It’s very, very easy to become over-scheduled nowadays. When life gets busy, it’s even more important to take care of yourself, so you can take care of everyone else, too. It’s not realistic to try to overhaul our lives with major fitness plans, trendy diets, and radical self-help theories, so I’m a fan of smaller steps that will improve the quality of life in small and daily ways.
In honor of National Women’s Health & Fitness Day on September 24, here are three very simple actions you can take to improve your health and happiness. (And these tips apply to everyone, not just women!)
Go for a walk
An estimated 60% of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity. It can be difficult to bring extra workout clothes, make it in time for yoga or get a sitter to make your workout happen. Big change happens in small steps though - and now is always a good time to start. If you’re finding it hard to fit a full-on fitness regimen into your day, start small. Grab a your kid, a friend, coworker, or maybe just your iPod and go for a short walk. If you think you just can’t make the time for it, try adding a short stroll to another activity. If you take the trash out to the curb every Wednesday evening after dinner, just drop the trash in its place and keep on walking until you’ve circled the block. Think about the time we spend parking closer to the grocery door - I parked in the back the other day (tons of space!). If you really look at your schedule, you can likely find a spot to extend an errand or a routine and add some footsteps to your day.
There are plenty of studies to show that people who express gratitude are more optimistic and physically healthier than those who do not. This is a no-brainer. Showing gratitude is easy, and it makes both you and the recipient feel great.
It isn’t necessary to go all-out and start sending fruit baskets to everyone. In fact, a smaller scale activity will reap more benefits and be easier to keep going. I like to call them give-aways.
Give-aways can be putting the new roll of TP on the spool, holding the door for the next person, thanking your dry cleaner for taking such great care of your clothes. Next time you pick up your shirts, be sure to make eye contact and say, “I really appreciate how well you do your job. It makes my life easier. Thank you.” Don’t worry if you feel awkward and fumble the words at first. It will come with practice.
Keep a running Gratitude List and a pen on the fridge, right near the handle; or on the edge of your desk. Whenever you head for a snack or drink from the fridge, or take a break from your desk, write something on the list. It could be a thought as simple as, “I have a great cat,” or something much bigger, “I’m so grateful to have known all of my grandparents.”
Give a massage
Yup, give a massage, not get one. Sure, getting a massage is fabulous. You already know that massage is great for aches and pains, sleeping problems, anxiety and depression. Now you know that giving a massage is great too. A 1998 study showed that elderly volunteers who gave massage to infants had less anxiety and depression and lower stress hormones than the study participants who received massage. I must be feeling pretty great! :) Seriously though, know that sitting down with your pup and rubbing his belly or giving your partner a foot rub may be good for you, too.
Taking small steps to improve your health and happiness will lead to bigger steps, which only leads to better health and happiness.