The fresh beginning that every new year offers prompts many of us to make sweeping changes for the good of our health. While the results are certainly worth the effort — living longer, reducing your risk of disease, and improving your energy level and outlook — you don’t need to make a dozen changes at once. In fact, setting the bar too high can sometimes cause you to miss it altogether.
“Small changes are much easier to integrate into our lives than larger ones. It is lifelong ‘integration’ we want, not change per se,” says IHPI member Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, a healthy living motivation expert and associate director of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center for Women and Girls at the University of Michigan.
The lifestyle changes you choose to make might range from improving your health profile to boosting your self-image to reducing the stress in your life. Whatever you want to work on, you can create a plan of action that will be achievable, says family medicine practitioner Mack T. Ruffin IV, MD, MPH, the Max and Buena Lichter Research Professor of Family Medicine and associate chair for research programs at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor. Acknowledge what you want to change, set a long-range goal, let other people know about your goal, and then set measurable, clear mini-goals to get there, says Dr. Ruffin.