One of the problems with habits and making changes to them is that many of us struggle to see the big picture. We are so focused on the individual changes that we fail to consider the overall effect of making small changes or taking small actions. As an example, when I was younger, I used to think a 'workout' had to be a full hour and a certain heart rate. If I couldn't do that full hour, I figured I should just not bother that day. The problem with this thinking was that I either skipped too many workouts, or I put too much pressure on myself to fit everything in. Likewise, I'd feel down if I had a poor workout because I was too tired to work hard the full hour.
As my life got busier with more stores, more kids and more commitments, I had to change the way I looked at health. Out of pure necessity, I started changing my workouts to 30-40 minute runs. This was much easier to fit into my life. I could run around the field while my kids played soccer or baseball, run with the stroller to grab a few groceries down the street. And it was easier to fit in before work, or in the evening.
Another trick is doing simple, weight bearing exercises whenever I could. Calf raises while standing in line ups, leg lifts or squats while washing dishes. Just fitting these in as I could throughout the day without thinking about 3 x 15 reps etc. All of these little actions add up!
In making this change, and opening my mind to why exercise was important, I began to see that I was more easily able to make these workouts a habit. They fit into my life, and they weren't overwhelming.
Other small changes include how I manage meals for my family. Instead of thinking that a healthy meal had to include a multitude of components and ingredients, I started to simplify my meals by making the elaborate meals occur when they suited my schedule. So for me, I learned that a super healthy breakfast meal was easier to prepare than a dinner meal, and so we instituted 'breakfast for dinner' at least once a week. A quick batch of homemade whole wheat pancakes and scrambled eggs was much, much easier to prepare last minute than a traditional dinner meal. And once I got over the fact that it wasn't dinner, it became really fun and meant we didn't rely on 'take-out' or pizza night as often. Healthy eating was looked at as a week long process, meaning some days were better than others, but the overall week needs to be healthy.
Another small change is simply being mindful. Asking myself how many nights I'd stayed up late doing work, or how many nights I'd gone to bed before 10:30pm. Asking myself if I really wanted that piece of cake, or if it was just sitting there in front of me. Simply thinking about these things means that at times I go to bed earlier, skip the chocolate cake, or spend 5 minutes planning out the next day versus trying to finish all the work before bed.
Tiny, consistent changes move you in the direction of positive change, and they all add up. So go take the stairs next time, give yourself a break on your perception of the perfect workout and lastly....dance. Dance with your kids or partner, and get that body moving. Movement is your bodies biggest need and the more you do, the healthier you are!