The benefit of ‘better than nothing’

Bigstock Walking Steps

When it comes to our health habits, sometimes we just need to lower our expectations.

‘Better than nothing’ was coined by the author of several time management and productivity books, American Laura Vanderkam.

She says, and I agree, that we waste too much time over goals that are counterproductive.

For example, at this time of year when the weather’s warming up and we’re unwrapping ourselves from sweaters and long pants, it’s not uncommon to peer down and decide: ‘I need to lose five kilos’.

Whether that goes anywhere is another thing, but if you do decide to follow through, Laura argues that instead of fixating on how much you think you should lose, focus on the little things you can do that will take you in the right direction.

You might decide, say, to do something physically active for half an hour a day, drink a couple of glasses of water between meals, eat vegies at lunch and dinner, or not snack after 8.30pm.

Pick one to start with and make it as doable as possible — so small that you’re not going to resist it, and as she says, easy enough that you can exceed it with ego-boosting regularity.

When that’s embedded into your daily routine you can consider another one.

Some days it might still take every scrap of discipline you can muster, but when the bar is low you’re more likely to find that.

Typically though, we try to do wonders straight up and give up because it’s too hard. Yet we don’t need to do wonders to make a difference.

Last month a study published in the British Medical Journal by an international consortium of researchers was a reminder that when it comes to physical activity, every bit counts.

The researchers pooled activity tracking data from about 36,000 people from Europe and America. It showed that the more we move, the less likely we are to die prematurely, even if that movement consists largely of housework, gardening and generally moseying about the house.

It’s easy to forget that when high intensity interval training is bandied about as the answer to everything. Yes it’s beneficial. But so is just getting off the couch.

Lowering our expectations with these ‘better than nothing’ goals can help us to be consistent. And consistency is magic.

Photo source: Bigstock

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