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By Shelby Sheehan-Bernard, Tribune News Service (TNS)

If you’re one of the 92 percent of people whose New Year’s resolutions have lost their luster, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, you may not only be feeling unhealthy — you may be thinking you’re a total failure.

“We bite off more than we can chew, then we feel shame, and it’s a downward spiral from there,” said Lisa Wheeler, NASM- and ACE-certified fitness expert who is featured in several Weight Watchers fitness videos including “7-Day Tone & Burn.”

“Something small is better than nothing, and if you think about it, that’s how we learned as children: one word at a time, then sentences, then paragraphs,” she adds, noting that research shows that smaller incremental changes provide the best outcome.

Katy Bowman, biomechanist and author of the book Move Your DNA, suggests individuals seeking a healthier lifestyle look to small everyday changes that don’t require an outfit change, fancy gear or something outside of their routine.

“Even a simple change like sitting on the floor instead of the couch allows you to use more muscle and energy instead of outsourcing that to furniture,” she explains.

Looking for some simple changes that can increase both your physical and mental health? Check out these expert tips for inspiration:

1. Start the day right. Wheeler admits that she’s not a morning person. To offset this, she does a small mobility exercise such as a sun salutation and drinks a glass of water as soon as she wakes up every day. “That way, I’ve already got in movement and hydration to start my day with a positive outlook.”

2. Set the alarm — for bedtime. A self-described workaholic and night owl, Wheeler knows she won’t get a full eight hours of sleep unless she actually schedules it. So she sets an alert on her phone 30 minutes before bedtime so she can start winding down and getting to bed on time.

3. Get up and move. It’s no secret that Americans live a sedentary lifestyle, but according to Bowman, just a two-minute slow-paced walk every 30 minutes throughout the day can significantly improve health. Think you can’t do this at work? “Go hand-deliver a note to a colleague instead of emailing it, or take a walk while making phone calls,” she suggests.

4. Vary your sitting position. For most people, sitting at a desk all day is an inevitable part of their job. Bowman suggests varying your sitting position to provide variability of movement, which can burn calories and help your body align more with its natural state.

5. STOP. An acronym used by yoga and meditation instructor Ashley Turner, STOP stands for “stop, take a breath, observe and then proceed.” Inserting a moment of pause in your day will increase mindfulness, which allows you to increase contentment in your life and make better decisions about your health, according to Turner.

6. Try the “plus one” rule. If you’re having a hard time getting motivated to move, just start with one minute of exercise or movement and add on each day. “That’s doable for people and brings it to bite size,” Wheeler said. For example, you could start with a one-minute walk and gradually work up to 30 minutes a day, or do one pushup a day for a week and build up to 52 pushups by the end of the year.

7. Build a support system. Turner suggests looking at the five people who are closest to you and asking yourself: Are they positively affecting my life? She encourages people to seek out friends they can go on a walk or hike with, which helps build connections with people who motivate rather than detract from personal wellness goals.

8. Ditch the furniture. Try watching TV while sitting on the floor, which Bowman says engages your muscles even if you aren’t moving. Have to fold laundry? Try doing it on the floor and squatting as you sit down each time. Simple steps like these, she explains, can really add up throughout the day.

Photo: Guilherme Tavares via Flickr


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