The Power of One Small Change

Shannon Wagner is on the Community Engagement team at DailyFeats, a website and mobile app that helps make small actions a force for positive change. You can chat with DailyFeats on Twitter (@DailyFeats) or check out their blog for a healthy dose of inspiration.

This is a guest post for October Unprocessed. If this is your first time here, welcome …and it’s not too late to join in!

Starting a challenge like October Unprocessed is similar to taking on a New Years resolution in that you’ve resolved to make a change. Now, you’re probably thinking about all the New Years resolutions that fall by the wayside each year, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to drastically change your lifestyle. You can take on this challenge at your own pace, and really learn a lot about yourself along the way.

You might be at the point of experimenting with a few unprocessed foods, or you might be looking to completely overhaul your diet; but whatever your end goal, your starting point, your enthusiasm, or your willingness to say “no” to Hostess cupcakes, your journey will be powered by your daily choices. And whatever measure you choose – a week, two weeks, or the full month – you’ll have a brand new perspective on your relationship with food by the end of it.

To start, let me ask you this: When you go grocery shopping, do you find yourself buying basically the same items each week without really thinking twice about it?

Well, you are not alone in that. A 2007 study by Wendy Wood, Duke University professor of psychology and neuroscience, revealed that, though we tend to think we have a lot of control over the decisions we make each day, 45% of our daily actions are actually habits. See, we’re not actually fully mentally present when we make nearly half of our daily decisions.

But what’s great about that stat is it shows just how much of our own potential we can tap into. We actually have the power to create a shift in our thinking toward better general health just by making small changes in our daily decisions – simple things like choosing to cook at home more, adding more fruits and veggies to the grocery list, swapping out one processed food for an unprocessed alternative.

The little changes you make to your eating during October Unprocessed have the power to make you more mindful of not just what you put into your body, but also how you spend your energy and time, and how you think about your well-being. In turn, that mindfulness can have a ripple effect on your overall health and happiness.

You might be thinking, “Really? All that just from eating an extra piece of fresh fruit a day? Or just from cooking an extra meal at home each week?” You bet! Any little thing you can do to break with some of your regular (unhealthy) routines will keep you more present and mindful about your choices. One small step like swapping out your usual breakfast on-the-go for eating a bowl of steel cut oats with blueberries for breakfast each day can lead to another step, then another, and so on. Before you know it, you’re doing 10 good things for your health that you weren’t doing just a short time ago. After all, have you ever heard of someone regretting a healthy choice after the fact?

Need some inspiration? Here are just a few ideas for small changes you can make today:

  1. Replace just one meal with unprocessed options.
  2. Eat one more fruit or vegetable a day than you normally eat.
  3. Replace a snack a day with unprocessed goodies like dried fruits or nuts, or make your own trail mix!
  4. Shop at a different grocery store so that you won’t feel tempted to make a beeline to your usual processed foods. You’ll be able to view what’s around you with a fresh perspective and be more mindful of your unprocessed options.
  5. Make a game of it and have fun! Explore a new food each week, or see how many colors you can eat in a day. Giving yourself creative prompts will help expand your food horizon.

Charles DuHigg, author of The Power of Habit, says, “Things we really enjoy are usually easy to establish as habits, whereas exercising takes a bit longer. There’s no hard and fast rule. But there is one rule: a habit has to deliver a reward that you actually enjoy.”

So make sure you’re enjoying what passes across your mouth. Let good food sweep you off your feet with new tastes, flavors, colors, and aromas.

With that said, here’s a bit of advice to keep in mind from Andrew: If you try to be perfect, you’re setting yourself up for failure. So be flexible.

Don’t feel guilty if you weren’t successful yesterday, and don’t be overwhelmed by the days in front of you. Just think, what unprocessed foods can I eat at my next meal? Because each small positive action you take will build upon the last, and the overall effects you’ll experience will be greater than the sum of their parts.

As you take on October Unprocessed, what are some of the powerful, positive side effects you’re experiencing? Share with us!

“Little Snowball” © 2009 by Chris Marquardt, used under the Creative Commons License.

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