Think Small Changes Won't Make A Difference? Here Are 6 That Will Transform Your Health

Photo: Thais Ramos Varela

Ever feel like you’ve fallen too far off the wagon when it comes to your health? Or feel like it would take a miracle to get you back on track with your goals? Fortunately for you, wellness doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing experience. And contrary to what many people think, you don't have to completely overhaul your lifestyle to gain more energy, balance your hormones, and heal your gut. Small changes can make a huge difference in your health and well-being. In that vein, let’s dive into six seemingly small and innocuous changes that can make a real difference in how you feel every single day:

1. Establish a morning ritual.

Start the day off by completing one simple task and you’re likely to complete others later that day. This could be something like reciting a positive mantra every morning before you head out the door, completing a five-minute morning stretch routine, reading one chapter in a non-work-related novel, or simply making your bed!

Did you know that making your bed in the morning may just be the world’s easiest success habit? It starts a chain reaction of other productive habits throughout the day. In fact, Navy SEAL William H. McCraven stated, "If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed."

2. Have a high-protein breakfast.

Fewer than six hours of sleep per day is associated with low-grade chronic inflammation and worsening insulin resistance, as well as increased risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (CVD). This is a profound finding as a recent cross-sectional study demonstrated that almost one-third of U.S. adults get less than six hours of sleep. Complete proteins (think clean animal meats, eggs, tempeh, or even a quality protein shake) will increase chemicals in the brain that not only improve sleep but also improve your mood. This is all due to a little amino acid called tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is our "feel-good hormone" and makes us feel happy and motivated throughout the day. Serotonin then turns into melatonin, which helps us sleep at night! Without that complete protein at the start of the day, this conversion can’t take place, leaving you tired and moody.

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3. Drink more water.

We are over 70 percent water, which is the basic medium of our blood, excretion, and metabolism. In fact, just two glasses of water a day reduces the chance of developing high blood pressure by 28 percent. Adequate hydration can also make or break the strength and resiliency of your active lifestyle. Getting enough fluids helps balance your muscle’s ability to contract and relax, maintains mental clarity, stops you from overheating, and keeps your joints lubricated and flexible.

The problem is that most people think they're already drinking enough water. I encourage you to really dive into this one a little deeper to see the real scenario playing out. Use an app like Daily Water or grab your favorite 20-ounce glass or stainless-steel water bottle and find out how many times you’d have to fill it up to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water every day.

4. Choose to stand.

For the vast majority of our evolutionary history, we’ve had to exert more physical energy in a given day finding food, shelter, and avoiding danger just to survive. There really wasn’t much need to "work out" every day when daily activities provided this natural movement and exercise. Today, things are much different. Many of us are sitting at a desk or sitting in a car for the majority of the day. Yet we know that too much sitting is associated with numerous problems, ranging from weight gain to osteoporosis to cardiovascular disease. Sitting for more than two hours at a time without taking a short break drastically increases these risk factors.

So what can you do about it? Before you go out and buy a fancy standing desk—let's remember that we're focusing on small changes that will have a large ripple effect. So if you didn’t read No. 3 above, take another look because we’re doubling up here: When we actually drink enough water throughout the day, it provides a built-in reminder to stand up and walk every couple of hours. If you’re drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water each day, odds are you are going to have to stand up to use the bathroom every few hours. If you’re not, you’re not drinking enough water and if you’re not drinking enough water, you’re not standing enough. Boom.

5. Detox daily.

Your amazing body is continuously detoxing, and it doesn’t need a fancy juice cleanse of magic grapefruit concoction to do its job. However, the way we treat our bodies and what we put in them can either assist this process or add to the already heavy load our liver carries. Two tiny changes in your day can give your liver a much-appreciated boost in daily detoxification.

First, skip the late-night snacks. The liver’s regenerative cycle is between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. If your body is busy digesting food at this time, it disrupts the detoxification process. Aim for a 10 p.m. bedtime and about 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. Second, add lemon zest to your morning smoothie, daily water, or favorite dressing. Lemon zest has a phytonutrient called d-limonene that supports the liver detoxification enzymes. Invest in a microplane grater to simplify your zesting needs!

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6. Eat something fermented every day.

The bacteria found in your gut comprise approximately 2 pounds of your body weight! This is also where about 70 percent of our immune system is housed. Nutritional science is only just beginning to understand the complexity of the microbiome and just how much it has to do with overall health. But no one can deny that the role of the microbiome in overall health is critical.

As Hippocrates stated, "All disease begins in the gut." Doing just one small thing to love your gut every day will have a major payoff in terms of increased energy, glowing skin, fewer digestive issues, and a trimmer waistline. Pick two or three fermented foods and incorporate just two forkfuls or a few sips of these daily. Sauerkraut alongside some scrambled eggs and guacamole! And remember, a true fermented food will be found in the refrigerated section of the store and will not be made with vinegar—only sea salt and the chosen vegetable and spices.

Oh, the joy of fermented foods. Here's what happens when you eat nothing but them for a whole year.

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