3 Reasons to Take Changes Slowly
Like many people, I’m starting to add some things back into my life after last year’s enforced isolation. This includes visiting more people, but it also includes getting back to a more regular walking routine and being a bit more mindful about eating.
But as eager as I am for some things to change, I know that trying to do everything all at once won’t work. Instead, I remind myself to go slowly with smaller changes.
For example, I’d mentioned in a recent blog post that I hadn’t been walking as much, in part because I’d started thinking of myself as a sedentary person. The other piece is that I had some knee pain a couple of months ago that lasted for a while. It’s better now, although I still don’t know what caused it, and it certainly didn’t help me be more active.
Now, though, I’m ready to get back to more walks, and I know from experience that the best way to do this is with slow, gradual changes.
Here are three reasons why this is better than trying to do everything at once.
You’re more likely to start
One of the biggest benefits of making small changes is that you’re more likely to start those changes in the first place.
If you try to make a change that’s too big, it will often feel intimidating. You’ll find reasons to keep putting it off until it’s a “better” time – even though this better time might be mythical.
Plus, your body won’t always be prepared for big changes. If you overdo it on exercise, you could injure yourself, or you’ll feel so bad afterward that you won’t want to continue.
From an eating perspective, if you have a hard time recognizing when you’re hungry, if you keep waiting and waiting to eat until you feel hungry, you could end up being ravenous or very low energy or irritable (or all of the above). And that’s not fun for anyone.
Small changes become habitual
Another benefit of slow, small changes is that they’re much more likely to become habitual. You can then make another small change to build on top of it.
In my case, I want to get out for 30-minute walks most days, weather permitting. But I’m starting with a goal of a 20-30 minute walk three days a week, and I can go from there.
This feels like less pressure and is something that isn’t too hard to add to my schedule. And it’s certainly easier to manage than trying to emulate one of my neighbors, who goes for 5-7 mile walks just about every morning.
If you’re trying to get to mindful eating, you could start by simply pausing for 30 seconds before you eat to notice how hungry you feel. You could also use this time to notice and appreciate your food or to express gratitude for what you have. The simple act of pausing will help you be more mindful when you eat.
You learn what works best for you
Finally, when you make slow, gradual changes, you have a better opportunity to notice how things are working and make adjustments as needed.
For exercise, one thing that helps is to pay attention to what time of day works best for you. Some folks like to exercise after work to reduce stress. But others, like me, find that by the time the afternoon rolls around, any motivation to exercise has drained away. That’s why I’m aiming for morning walks, and that also works well with summer and hotter days coming up.
If you’re thinking about eating more mindfully, you could see if it’s easier to start with one meal or time of day. Maybe it’s easier for you to be mindful in the morning before the day gets going. Or maybe you have too much to think about in the morning, and later in the day is when you can take that pause before eating.
With the small changes, you’re not committing to much, so if you find it doesn’t work for you, you haven’t invested a lot and you can more easily adjust your approach moving forward. All this will help you feel more motivated and interested in continuing with the changes.
Easing back into things
I think our society puts a lot of emphasis on big, dramatic changes, whether that’s going “cold turkey” or jumping into the deep end or whatever else it may be.
But the reality is, small changes are more sustainable, and you’re more likely to see lasting results. So while it may not be as flashy, you’ll do better to ease into whatever changes you want to make, and it will help those changes stick.