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You really don’t need to make those New Year’s resolutions anymore. Stop beating yourself up, put that mirror away, get off the scales, and listen up.

I enjoy sci-fi movies and books. Recently 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, picture a heavy snow fall, a steep slope, a change in temperature, multiple layers of snow, and add some human activity on the mountain. 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.

Now imagine a lifestyle that is sedentary, with high carbohydrates, high sugar and high fat. It usually results in metabolic syndrome, a condition 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 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:

1. Drink more water, starting first thing in the morning and drink half your body weight in ounces every day.

2. 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.

3. 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!

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Breathe – really breathe. Take a big, deep breath and feel the difference that brings. Then take two more breaths.

9. Do little things to reduce your stress every day, such as taking a few deep breaths when you feel anxious.

10. Add, rather than subtract. That’s right, one of the best ways to improve your diet is to add in the healthy stuff, which crowds out the less-healthy choices.

And all of these small steps start with your “why”. Knowing why you want to improve your health and wellbeing is essential to making incremental, yet profound, changes in your lifestyle.

Many of us don’t take the time to consider this, yet I feel it is so important that I take each and every client through a process that helps them identify what is going to keep them motivated for the long haul. It is part of every one of my coaching programs, including the upcoming GRIT group that starts next Monday, January 8. Rather than a seismic shift, let’s take the small, yet proven effective steps towards our physical, mental and emotional health together. Are you in?

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