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How to Apply the 10% Rule to Living a Healthy Life

min read

By Debbie McGauran

Many are under the false assumption that in order to achieve great wealth, happiness, or success a superhuman effort is required. This type of negative thinking is discouraging and gives rise to a myriad of excuses. It’s too much effort. It takes too much time. It requires too much willpower…Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is smaller than you’d think.

With all things being equal, all you have to do is put in a bit more effort. You don’t have to work twice as hard or even half as hard. Simply putting in 10-percent more effort can push you over that edge and result in success. Here are twelve areas in your life where you can apply this rule today.


1. Spend 10% More Time Cultivating Meaningful Relationships

Having strong and meaningful relationships with family and friends can increase longevity and significantly reduce health problems. A research study published by PLOS Medicine, and conducted by psychologists at Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, found that those without satisfying relationships had a 50-percent increased risk of premature death from all possible causes. Lack of meaningful relationships was also associated with increased levels of depression, anxiety, immune problems, cardiovascular disease and later onset cognitive decline.

It takes effort to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships. In today’s hectic society it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day struggles of life and forget to nurture and maintain friendships. All you have to do is put in 10-percent more effort. This can be as simple as sending a text, email or calling to say hello. The health benefits are well worth the effort. So why not make that extra 5-minute connection with a loved one today?

2. Eat 10% More Fruits and Vegetables

The healthiest foods are whole, unprocessed foods such as raw vegetables and fruits. They are low in calories and don’t contain cholesterol. In addition, they are full of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eating fruit and vegetables keeps you feeling full and aides with digestion and regularity. Benefits include maintaining a healthy weight, decreasing constipation and decreasing the risk of coronary artery disease such as stroke.

There are many creative ways to increase your fruit or vegetable intake by 10-percent. You can throw a few carrots and a handful of berries together in a blender with a cup of milk, yogurt or ice cream to make a delicious shake. Share with your children. They won’t even know they’re eating vegetables! Chop and puree a handful of vegetables and throw them into soups or casseroles. No one will be wiser but they will be healthier for it.

3. Eat 10% Less Junk Food

You don’t have to make radical changes to your diet in order to improve your health. If you have a sweet tooth you can still indulge. Just try to cut back by 10-percent. That’s a reasonable, doable amount. The same goes for eating out at fast food restaurants or grabbing a coffee and donut every morning before work. Eat 10-percent less junk food.

If you grab that coffee and donut every day before work, choose one day out of the week to replace them with healthier choices. You can do this by eating breakfast at home or choosing healthier items on the run breakfast, such as yogurt and berries or a breakfast sandwich without the bacon or sausage. Small changes are easier and less painful to implement than radical changes, making them easier to maintain over the long haul.

4. Save 10% More Money

Financial stress can negatively impact your mood, your emotional health, relationships, and your physical health.  Money worries are cited as the number one reason couples argue, according to research from Utah State University. Having money in the bank can help alleviate stress allowing you to sleep better at night.

Even if you are living paycheck to paycheck there are painless techniques you can use to save 10-percent more money. You can go to your bank and set up an automatic withdrawal to coincide with your pay deposit dates. Have the money deposited into a savings account or RRSP. Chances are you won’t even notice. Another painless way to save is to empty all your change before you go to bed every night into a piggy bank. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly that spare change adds up at the end of the month.

5. Spend 10% Less

Many people complain that the money seems to run out before the end of the month. This can cause added stress when bills become due or you realize you’re out of groceries and don’t get paid for another week. Even if you are on a limited income there are strategies you can employ to stretch your dollars and reduce your stress.

One effective strategy is to record everything you purchase in a small book for a week or two. This will help you track where your money went.  You’ll be surprised to see where your money has gone. Simply cutting back your spending in one area by 10-percent can start to improve your situation.

6. Exercise 10%More

Regular exercise helps you lose weight and increases the levels of serotonin in your brain which improves your mood and mental acuity. It lowers your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes, promotes better sleep and leaves you feeling energized.  The good news is that only 30-minutes of daily exercise can provide substantial disease fighting benefits. These 30-minutes of exercise can be broken up into smaller increments of 10-minutes over the course of the day.

You don’t have to go to the gym to increase your physical fitness. Try joining the kids at the park, walking the dog, gardening an extra 10-minutes or taking the stairs at work. All of these short, simple bursts of physical activity can add up to big health benefits in the long run.

7. Smile 10% More

Laughter relaxes your entire body, reducing tension and stress for up to 45-minutes afterwards. It decreases the release of stress hormones, increases the secretion of endorphin’s in the brain and improves blood flow to the heart, which helps protect against cardiovascular disease. Humor shifts your perspective during stress and is vital to emotional health.

You can strengthen your funny-bone by going to a comedy club, watching a funny movie, reading the comics and jokes or sharing them with friends. All it takes is a little imagination and some good old fashioned fun to set you on the path to good health.

8. Reduce your Bad Habits by 10%

Are you are one of the millions of people worldwide who engages in bad habits such as smoking, drinking, recreational drug use or consuming too much caffeine? These bad habits can play serious havoc with your health and even prove fatal.

The good news is that you don’t have to quit cold turkey to improve your health. New research, including a report published by the Public Awareness Task Group, Non Prescription Needle Use Initiative, which examined harm reduction shows that small increments of positive change are easier to implement and lead to the highest rates of success for those dealing with addictions.  Cutting back your alcohol intake or cigarette smoking by 10-percent can give your health and self-esteem a boost.

9. Pay it Forward by 10%

New research has shown that being charitable towards others can have health benefits coined the “helper’s high” or “giver’s glow”. Dr. Post, a keynote speaker at the Purposeful Planning Institute states “creativity, meaning, resilience, health and longevity can be enhanced as a surprising by-product of contributing to the lives of others.”

There are many different ways you can help others and pay it forward 10-percent more. You can give a financial donation to a favorite charity, help out at your local food bank, volunteer at a nursing home, or help your neighbors, friends and other members of your community.

10. Think 10% More Positively

Researcher and University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill, psychology professor, Barbara Fredrickson, found that people who experience positive emotions broaden their imagination of possibilities which helps them build new life skills. Conversely, she discovered that those who experienced negative emotions were stuck in the present by the fight or flight response to stress and could not think ahead to plan for the future.

To keep your thoughts 10-percent more upbeat try surrounding yourself with positive people. Their attitude can rub off on you. Another effective strategy is to listen to music that makes you feel good or gather a list of your favorite inspirational quotes and read one first thing when you wake up and last thing before you go to bed.

11. Forgive 10% More

Pathological anger and resentment has long been known to adversely affect your health. It causes your muscles to tense, your heart rate to accelerate, and your blood pressure to rise. In addition it clouds your thinking and ruins your mood, making you irritable and difficult to be around. Forgiveness can be liberating both spiritually and physically.

Techniques to help you forgive and let go can include letter writing, journaling, meditating, and re-framing your thinking. For example, instead of remaining angry at someone who betrayed you, try focusing on the fact this person is no longer able to hurt you and you are now free to pursue a meaningful relationship with an honest person.

12. Set 10% More Goals

The old saying “fail to plan and you plan to fail” still holds true today. One of the main reasons people fail is because they did not plan. In order to be successful in life, whether you want to lose weight or get a promotion at work, you need to set goals and make a plan to achieve them. Goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.

Start today and write down one SMART goal to improve your health or well being. Be sure to mark on your calendar the expected completion date. This helps remind you to reassess your goal to see whether or not you achieved it. If not, you may need to reevaluate and rewrite your plan to be successful.  Remember that even if you only write down one goal, you’re already way ahead of the game. Not by 10-percent but by 100-percent!

Debbie McGauran


Debbie has been a registered nurse for over 25 years with experience in geriatrics, medicine, surgery and mental health. For the past four years, she has practiced as a crisis nurse in the ER. Debbie lives on a farm with her family, two dogs, a cat, and four horses.

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