Get ready to feel the 'ripple effect' of small health changes

By Kiley Owen, PA-C

It's important to have a comprehensive view of health. Too often, we focus only on the physical aspects of health, such as our weight, fitness or illness/injury. But healthy living goes far beyond diet, exercise and medicine. It includes:

  • Mental health – improving mood, emotions and outlook on life
  • Intellectual health – continually learning, improving, growing
  • Spiritual health – exploring meaning and purpose in life, finding peace and harmony
  • Financial health – having sufficient income and security, doing more with less
  • Social health – connecting with others, building strong relationships
  • Environmental health – surrounding yourself with a health-promoting environment
  • Physical health – optimizing nutrition and exercise, improving physical condition

If you feel inadequate in any of these areas, that is normal.

We all struggle with various aspects of health. (Personally, I feel that I have significant room for improvement in all of the above areas.) Furthermore, we live in a world of overbooked schedules, high stress and sedentary lifestyles, all of which take a negative toll on our overall well-being.

The good news is that when we make positive changes in one area, there is often a ripple effect, with other areas positively impacted, also.

For example, when we eat better and get regular exercise, this not only improves our physical condition but also improves our mental/emotional health. Often when people gain control of their finances, they also gain discipline in other areas, such as sticking to a healthy diet/exercise regimen. People who have strong, positive social and family support networks often experience less physical and mental illness.

What is an area of health that you feel needs improvement? What is one healthy habit that you can start today to improve in this area? Some examples are:

  • Improve outlook by writing down three things you are thankful for each day. 
  • Expand your mind by reading five pages of a book every day. (Over the course of a year, this would equate to reading about nine 200-page books.)
  • Grow spiritually by participating in church or other spiritual practice.
  • Take control of your finances by sticking to a written budget.
  • Improve your relationships by intentionally reaching out to somebody who is important to you each week.
  • Improve your environment by systematically getting rid of unnecessary clutter.
  • Commit to eating at least three vegetables daily, or commit to 20 minutes of exercise daily.

I encourage you to choose an activity that does not involve a big time commitment.

Many healthy habits take less than 10 minutes a day. Write the activity down. Post it somewhere where you will be reminded, such as on the bathroom mirror or in your planner. Commit to doing it every day for a month.

At the end of the month, enjoy the sense of accomplishment you feel from sticking with your goal, feel motivated to keep up the good work, and observe the ripple effect it has on other areas.

Kiley Owen is a physician assistant, blogger and preventive health enthusiast. This post originally appeared on her blog, makinghealthapriority.com.