You know the drill, right? You take a look in the mirror, or you get on the scale for the first time in a little while, or you get winded going up a couple of flights of stairs, and you realize that you’re needing to make some healthy changes. So you hit the gym like you’re training for a bodybuilding competition, or you jump into a running routine that has you gasping around the block, or you cut out any kind of food that isn’t kale.

And what happens?

After a couple of weeks of barely being able to get up from a chair because you’re so sore or having your knee start gripping at you because you’re upping your mileage on your run too quickly or getting so sick of kale, kale, kale, you call it quits.

What happened? You were trying to get healthier, and all you ended up getting was exhausted, discouraged, and hungry. And those aren’t things that feel too inspiring about making your health a priority.

What about this? What about if you decided to keep it simple, and to focus on things that, over time, can make a big difference? It’s a lot easier than you think.

Sure, we all have that class reunion or wedding on the calendar that we want to look good for, and we set up a health routine that focuses on hitting a fitness goal by that date. But that’s part of the problem. When we look only to a ‘destination’ in our health journey, we forget about doing something that is sustainable, something that we’ll be able to continue over time. That’s the beauty of the following simple health changes; they take very little time, won’t leave you sore and crabby, and pressed for time.

  1. Trade out canned vegetables for fresh ones. 
  2. Once or twice a week, substitute a piece of fruit for your usual dessert.
  3. Stand and walk a few paces during conference calls.
  4. Take a few deep breaths every hour.
  5. Drink water, water, water.
  6. Stretch for five minutes before bed.
  7. Floss each day.
  8. Take a 10-minute walk after dinner each night.
  9. Play classical music while you work.
  10. Instead of grabbing that daily bag of chips, choose a lean protein source a couple of times a week.
  11. Pray each day and give gratitude for something you’re thankful for.
  12. Set a 10-minute timer while you’re scrolling social media, and log out of your social media for the day when the timer goes off.
  13. In the morning, take 5 minutes to get out into the sunshine and fresh air.
  14. Take time to laugh each day, whether that’s through listening to a funny podcast on your way to work, taking a few minutes to watch a couple of funny memes, or listening to your favorite comedian.
  15.  Cut out soft drinks…and yes, even the diet ones.
  16. Reduce the amount of caffeine you’re using each day by making your coffee half-caf / half-decaf.
  17. Read a bible verse at the start of each morning.
  18. Limit the amount of time you spend watching the news and crime documentaries.
  19.  When you’re in the car, driving kids to school or heading to the office, play a song that you sing (and sing loud) to.
  20. Add an extra serving of fresh greens to your plate each night at dinner.

When you look at each of these ideas, the longest one takes 10 minutes, and the shortest takes just a few seconds. These habits, built over time and with consistency, can pay off in a big way toward your health, by giving you better nutrition, reducing your stress and anxiety, putting your body into motion, helping you focus on your spiritual life, and protecting your cardiac health. Sure, there are times that you may have fitness and health goals that require a major lifestyle change. But you can set yourself up for consistency by making little changes that fit into your day-to-day. Put these twenty ideas into practice, stick with it, and over time, you’ll see that small time investment pay off big.

Julie Lyles Carr is a best-selling author, podcaster, and entrepreneur living in Austin, Texas, with her husband Mike Carr. They have eight kids, two unfriendly cats, and an antique dachshund.