If you are a regular reader, you should know by now that I am a big fan of small changes. When trying to improve your life, going for minimal alterations makes it easier to get started and establish a routine. Once a new habit has been formed, you can then scale it up.
If you make enough of these small modifications, you will incrementally move your life towards the desired direction until you reach a critical mass. This soft approach makes success far more likely than trying to change your entire lifestyle at once.
Below are a few ideas for little changes that can have a big effect on your health and wellbeing. You can try all of these out for a week or two to see if they make a difference. Keep the ones that make sense and discard the ones that don’t.
1. Fill half of your plate with vegetables
Ideally, the majority of the food we consume should be made up of fresh vegetables. You know it, I know it. A simple framework to get a decent amount is to make sure veggies fill up half your plate at every meal. Whenever I cook, I always take care that 50 percent my plate is occupied by a fresh mixed salad and always eat it first. That way I fill up with the good stuff and have enough greens in my diet.
2. Start the day with a protein-rich breakfast
Studies have shown that people who eat a high-protein meal first thing in the morning are more likely to loose weight and eat healthy during the day. Protein promotes a feeling of satiety, reduces food cravings and thereby the likelihood of snacking on sugary junk food. It also stabilizes blood sugar levels and doesn’t get you on the insulin rollercoaster ride that most people are on throughout the day.
From my own experience I can say that when my first meal is high in protein, it gives me a very even energy level all through the day. However, I find it slightly challenging to do this on a vegan diet. As a vegetarian you have the choice to crack open a few eggs and make an omelet. The best vegan option I found is a protein shake (rice, hemp or pea) or adding two scoops of protein powder to your morning smoothie. Aim for 30g of protein.
3. Drink green smoothies
Green smoothies are a fun and easy way to get more vegetables into your diet. Bursting with vitamins, antioxidants, enzymes and other good stuff, these can make a real dent in pushing your diet towards consuming more healthful whole foods. If you are interested in giving it a try, check out the ultimate green-smoothie toolbox, which will help you to create endless combinations and recipes.
4. Stop drinking empty calories
Have you ever felt full and satiated after drinking one of those bubbly colorful beverages? No? That’s because to your brain calories in liquid form are not the same as solid calories from food. The liquid kind sneaks right by your brain’s sensors and does not get taken into account for your daily consumption. Combining this with the fact that sodas deliver no nutritional value whatsoever should be enough reason to ditch them for good. Switching to the diet version is none better as studies show that artificial sweeteners actually increase sugar cravings. Make water your go-to drink. Add some lemon juice for flavor. That’s really all you need.
5. Snack on something healthy
Snacks are often the gateway for sugar and other unhealthy stuff. A box of cookies while in the office or a bag of chips during TV are quickly finished. Replace them with a protein bar or shake, some dried fruit and nuts, carrot sticks and hummus, or some smoked almonds. The possibilities are as endless as they are delicious.
6. Take cold showers
Why you ask? Cold showers in a nutshell: Improved sleep, hormone regulation, muscle regeneration, increased immune function, fat burning, anti-depressant – need I say more?
7. Go to sleep one hour earlier
Business Insider recently published an article about the 25 Horrible Things That Happen If You Don’t Get Enough Sleep. It’s no secret that sleep deprivation is running rampage in our society (I am no exception). Most of the time we excuse going to bed late because we have so much to do. Then the next day we are tired and have a hard time concentrating and so our work suffers and we feel even busier. This is a vicious cycle. Do not compromise on your sleep time. Get your eight hours. Nine if you have to. It will make you feel more alert and you will be able to achieve more things in less time.
8. Take a nap
Whether you get enough sleep at night or not, napping is always a good idea. Short sleep periods during the day have been shown to have multiple benefits. From improved alertness and performance, increased ability to learn, to reduced stress and lower risk for a whole host of diseases. At one of my former jobs (where I was test driving navigation systems) I would sneak out after lunch, sit in the test car and get some shut eye for 20 minutes. I would come back much more refreshed and productive so I don’t feel bad for doing it. Highly recommended.
9. Schedule a meeting with a good friend every week
Human beings are social animals. In fact, this Forbes article states that social isolation may actually be one of the biggest risk factors for human mortality and is equally unhealthy smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic. So make sure you get some quality time with people who make you feel relaxed and good about yourself. I also find that merely being with others lets me stop thinking about myself and work and gives me a break from striving towards something.
Which of the above is your favorite? Which one would you like to apply to your own life? Let me know in the comments.