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Small Changes, Big Results
We all start each new week with new resolutions. This week, I’ll make sure to run three times, do two HIIT sessions, work in some strength training, eat healthy, drink less, sleep more, drink 2 litres of water per day, start a gratitude practice, read daily and make more time for friends and family.
And so often, the best of intentions go away. It’s funny how we often feel completely motivated to make changes to our lifestyle towards the end of a dreary Sunday, with all the confidence in the world that this can be achieved come the new week. It’s so great to want to make these changes, and very often we stick to them, at least for a while. And despite genuinely feeling better, life inevitably gets in the way and our best-laid plans start to fade away slowly (or quickly) into oblivion.
The challenge is either that we try to make too many changes too fast, or set the target too high (especially in terms of weight loss) and then very quickly feel overwhelmed by our goals or demotivated when we don’t see results as quickly as we would’ve hoped.
The good news is this: making small, sustainable differences really can have a massive impact on your overall well being. You’ll feel a change very quickly and because it’s not something that hangs over your head as an uncomfortable task, you’re far more likely to stick to it! You’ll see from the list below (targeting movement, nutrition, sleep and mental wellbeing) that these goal suggestions are far easier to implement and sustain than telling yourself that you have to complete a hardcore exercise or diet regime every day for the foreseeable future.
When we deprive ourselves too harshly, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. Instead, I think the key is to start off by incorporating small changes which are simple to implement and result in them becoming a HABIT, which you easily maintain over time. Yes, it’s frustrating to start with something that doesn’t result in a ripped body, better health and extreme fitness in 10 days flat, but give it a month plus and come next December, you could very well be in the best health of your life!
Top Small Changes for Lasting Big Results:
Sunshine is good all around. In fact, cancers from a lack of Vitamin D are now far more prevalent than any cancer caused by sun exposure. The benefits of sunshine to your immune system, circadian rhythm (sleep cycle), mental health, bone health and overall wellbeing cannot be underestimated.
Practically: The very best thing you can do upon waking is to expose yourself to sunshine first thing. Even 5-10 minutes in the sun before looking at electronic screens is a game-changer for your sleep cycle (you’ll sleep better at night) and energy throughout the day. During the day, also try to get at least 15-20 minutes of sun exposure without sunblock. Do it while on a work call, walking the dog or doing some gardening, so that you’re not carving out time, especially for this.
Sticking with the morning routine, the Ayurvedic practice of tongue scraping is a super quick habit that makes a big difference. I’m always surprised how little-known this practice is considering the positive health impact which it has. Available for generally less than a hundred bucks, a tongue scraper needs to be used only once a day (preferably in the morning) after brushing your teeth, and it takes all of 10 seconds if you take your time about it. Tongue scraping has been shown to remove bacteria (fresher breath!), improve your sense of taste (fresher taste buds), strengthen your immunity (through bacteria control), slow the formation of plaque on your teeth and increase saliva production (key to good digestion). Brushing your tongue is less effective as it often just stirs the bacteria around.
Practically: Buy an inexpensive tongue scraper, or simply use a metal teaspoon upside down to scrape the icky stuff from the back of your tongue to the tip of your tongue and spit it out. Repeat a few times until you’re satisfied that your tongue is pristine!
We all know that it’s good to drink a lot of water, and its importance is well-documented. However, it’s easy to level up your hydration game even further. The quality of the water that we drink is as important, if not more important, than how much water you drink.
Practically: I always add a couple of grinds of good quality sea salt to any glass of water I drink. Alternatively, adding electrolytes (look out for sugar-free, chemical-free versions) to your water (like Revive Electrolytes) ensures that you get all the necessary minerals that you need for proper hydration. Filtered water is always better than tap water but, avoid plastic bottled water as far as possible. The BPA and other estrogenic compounds which the plastic imparts into the water cause more harm than anything in tap water ever could. Stick with glass or fit a filter at home, it makes a difference!
Studies convincingly demonstrate that a practice as simple as writing down five things that you are grateful for once a day have a tangible positive impact on our mental wellbeing. It’s that simple! Grab a piece of paper or the Notes app on your phone and just jot down anything that you have to be thankful for in your life. 1-2 minutes for improved mental wellbeing, sign me up! If you have the time or the inclination to maintain a gratitude journal, even better!
Practically: Ponder on the things that you have to be grateful for while scraping your tongue in the morning. Jot them down. No brainer!
Breathe Baby, Breathe!
Breathwork is such a hot topic and has remained a hot topic for some time now. Because it works. It takes little effort (unless you’re all about Wim Hof or holotropic breathwork which takes longer and can be quite intense) and helps a lot with stress management, digestion and focus.
Practically: My favourites are 4-7-8 breathing (inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts and exhale for 8 counts, repeated 3-4 times) or alternate nostril breathing (holding one nostril closed while inhaling and exhaling through the other, then switching nostrils, repeating as often as you want). Just 2-3 minutes at any time during the day regains concentration and focus, calms you in stressful situations and even regulates your digestion.
Your morning coffee can be superpowered to be more than just a wake-me-up in the mornings. Whether you include mushroom powders, collagen or cinnamon, use your coffee for so much more than just the caffeine. Simple and easy to incorporate.
Practically: My ultimate coffee? One that includes Keto Collagen Creamer (MCT oil for energy and mental clarity and collagen for healthy skin, hair and nails), Shroom Elixir for mushroomy goodness (brain health particularly) and sprinkled with Ceylon Cinnamon on top (excellent for glucose management during the day).
The ice teas, the sodas, the fruit juices. Even the tonic water in your gin. They have to go. Don’t shoot the messenger, but the number of calories, sugar and other toxins in these drinks are simply not worth it. Non-nutritive sweeteners aren’t necessarily better, but if stevia-sweetened sparkling water (you actually get really yummy flavours these days) doesn’t do it for you, then rather opt for the sugar free versions of your favourites. This isn’t easy: sugar generally is addictive, so “quitting” is definitely not easy and takes a week or so to beat the addiction. But it’s a relatively easy switch to make with humongous benefit.
Practically: There is a lot of sugar-free stuff out there now, making a switch really convenient. If you don’t like the taste, try to stick with it for a while to see if it improves. The harm caused by even drinking too much fruit juice is counterproductive to any health goals. Top tips: there are flavoured stevia drops which are delicious when added to sparkling water. Alternatively, adding bitters to sparkling water is a great way to spice up your sparkling water.
Setting unrealistic workout targets may leave you defeated and feeling like a failure after a week or two. While not a replacement for your main cardio and strength sessions, absolutely everyone can benefit from more regular movement. Research shows that crushing 60-minute workouts 2-3x per week and then being mostly sedentary for the rest of the week results in the same disease risk as seen with inactive individuals. Studies demonstrate that you’d be better off doing just a couple of micro-workouts in a day rather than a few big weekly workouts with a few other movements.
Practically: Examples of micro-workouts include 10-15 push-ups (full or from knees), standing up and sitting down (30 times), high knee jogging to another room or doing 10-20 deep squats. Easy peasy. Repeat at random intervals during the day for major impact! PS: also always aim for 10,000 steps. Walking is your secret health weapon!
Man boobs. Irregular hormone cycles. Weakened immunity. All caused by toxic oestrogens found in our daily lives. I’m a big believer in re-looking at the personal care products (shampoo, soap, moisturiser, make-up etc), home cleaning products and fragrances in our environments. Find natural versions where you can actually pronounce the ingredients and would be comfortable to put in your mouth. There are good products that are as effective or more-so than their commercial counterparts. They are completely worth it!
Practically: Be ruthless in replacing your existing products. It’s a once-off expense and effort with lifelong benefits. My favourite recent discovery is Nuud: it works better than any other deodorant or antiperspirant and is so much safer!
How you end the day is as important as how you start the day! Sleep has been undervalued by our busy society, but the importance of good quality sleep for your health and longevity can no longer be disputed.
Practically: To the extent possible, go to bed at more or less the same time every night. This will improve sleep quality. Wear a sleep mask like the 3D Breathable Sleep Mask, because total darkness while sleeping also greatly improves sleep quality. Try to read a couple of pages of fiction before bed rather than scrolling social media (preferable while wearing blue-light blocking glasses) or take an Epsom salt bath before bedtime for uber-relaxation. My favourite: a 15-minute walk after dinner. This significantly lowers your glucose response to your meal, allowing your body to focus on healing instead of digestion and blood sugar regulation during sleep.
The Final Word
There you have it. Simple, inexpensive and quick tips to kick-off a better health journey! Guaranteed, you will be healthier if you incorporate some or all of these into your daily life. Once they’re a habit, it’ll feel like you never made any changes at all!
- Thea is the founder of Neolaia – Biohacking SA and passionate about all things biohacking, functional medicine, holistic and ancestral wellness. She enjoys the occasional triathlon, is fanatic about yoga and the gym and loves n=1 biohacking experiments more than anything else! Learning about the latest in scientific research for health and wellness and applying this knowledge is what makes her happiest!
This information does not serve as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is for informational purposes only and does not provide a comprehensive explanation of the different compounds. Always consult your doctor first when making any changes to medication or supplementation.