I enjoy sci-fi movies and books and have just finished my latest in the Expanse canon, Persepolis Rising. In the series, I have heard this term “the cascade effect” used to describe the degradation of life in space to the point it can’t be stopped. For example, if you are growing plants in a space station as an “air scrubber” to help to maintain the environment and suddenly they started dying, the “cascade effect” would be other systems (and ultimately the people who live in them) also start to fail.
More simply put, imagine a heavy snow fall, a steep slope, a change in temperature, multiple layers of snow and add some human activity. Next thing you know, an avalanche occurs from the combination of some or all of these elements. I know, scary stuff. Especially if you are at the bottom of that hill.
And imagine a lifestyle that is sedentary, with high carbohydrates, high sugar and high fat that usually results in a condition called metabolic syndrome, in which a person has high blood sugar, high serum triglycerides, low serum high- density lipoprotein, high blood pressure, and abdominal obesity. Any three of these lifestyle-induced factors associated with metabolic syndrome increases the risk of developing cardiac disease or adult-onset diabetes.
But that gave me an idea that we can reverse engineer “cascade effects” too. Every time we make a better choice, whether it be to take a walk, get a better night's sleep or to shop the periphery of the food market, we are increasing the likelihood of positively affecting our overall health and well-being.
And we don’t need to make ‘all or nothing’ commitments on January 1 only to have them implode by February 1 and make us feel bad, to achieve it.
Instead, we can hack our habits and make incremental changes that will impact us more profoundly in the next 12 months. Here are some suggestions for you to pick from. Yes, just pick one to start your habit-stacking today.
Make a commitment right now to:
Drink more water, starting first thing in the morning and drink half your body weight in ounces every day.
Be mindful of your posture when sitting and standing. If you realize you are slouching, straighten up to help prevent future injury and improve your balance.
Bring some movement into your life, with something you actually enjoy, like dance or kickboxing and that will increase the chances of you making it a habit. Consistency is the key!
Try to move for at least 15 minutes each day. New research tells us that all movement is cumulative and good for you. So set a timer for 15 minutes each day and get up and take a walk or use the stairs. It will feel good.
Slowly increase your intake of vegetables to get up to 9 servings per day optimally. Take baby steps towards eating the “rainbow” by trying a new recipe as often as you can.
Think about one positive thing in your life each day; ask yourself what makes me feel happy? brings me joy? or makes me feel loved? and try to focus on that.
Go to bed earlier. The “cascade effect” of getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night are better decision making, better productivity, and improved mood.
Breathe – really breathe. Take a big, deep breath and feel the difference that brings. Then take two more breaths.
Do little things to reduce your stress every day, such as taking a few deep breaths when you feel anxious.