 30 days, and then add one more small thing… and then continue the adjustments on and on from there. If you mess up after a week or a month, don’t beat yourself up. Just pick up where you left off; nobody has to know. Get back in the game and keep going. The baby steps are what it takes to get there; don’t try to do it all at once or it becomes like a new year's resolution that lasts 30 days and leads to failure as you fall off the wagon, get discouraged and quit.
So eat right (one bite at a time). There are plenty of resources on this, and you can decide what works best, whether that's vegan, paleo or whatever. I’m not going to get into any particular way to eat as I believe different plans and different ways of eating work for different people. If you like the idea of Paleo, try it; if you like Vegan, try it. Just don’t fall for something that promises fast weight loss. We've all seen many ‘lose weight quick’ programs over the years, and they're rarely worth the effort.
People are different, you are different, you’re one of a kind. Keep that in mind and don’t believe that just one way of prescribed ‘healthy’ eating has to work for you. Eat sensibly, eat right. Consider what we should be eating naturally and work from there vs. eating processed and packaged foods that aren’t quite natural. None of this is rocket science.
2. SLEEP (as in, get enough of it)
Ah, sleep… one of the most important things in life that very few of us take seriously. From what I’ve read it’s suggested that we need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night; however, we often just have too much on our plate to book that many hours into sleeping.
I’ve lived it both ways. I’ve been a night owl working late into the night waking early to start a new day with just a few hours sleep; while I was able to do it for a while (when I was younger), I came to realize it’s just not sustainable (not for me anyway). I now try to fit more sleep into my life; though, I still struggle. It took me a while to ‘teach’ myself how to get enough sleep… partly, because I was so used to going to bed late that I had a hard time adjusting my bedtime to an earlier hour. I was used to going to bed past midnight, and when I tried to get to bed by say 10:00 pm, I’d sleep for a couple of hours and then wake up not able to get back to sleep. It was so frustrating.
So I started going to bed just a little bit earlier one day at a time. Every day I'd shoot for 15 to 20 minutes earlier, and after a while my natural bedtime rolled back to where I’d get a pretty solid 8 (or so) hours of sleep per night; it certainly has helped in my life. How did I figure out what time to go to bed? Easy… I figured out what time I wanted to wake up in the morning and counted backward from there. It worked for me!
Do you deal with insomnia issues? So do I. I’m not a doctor (that probably doesn’t surprise you), but I can say from my experience that most insomnia seems to occur when I have pent up anxiety or too many things going on in my life that occupy my mind to where my brain doesn’t want to “turn off.” I know this sounds crazy, but if I wake in the middle of the night feeling anxious, I get up and write. I get all my thoughts onto paper, and most of the time it’s like the anxiety has lifted so I can get to sleep. My belief is that when I’m feeling anxious like that, there’s creative energy inside me that needs to get out. So I write it all down (or even draw) to get it outside of me. I know… you probably think I’m weird now.
Nowadays I find that the nights I sleep best are nights where I’ve worked to my maximum capacity, both physically and mentally, and I’m so tired at the end of the day that I have to sleep. I lie down feeling exhausted and sleep like a rock.
Lastly, be smart to observe the obvious things, such as: don’t drink caffeinated drinks in the evening, don’t use cell phones, tablets or anything with a screen immediately before bedtime and sleep in a comfortable bed ideally in a cool, dark room.
3. BREATHE (as in, exercise)
We all breathe no matter what… seriously, it’s really hard to just not breathe, but what I’m actually alluding to is getting oxygen into your body via physical exercise. Once again, you don’t have to go full force all at once by joining a gym or starting an intense exercise regimen with a personal trainer. This isn’t about spending money to get insane results; it’s about simple steps to help care for your health.
Start with a walk. Star slow and if you’re up to it, go to the next level by adding in some running. Or if you’re already a gym member, hit the treadmill or elliptical for an extra 20 minutes. If you like lifting weights, start with a simple routine of 3-4 exercises, and work your way up from there. You can also go hiking, swimming, biking, play golf, basketball or a slew of other activities that will get your body moving. Just pick one and start.
If you prefer something slow and non-impact, yoga is a great choice. It’s slow and steady, and you can’t rush it (and don’t underestimate it for looking easy… you’ll feel it, trust me). And I always like to preach the benefits of martial arts. You'll get a good cardio workout along with muscle coordination, improved strength, and of course the self-defense benefits are a nice bonus.
If you don’t want to move at all (I’ve had a few days like that), maybe deep breathing meditation is a good way to start. And when I say meditation, I mean it in the sense of dedicated quiet time and focus where you concentrate on deep breathing to help clear your mind of distractions… including those thoughts of what sort of junk food you’re going to eat afterward as a reward for exercising (c’mon, you know you’ve done that at least once or twice).
Still too much?
I know… you may be thinking that if you do just one thing from each of the three topics above, you’re now doing THREE things, and that’s too much change to take on all at once. No sweat hot stuff, start with just one.
Maybe try eating right. That may naturally lead you into exercise which will hit the breathing part, and if you get those two in gear, there's a pretty good chance by default you’ll sleep better. Try it.
You can’t hack this stuff… stay away from hacks! In this day and age, everybody wants to hack their way to success. Don’t be that person. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can spend money and time for a hack or shortcut that will end up wasting your time and leaving you frustrated with the realization that if you would have done it without trying to take the shortcut, you would have actually succeeded. Ponder that one for a minute!
And I’m not judging, I learned from experience that there are no shortcuts; I preach it, because I’ve done it… more than once. And I'll probably do it again and be in denial until I finally look back to realize where I went wrong.
Of course with any advice like this, your results may vary. Just remember that when it comes to eating, sleeping and breathing the right way to best benefit our body, there are no hacks. Our bodies require these things to live; so take care of your body, and be kind to yourself.
You will stumble, fall, fail and otherwise not succeed… at first
I’m giving you things that are easy to do… until you do them and realize they’re not so easy to do.
The minute you decide to make a change to do something good for yourself is the minute everything gets more difficult, but you probably already know this. You’ve done it before, but this time can be different.
Make a change, and if it only lasts a week and you stumble, no worries… “get back on the horse” and do it again. It’s not the cheating or deviating from the program that hurts us, it’s failing to “get back on” that leads to the downward spiral. Simply stated: start. And don’t be afraid to start again… and again… and again. Whatever you do, just don’t stop.
And lastly, should you think I have all this stuff down and that it's a part of my tightly regimented life, guess again. I wrote this because I struggle with all of the above, and I too need the kick in the pants to start again…and again. Yes, I wrote this post for both of us.
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If you have an idea for a subject you want me to cover, or if you have a question you’d like me to answer, call or text me at 909-331-6452, or email me at Tony@ChordRealEstate.com