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 for adults. It can be a hassle to pack a gym bag or get a sitter to make your workout happen. But big change happens one small step at a time, 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 kid, or maybe a parent, or perhaps 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. 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 you know. In fact, a much smaller scale activity will reap more rewards and be easier to keep going.
Find someone to thank, and be specific. If you appreciate your dry cleaner, say so! Next time you pick up the 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. You’ll get the hang of it.
Keep a running Gratitude List and a pen on the fridge, right near the handle. Whenever you head for a snack or a drink, 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, I said give a massage, not get one. Sure, getting a massage is fabulous. You already know that massage is great for a treating a variety of aches and pains, sleeping problems, anxiety and depression. But giving a massage is great, too. A 1998 study showed that elderly volunteers who provided massage to infants had had less anxiety and depression and lower stress hormones than the study participants who received massage. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying you should cancel your next appointment for a professional massage, but know that sitting down with your puppy and rubbing his belly or giving your spouse a footrub may be good for you, too. (And if you get a foot rub in return, even better!)
Taking small steps to improve your health and happiness will lead to bigger steps, which only leads to better health and happiness.
(Or you can always send your loved one to me. Buy a gift certificate or schedule an appointment here.)