Small daily changes can have big impact on future

Small daily changes can have big impact on future

I hope you are enjoying these early days of spring as much as I am. The longer days and pleasant temperatures allow me to work outside in the evenings and unwind after busy days.

How do you feel today? What are you doing to make your life the best it can be? We all know what we eat and how much activity we do plays a large role in our overall health. The things we do as part of our daily habits reflect not only our current health, but also long-term health.

Working with the Ohio State University offers many advantages, but one I really enjoy is the opportunity to continually learn new things. The College of Health shared challenges to improve life that I’d like to share with you and then encourage you to join me in taking at least two of the suggestions below to implement both personally and with family. Why not talk about the choices at a family dinner and let everyone choose which ones to put into practice?

—Commit to making just one change for you and your family’s health.

—Eat light and eat often to boost your daily energy.

—Take slow, deep breaths when stressed or check out our mindfulness programming.

—Sleep seven to eight hours a night to reduce your risk of chronic conditions.

—Watch less TV and be more active — find something your family enjoys doing together.

—Stop tobacco use to reduce your risk of cancer.

—Choose healthier snacks such as fruits, vegetables and nuts.

—Sit less and stand and walk more (aim for 10,000 steps a day).

—Smile and think positive thoughts to increase your life span.

—Sneeze and cough into your elbow to help stop the spread of germs and don’t forget to wash hands often.

—Use a smaller plate when eating to reduce calorie intake.

—Make time for family and friends.

—Drink water instead of soda or sugared drinks.

—Eat meals with your children at least five days a week; it can help reduce their risk for substance abuse by 70%.

—Be active at least 30 minutes a day to relieve stress and improve your mood. Why not try a walk in the woods?

Nature has a way of helping us reset. We can go from stressed and depressed to relaxed and more positive after spending time outside. It provides a respite for our overactive minds, refreshing us for new tasks.

There’s a fair amount of research that talks about what we gain when we spend time outside. The University of Minnesota said, “Research reveals that environments can increase or reduce our stress, which in turn impacts our bodies. What you are seeing, hearing, experiencing at any moment is changing not only your mood, but how your nervous, endocrine and immune systems are working. The stress of an unpleasant environment can cause you to feel anxious, or sad, or helpless. This in turn elevates your blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension and suppresses your immune system. A pleasing environment reverses that.”

So when we enjoy time outside, the activities of digging in the dirt or walking in the woods can reduce the stress in our life. We can let go of the “to do” list and savor the sights and sounds around us. Think for a minute how the sounds change from your office or your home to the woods or a walk in the park. Which one brings you relaxation? Nature helps us heal and sooth our bodies and souls.

It’s hard to realize the choices we make each day may have long-time effects on our life. The examples we set while the children are young will become their expectations as they grow. There are many ways to spend time with family, and what better way than to share a skill for life? Encourage your children to help hold you accountable, to make sure you put a habit to practice and then try the next one.

Use time and practice of positive traits to make small changes that can have a great impact on your future health.

Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension family and consumer sciences educator and may be called at 330-264-8722 or emailed at

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