In the past, January used to inspire me to make resolutions for major changes. Then I wondered why it all fizzled out by the end of February. Now I know it was because I tried to do too much at once so change wasn’t sustainable. The discovery that small changes can still make a difference is helpful because those little shifts can affect our health, happiness, community, relationships and environment.

Health and happiness begin by paying attention to our thoughts. Since we choose our thoughts, it’s important to remember that our thoughts affect our feelings, and feelings affect our behavior. Let’s choose to stay away from negativity, fear, and the need to be right, and instead focus on the positive energy found in changing what we can, and accepting what we can’t. Our bodies and minds will thank us.

We all know the importance of exercise, but not all of us can do a heavy workout in a gym. It’s good to know there are benefits found in as little as twenty minutes of walking three times a week. Starting the day with a series of stretches helps us gently wake up our minds and bodies. We can walk when taking a phone call, park further away from the store, and stretch and stroll around the office once an hour. When watching a movie, we can do tasks or move around the house during commercial breaks. There’s thirty-five minutes of movement opportunity in every 2-hour movie. Playing with children, walking the dog, dancing and yoga count too. Every movement counts.

Our diet is improved with every fruit and vegetable we eat, so let’s try adding just one more of each a day. Setting a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter makes it easy to reach so it’s easier to avoid less healthy alternatives. A glass of water or a mug of hot lemon water first thing in the morning helps gently get our inner body systems going. Mindful eating throughout the day will keep us energized and productive. When we’re out we can carry nuts or mandarin oranges to give an energy boost in between meals.

Small changes that help relationships begin by taking care of ourself first. If we do what we love to do, even if others think we should be doing something else, we will thrive. I had a university teacher who tried to discourage me from going into teaching by repeatedly saying it was a poor choice, and I would never get a job in my city. I paid no attention, followed my heart and soon had two job offers. Another helpful change is establishing an early morning and bedtime routine that begins and ends our day in a nurturing way. Computers, phones and news are not helpful at either time. A gratitude journal is a great way to end the day on a positive note, especially if the day’s been hard. Writing just one thing down can make a difference in what we focus on as we go to sleep.

The biggest gift we can give to others is to listen well. That means putting our phone on airplane mode, giving the speaker eye contact, and weighing our attitude and words before we respond. We can reach out to one person every day with a call or text, or write a thank you note to someone who has impacted our life.

Our communities are affected by small changes such as going for a walk with a trash bag to pick up litter, which may inspire others to do the same. Just saying hi to neighbors creates a friendly atmosphere and making soup for someone who is ill builds caring neighborhoods. In our neighborhood we keep in touch with each other so we know if someone needs help. Donating to a charity doesn’t need to involve a large amount of money. Our local food banks can make a small donation go a long way.

Our environment is helped by going vegetarian for a day or more to relieve the demand for meat. We can use leftover drinking water to water plants or purchase a water saving shower head. Keeping reusable grocery bags in our car means we’re more likely to use them. We can slowly replace our regular light bulbs with LED bulbs which last longer and use less energy. If every American household replaced just one bulb a year, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing over 2 million cars from the road every year.

Beginning a new year doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Minor changes are easy and can affect every area of our personal life, community and environment. Try one and see what happens. Small changes really do make a difference.

Until Next Time – Sylvia

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