Small Habits Make a Big Difference

When we watch people make small choices, like snacking on some carrots instead of a candy bar, the difference of a few hundred calories doesn’t seem to matter much. In the moment, that’s true. However, as days turn to weeks and weeks to months and months to years, those tiny habitual choices compound. The same hold true for saving money. Investing a little money now won’t make you a millionaire tomorrow, but small and regular contributions will compound into a greater sum over time.

This will be the first year in a long time that I’m welcoming in the new year while in good health. On the one hand, my luck seems to have turned on a dime. Yet, when I look more closely, I realize it’s far more likely the result of small, habitual actions than blind luck.

What makes compounding effects interesting is their neutrality. Negative habits, such as overeating and overspending, when compounded, can accelerate the negative effects. However, if we can replace a negatively compounding habit or mental discipline with one that is neutral or positive, we instantly get better. Tiny, nearly imperceptible changes can make a huge difference when you factor in time. 

I spent the first few years of my illness in denial. I ignored my body’s warnings and overextended myself and every opportunity. My old positive habits, in the context of chronic illness, became detrimental. The limited sleep, frequent workouts, and the aggressive pursuit of personal and career goals was no longer in my best interests. So, eventually, my body forced me to give them up and, by necessity, I adopted habits to support health, wellness, and recovery.

For four years, I consistency followed the Autoimmune Protocol diet. For four years, I slept as much as my body demanded. I limited physical movement to what my body could easily tolerate. I left a high-paying job for a lower-stress environment closer to home. I followed and adjusted a personalized supplement regimen as lab values shifted. I listened to my body and gave into its every demand.

I recently saw a meme regarding investment dividends. The first year, when you’ve only invested a small amount, the returns are modest. However, after a decade of regular contributions, the pot has grown and, in turn, so has the monthly payout. I believe the same holds true for other less-obvious areas, such as health.

Without seeing any fruits of my labor, I was committed to rebuilding my body from the inside out. I often found myself trying to recall those childhood factoids about how long it takes to regenerate different parts of the body. Heart endothelial cells are replaced every six years and hippocampal neurons every twenty-five years. With patience, persistence and time, I hoped that I could slowly offer up the minerals, nutrients, and rest my body required to repair itself.

Author James Clear writes:

“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous. It is only when looking back two, five, or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”

James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

After four years of practicing those small positive habits, a certain threshold was reached and my body rapidly switched from a state of dis-ease to that of good health last year. That’s not to say I’m fully recovered. I still have brain inflammation, a leaky aortic valve, and HPA-axis dysfunction.

But my most debilitating symptoms are gone. And, more importantly, I have experienced firsthand the power of those small daily habits in changing the course of one’s life. I am–both literally and figuratively–a new person, and it’s thanks to small habits, consistently applied over the course of several years.

8 thoughts on “Small Habits Make a Big Difference

  1. This is excellent, Erin! I’ve gotten away from some of my good habits and am trying to make my way back to them. Thank you for this!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love that you’re acknowledging the journey, inclusive of your “old” positive habits. You’ve been on the path, but even when you were doing what you believed to be best for your overall health, you were also keeping the door open to learning more – both about treatment options and the limitless array of information about “wellness” generally. What you wrote speaks to that — needing to be an active and stalwart guardian of your own health, willing to make tweaks and changes, even when you’ve been aware and diligent. Love that so much! xo, Erin! ❤❤❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I love what you said! We each need to be active and stalwart guardians of our own health because, without health, not much each matters. xoxxo!


  3. Another awesome post! Again, you’re right on the money! I have a lot of food allergies/issues and I’ve had to totally overhaul my diet over the years but what a HUGE difference it’s made in my life!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, Carla! I’m so glad to hear you were able to implement some simple, but positive habits to change your life. I, too, have a lot of food allergies (dozens!) but eliminating those inflammatory foods changed everything!

      Liked by 1 person

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