Simple Changes, Big Rewards: A practical, easy guide for healthy, happy living

All of us probably know some areas where we could boost our health and happiness — perhaps by exercising more, eating healthier, learning stress management techniques, or nipping a bad habit in the bud — but making a change can be daunting. It doesn’t have to be, though. This report will show you how to incorporate simple changes into your life that can reap big rewards.

Simple Changes, Big Rewards: A practical, easy guide for healthy, happy living Cover

Positive Psychology: Harnessing the power of happiness, mindfulness, and personal strength

Positive emotions have been linked with better health, longer life, and greater well-being in numerous scientific studies. On the other hand, chronic anger, worry, and hostility increase the risk of developing heart disease, as people react to these feelings with raised blood pressure and stiffening of blood vessels. But it isn’t easy to maintain a healthy, positive emotional state. Positive Psychology:…

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People can achieve remarkable changes in their lives by taking one small step at a time.  The day-to-day choices you make influence whether you maintain vitality as you age or develop life-shortening illnesses and disabling conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke.

In this Special Health Report, Harvard Medical School doctors introduce you to strategies you can stick with. You’ll find out how to create long-lasting change, set goals that are specific, measureable, achievable and realistic.  And you’ll learn invaluable tips for conquering rough spots that may occur as you progress.

These are resolutions you can keep.  These changes don’t require you to clean out your pantry, invest in gear, or carve out extra hours from your day.  Instead, you learn to replace old habits with new ones.

This special health report targets seven goals and gives you six sensible, practical steps for reaching each goal.  In Simple Changes, Big Rewards you’ll master proven tools that will make dieting easier, meals more wholesome, workouts more fun, stress less disruptive, and will help you invest each day with greater joy and meaning.

Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Edward M. Phillips, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School, and Director and Founder, Institute of Lifestyle Medicine. 48 pages. (2014)

  • Getting started
    • Making lasting changes
    • Sidestepping pitfalls
  • Launch your first month of change
    • Shaping your personal plan
    • Picking your first goal
    • Your month-by-month calendar
    • Breaking it down
    • What’s working: You go, girl (or boy)!
  • Stick to exercise
    • The goal for sticking to exercise
    • Six choices for sticking to exercise
  • Eat healthier
    • The goal for eating healthier
    • Six choices for eating healthier
  • Diet more effectively
    • The goal for dieting more effectively
    • Six choices for dieting more effectively
  • Ease stress
    • The goal for easing stress
    • Six choices for easing stress
  • Control finances
    • The goal for controlling finances
    • Six choices for controlling finances
  • Harness positive psychology
    • The goal for harnessing positive psychology
    • Six choices for harnessing positive psychology
  • Nip an unhealthy habit in the bud
    • The goal for nipping an unhealthy habit in the bud
    • Six choices for nipping unhealthy habits in the bud
  • Glossary
  • Resources
    • Organizations
    • Books
    • Related Special Health Reports

Dear Reader,

Change your life. Three simple words, no easy task. Yet a richer, healthier life is well within bounds. Small changes can add up to surprisingly big course corrections. But which changes should you make? And how can you stick with them?

As the director of the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine at Harvard Medical School, I know people can achieve remarkable changes in their lives one small step at a time. The day-to-day choices you make influence whether you maintain vitality as you age or develop life-shortening illnesses and disabling conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke. You may understand exactly what you need to do to enjoy a healthier, happier life: carve out time to exercise, perhaps, or find a way to ratchet down stress. There’s just one hitch. You haven’t done it yet.

Often, the biggest hurdle is inertia. It’s true that it isn’t easy to change ingrained habits like driving to nearby locations instead of walking, let’s say, or reaching for a donut instead of an apple. However, gradually working toward change improves your odds of success. And once a new, healthy habit takes root, I guarantee it will be hard to break, too.

This Special Health Report highlights small changes you can make across seven spectra to enhance your health and life: stick to exercise, eat healthier, lose weight more effectively, ease stress, control finances, harness the power of positive psychology, and nip unhealthy habits in the bud. The actions you’ll undertake range from easy to challenging. If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll find an encouraging foothold. And if you’re already engaging in some healthy behaviors, I can help you up the ante to reap greater benefits.

Guided by this report, month by month you make choices that appeal to you. In every section, “The goal” sets a target. For example, a goal may describe current exercise guidelines, distill the tenets of healthy eating, or point out possibilities for happier living through positive psychology. “Six choices” explains changes that help you move toward the goal.

Ambitious attempts to improve often fail because people try to make too many changes at once or can’t implement the changes they’ve selected. Here, you set your priorities, choosing only the changes that appeal most to you. You can master just one change at a time before moving on to the next. Each month, you can select a different goal from the seven goals or decide to explore further changes within the goal you’ve been working on. The tools provided will help you break down worthwhile changes you want to make into small, manageable steps that set you up for success.


Edward M. Phillips
Medical Editor

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