They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I love this quote from the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu. But when we quote this, we leave it incomplete. We tend to leave out and don’t emphasize that the journey continues to the desired destination one small step at a time. The path to the goal of transformation is achieved little by little, with consistent effort. That’s exactly how I have developed small but powerful habits to improve my overall well-being significantly.

The most important and impactful part of this process is showing up. This part is the foundation of building confidence, consistency, and accountability for yourself. Showing up is a mindset shift that signals to your body and the motivation centers in your brain that you are prepared to initiate action. It also signals to your emotional and psychological self that you are worthy of commitment and energy. I’ve experienced this power in my journey and the journeys of the people I work with. Momentum builds once you decide to show up for yourself and snowballs quickly to create both internal and external circumstances for progress.

The next step in the process is learning to take small, tangible steps toward a larger goal. Imagining a massive transformation for yourself can be daunting and overwhelming. That’s why it’s essential to focus on the specific, attainable pieces of the giant puzzle. Then, focus on how those pieces will contribute to the larger vision or goal. Think of it as making SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals for each step of your journey.

The 3 M’s of Well-Being

I’ve applied these two principles – showing up and taking small steps – to establish what I call the 3 M’s of well-being. The 3 M’s is a framework that I developed to ensure that I make small daily efforts toward holistic health and establishing and maintaining wellness. The 3 M’s stand for a daily practice of eating mood-boosting foods, engaging in movement or exercise, and practicing mindfulness. The M’s are a simple yet practical way to focus on my overall well-being holistically. Each one of the 3 M represents a way to establish the building blocks of health and wellness.  

They represent specific areas that have been instrumental in my quest for life balance and practices that have guided my work with my therapy and coaching clients. The three M’s can help anyone start feeling empowered to impact their health and reach their potential.  

So, why are the 3 M’s so powerful, and how do they impact my well-being?

Mood-boosting foods, body movement, and mindfulness tap into how integrating mind, body, and emotions bring balance into our lives. The time commitment is not significant. All of these can be done every day within 15-20 minutes, which increases the likelihood of being consistent with practicing them. And, if you want to, you can add more time to the daily practice of the 3 M’s.  

The First M is mood-boosting foods: There is a strong connection between the foods we eat and our mood state. When we are deficient in certain vital nutrients and minerals, our brain health and mood suffer as well as our body. Nutritional balance helps us to feel satiated and nourished. That’s why I eat mood-boosting foods daily. These would be foods that I know will help to stabilize my serotonin (one of the critical mood neurotransmitters) and balance my B vitamins, omega-3, and folate levels. I make sure to incorporate mood-boosting foods that are readily available and accessible. Foods like bananas, leafy greens that I can sauté quickly, canned sardines, and walnuts fit into this category. When I want to add more variety, I include salmon, avocado, mixed greens, berries, mackerel – the possibilities are endless. The bottom line is that I am mindful about how the foods I eat contribute to my physical nourishment, brain health, and how I feel.

The Second M is movement. I use the term movement instead of exercise because it removes the mental barrier that comes up for many of us when we think about exercising as an obligation. I’ve been able to commit to physical movement that allows me to get outside of my head and into my body, optimizing my health and well-being. For me, movement includes everything from stretching and dancing, to lifting weights and aerobic activity, for at least 5 minutes every day. It’s effortless to get a win every single day if I can engage in this sustained movement for at least 5 minutes. This approach encourages me to physical activity, but I’m sure not to beat myself up if I can’t do an entire exercise routine. Here’s the thing, I often end up doing much more than 5 minutes and usually workout for 30 minutes 4-5 days per week. But even if I can’t do a longer routine, I know that I’ve engaged in some form of movement every day. The key is getting up and getting inside my body and outside of my mind. Even using a standing desk has taken me out of my chair and into a more embodied, present state of mind. 

The third M is mindfulness. I use the term mindfulness, even though I often practice meditation daily. I’ve written extensively about how my practice of mindfulness has evolved over the past ten-plus years. The most significant shift has been not chasing perfection but striving to show up and practice being present in the moment. I gradually spent more time being mindful – including mindful eating, mindful talking, and mindful presence with the close people in my life. Then I expanded to incorporate guided meditation and imagery. I meditate by focusing on my breath and listening to narrations that transport me to the thoughts and feelings that are helpful to me. 

In conclusion, my experience and the experiences of many people I’ve worked with demonstrate how taking small steps and being consistent with practical actions lead to favorable results. And when it comes to well-being, it is important to develop habits that will last and become second nature. We have to show up and be present. We have to be willing to keep putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Building a wellness muscle affects our lives in various ways -from how we feel about ourselves and how we function throughout the day to managing stress and tapping into our full potential.