When you set out to make big, sweeping, audacious changes to your life, there’s a good chance that you’ll come up short. It’s deflating and defeating, to the point where you’re not all that motivated to try again. Smaller, more manageable changes take hold much more easily. And they can lead to positive habits on which you can build further. That’s the idea behind the Don’t Change Much campaign from the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation.

I’ve been posting these thoughts on my Instagram and Facebook pages, but I also recognize the fleeting nature of social media. So, to give these considerations more of a permanent home, I thought I’d share my “Don’t Change Much” posts here on Beyond the Rhetoric as well.

One Step at a Time

Don't Change Much (Michael Kwan)

Last year, starting around April, I decided that I wanted to be more physically active. I set what I thought was a modest goal of running a 5K in 30 minutes, and to achieve that goal, I’d run my 5K route two or three times a week. But what ended up happening was I’d miss a run here or there, and this led down a slippery slope where I ended up giving up altogether. I only lasted a few months, I never achieved the 30 minute benchmark, and I haven’t gone for another 5K run since.

Given my lifestyle and circumstances, in hindsight, that was probably too ambitious of a goal and I set myself up to fail. Some activity is way better than no activity at all, so I’m setting a new objective to go for a 30 minute walk (not a 5K run) once or twice a week. This will get me moving and it’ll give me some time to clear my head too.

I’ve partnered with the fine folks at the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation and Don’t Change Much to help inspire other men to make small changes to their lives. Like taking the time to go for a walk, preferably somewhere with a bit of nature (like this local trail I found near my house). Because even when you #DontChangeMuch, you’re making a big change for the better.

Inside Out

Don't Change Much (Michael Kwan)

Man up. Be a man. Grow a pair.

As men, we’ve grown up hearing phrases like these all our lives. From the people we respect and look up to. Real men don’t cry, right? Real men never ask for help. Because that just weakness. And you don’t want to be weak. Right?

No. This needs to stop. We need to stop putting up this front that we’re so tough, that we’re invincible. Because we’re not. Men’s health issues aren’t just about the physical; they’re about the mental and the emotional too. And the first step is to talk about it.

The Don’t Change Much initiative from the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation is built around the notion of taking small steps that become positive habits. And those positive habits lead to healthier lifestyles.

Myself, I try to talk much more openly about these struggles, both online and off. The #5DadsGoWild camping trip was part of that. I’ve also downloaded a mental health app that’s based on cognitive-behavioral therapy principles. It helps me “check in” and confront my challenges with depression and anxiety. It’s a small step in the right direction.

Feel the Crunch

Don't Change Much (Michael Kwan)

After putting the kiddo down for the night, and especially when trying to endure yet another third shift, I can get quick peckish. It’s not that I’m hungry, necessarily; it’s just that I’m craving something with a bit of crunch. And that usually led me to a bag of kettle chips or a bowl of prawn crackers.

As a revered comic book hero once epiphanized, “Bread makes you fat?!” All that sodium and all those carbs go straight to the dad bod (though I prefer the term “father figure”). So, I’ve been making an effort to choose healthier options for my late night snacks. Baby carrots with some low-fat dressing can be really satisfying, especially while diving deep into a great book.

You might be even more surprised to learn that I actually enjoy a sweet kale salad as a midnight snack. A certain Springfield personality might have exclaimed that you “don’t win friends with salad,” but it’s a small change that can lead to some much healthier habits.

The Don’t Change Much campaign from the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation is all about taking these smaller steps toward healthier lifestyle choices. While I’ll still indulge in some chips now and then, they’re no longer the default choice I reach for out of reflex. Let’s develop some healthier habits together, one baby carrot at a time.

More Ideas for Small Changes

In brainstorming ideas for my trio of “Don’t Change Much” social media posts, several were necessarily left on the cutting room floor. Here are a few that never got fleshed out into something more substantial.

  • Switching to a kneeling chair at my desk
  • Getting up from my desk every 25 minutes
  • Choosing the low-fat option more often
  • Performing at least one core strengthening exercise every day
  • Parking further away on purpose more often

With the holiday season upon us (and the havoc it wreaks on routine), as well as the new year around the corner (with the opportunity for new year’s resolutions), what are some small changes you intend to make to improve your overall health, both physically and mentally? Share your ideas via the comments below.

Disclosure: The original social media posts were part of a paid campaign with the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation and the Don’t Change Much campaign. The mission of the not-for-profit organization is “to inspire men to live healthier lives.” This blog post was not a part of the original arrangement and I am simply sharing it here because I believe in the cause. All opinions are wholly my own.