Lifestyle: Don’t wrench the wheel when a twitch will do
Forget radical transformation – you’ll get a better, longer-lasting buzz from micro-changing
The problem with big wrenches of the old lifestyle steering-wheel is that, well, they’re too big. Radical changes are tricky because they’re so radical: the more you take on, the higher the risk.
The answer? Micro-changes. By focusing on the smallest possible changes that’ll make a difference – rather than plotting to take on the biggest – you can commit to a handful of tiny tweaks that are possible even when you’re busy, stressed or not in the mood. Below you’ll find seven: commit to doing one or all of them for just a week, then add or tweak as necessary. By next summer, you’ll be the smug one.
For mobility: Move your feet
No, this doesn’t mean signing up for that Zumba-Fortnite fusion class. Just taking a minute a day to move your feet and ankles can go a long way toward helping prevent a lot of aches and pains, especially around the knees. Toe circles and ankle-flexes are easy enough to do while you’re sitting on the couch, while calf-raises are unobtrusive enough to do on an escalator or at a bus stop without raising any eyebrows. Take your pick from the video below.
For better nutrition: Cook one new vegetable a week
Ah, your deskmate’s struggling with the feta-stuffed gnocchi again? Offer your sympathies, and do something simpler. Buy and try one new vegetable each week. Branch out and explore a little bit – try purple cauliflower or mixed color carrots. Instead of salads, perhaps try roasting a veggie, or vice versa.
Just try one new veggie – or one you already like prepared a new way – at one meal each week. You may not like each alternative you try, but you’ll likely discover a whole bunch of new veggies, or new prep methods, to expand and increase your intake.
For better sleep: Leave your phone out of the room
More than one study has linked cellphone use near bedtime to decreased sleep quality, and at least one paper links the blue light they typically emit to snooze-disrupting effects. Many experts will recommend having a phone curfew an hour before bed, but if that seems ridiculous then at least leave your phone in another room when it’s actually time for shuteye: you won’t need it, and even the blinking charge light can disrupt production of sleep hormone melatonin.
Bonus: leave a book by the bedside, and you’ll be more likely to read a couple of pages when you wake up than head straight to Instagram – a double-whammy, since fiction’s linked to lowered stress and heightened empathy.
For strength and stability: Squat when you can
Talking to toddlers, picking up boxes, using traditional Japanese toilets without mishap – the list of times when it helps to have a stable squat is, if not endless, then at least surprising, and building time in the position doesn’t mean spending hours in the gym.
Just squatting down when you have a chance a few times a day and trying to get more comfortable with that is one of the highest-leverage things you can do. Do a few reps while you’re boiling the kettle.
For a calmer brain: Use the ‘senses’ exercise
It’s counter-intuitive, but the modern mania for mindfulness can seem a bit … stressful at times? If you aren’t concentrating on every munch of biscuit, whiff of exhaust or breath of air, are you somehow failing? That’s certainly how it can seem.
Instead of worrying about it constantly, use the simplest form of mindfulness exercise when you find yourself particularly stressed: pick a sense, say “touch”, and concentrate on five things you can use with that sense, from the pressure of your feet on the floor to the gentle scrape of your jersey around your neck. Voila: instant refocus.
For stronger willpower: turn your shower to cold (occasionally)
There are numerous (mostly unproven) health claims for the benefits of a cold shower: it might help fat loss (by encouraging the production of burnable “brown” fat), improve your immune system, slow ageing or even fight depression.
All of this is up in the air, but there’s one uncontestable takeaway: once you’ve cranked the nozzle to “frosty” and toughed it out under the chilly spray a couple of times, everything else seems easier.
Don’t worry about making your entire shower cold: scrub yourself down as normal, then turn the temperature down for the last 30 seconds. You’ll be able to tackle anything.
… and for everything else, drink more water
Yes, it’s so obvious, so useful, so theoretically easy – and yet people are planning to do it and certain to fail miserably. Over-commitment is the problem: plan on glugging four litres a day, hefting a special bottle around to every social engagement or drinking half a litre with every meal, and you’ll fail. It’s too much, and if the constant toilet trips don’t get you then the sloshing in your stomach will.
Instead of going all or nothing, then, just drink a bit more: a sip with your first morning coffee, another while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, at least a bit with your wine while you’re out at dinner. From here, drink a little bit more water and a little bit less everything else – you’ll be hydrated and (probably) happier in under a week.
- © The Daily Telegraph