small challenges, big gains

Courtney Takabayashi
September 28, 2018

Self-improvement comes in different forms. Whether we decide to read more, go to workshops, or start saying no, the thought of continuing habits forever can seem daunting. But tackling small challenges can give us a sense of accomplishment and empower us to continue down the road to a better life. If you’re up for a small challenge, here are a few you can incorporate into your life right now:

Cut back on junk food. It’s a fact: junk food tastes better when you’re  stressed. But all the sugar, sodium, and unpronounceable ingredients make you feel worse in the long run. To avoid temptation, create healthy snack stations. Here are some suggestions:

Pantry station – Divide single servings of the following into snack-sized bags: popcorn, whole wheat crackers, nuts, whole-grain pretzels, dark chocolate, and homemade baked chickpeas. Try making granola bars or energy bites.

  • Refrigerator station – Gather fruits and cheese, carrots or celery and hummus, nonfat yogurt, string cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and low fat pudding or gelatin for snacking. Try tofu as-is or baked with a little bit of low-sodium shoyu, grated ginger, or low-calorie dressing.
  • Freezer station – Package single servings of smoothie ingredients, microwavable edamame, homemade popsicles, low-sugar fudge bars, bananas on a stick, or grapes.

Netflix and don’t chill. Be productive while watching your favorite show or movie. Here are some activities that will help ease the guilt of catching up on a binge-worthy show:

  • Organize – Clean out your purse or wallet, keeping the receipts you need and throwing out the rest. Crank up the volume and do the dishes, scrub the toilet, or vacuum. Go through your junk mail, prep your healthy snacks, or fold and iron laundry.
  • Exercise – Get your steps in by walking or jogging in place. Strengthen your core by sitting on a balance ball. Relax with some simple stretches. Or to get your blood pumping, do pushups, sit ups, or turn your living room into a home gym.
  • Make money – Not all surveys are a scam. Do some research and sign up to take surveys that offer gift cards or other perks. Then, take those surveys while you’re watching Netflix. Or try selling your stuff online. Some sales websites or apps are free to use or charge a small fee for posting your items. Take pictures, write descriptions of your items, engage with potential buyers, and make some extra dough while streaming your favorite movies.

Once you decide on your challenge, give yourself small goals. Do it for a day, then two. Eventually, a week and a month will go by and your small challenge will become your new normal. And if you falter, don’t beat yourself up; making changes, even small ones, isn’t easy. The next time you challenge yourself, make your goal a little longer than before. Eventually, you may be able to turn these small challenges into life-long habits.

How do you challenge yourself? Share your challenges, hiccups, and success stories with us in the comments below.

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