“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and the same goes for your health. Sometimes the process of improving or maintaining health may seem difficult, if not impossible. It may seem like a journey of more than just a thousand miles even. But keep in mind, there are little things—baby steps—that you can do every day to make that journey to health an achievable and enjoyable one.
The key is to think small and realistically. Ask yourself, what is your overall goal? Do you want to manage diabetes? Do you want to be able to run a 5k? Do you want to quit smoking? Whatever your goal, even if you don’t have a map, it helps to know your destination and have your shoes strapped on before you head out on the journey.
To figure out if you’re ready to take steps towards your health goals:
Make a list of pros and cons, such as “pro: eating more vegetables will help me lose weight, con: I don’t know how to cook vegetables that I like."
Get a journal or find a friend and walk through all the pros you listed. They don’t just have to be health-related. For instance, will increasing the amount of sleep you get each night help you do better at work?
Try to imagine how you will handle the cons that come with change and make a plan. For example, if your goal is to exercise at least thirty minutes a day but you find it difficult to make time, physically block out time on your calendar (at work, on your phone, etc.) If you miss a day, what will you do to make up for it?
When the pros outweigh the cons, you’ll have a better chance at successfully making that change. Just remember that the larger journey is the product of many smaller steps and often some wrong turns or setbacks. Thinking ahead about what you will do when you take a wrong turn and breaking down your goal into small steps will help you achieve the bigger health goals you set for yourself. If you want to cut down on the number of sweets you eat, cutting them out all at once (trying to leap ahead a thousand miles) is going to be much harder than choosing to eat one cookie after dinner instead of five (taking a single step).
Here are some tricks to help take the baby steps that will move you forward on your journey to better health:
Include your family and friends in your effort! Having others around to support you and remind you of your goals will help keep you on track.
Leave visual cues for yourself. Whether it’s setting a “don’t forget to take your daily vitamin” reminder alarm on your cell phone or keeping a MyPlate.gov placemat on the dinner table, seeing your goal on a daily basis will help you keep it fresh in your mind.
Remove cues that get in the way of your goal. If you want to watch less TV, hide the remote!
Reward yourself for taking baby steps. It’s not just about the end goal; the journey is just as important. Pat yourself on the back (buy a new outfit? Plan a weekend getaway?) as a thank you to you for achieving steps toward your goal.
Eventually you won’t need cues or rewards to maintain these changes. Soon your healthy change will become a habit and you will find that those baby steps have taken you miles along the journey to better health. Swedish is here for you on that journey and we look forward to helping you enjoy each one of those steps. For more information on how to set goals for your health and take steps towards reaching them, visit the Douglas Health Education Center in the main lobby of the Swedish/First Hill Campus or call (206) 386-2502. Depending on your specific health goals, you may also want to visit the following resources: