In a perfect world, pain wouldn’t exist, our weight would be optimal and we’d enjoy daily exercise and have energy to spare. But few things remind us of imperfection like a diagnosis of arthritis. As pain and stiffness invade joints, the desire to exercise and the energy for much of anything can wane, making people slip into the unhealthy habits of inactivity and overeating. The result? Extra pounds that stress already painful joints and strain mental outlook.

No, the world is not perfect. But there are ways to manage weight, minimize pain and improve energy level. By changing habits, anyone can make small changes that will have a big impact over time.

Not sure where to start? Arthritis Today asked experts to help compile this top 10 list of habits to drop and five good habits to adopt. Follow them to start making a difference today.

10 Good Habits to Adopt

1. Eat breakfast at home.

“If you eat out, you’re more likely to start the day with high-fat, empty calories,” explains Rachel Brandeis, a registered dietitian and owner of Personalized Nutrition Counseling in Atlanta. Brandeis recommends a meal that combines protein, high-fiber carbohydrates and a little bit of fat. Oatmeal with fruit and skim milk, for example, offers lots of fiber, cancer-fighting antioxidants and bone-strengthening nutrients. Swap the waffle for a poached egg – one of the most complete proteins. Get a shot of omega-3 fatty acids by sprinkling ground flax seed on your cereal.

2. Stress less.

“Stress exacerbates the symptoms of arthritis,” says psychologist Robert H. Phillips, PhD, founder and director of the Center for Coping in Hicksville, NY. “To minimize stress, write down the stresses in your life. Then ask yourself which ones you can change and jot down some strategies for change.” For example, if work is stressful, consider some actions you can take: Talk with your supervisor about shifting responsibilities so you’re doing more work you enjoy. Relax through deep breathing or meditation before work. For the things you can’t change, change your thinking. For instance, remind yourself of the value of your accomplishments and the rewards of getting a paycheck.

3. Simplify housework.

Spare joints by performing household chores more efficiently. For example, set a basket at the bottom of the stairs to avoid multiple up-and-down trip. Place things in it throughout the day and carry it up once. Professional organizer Jeanne Smith of Palo Alto, CA, suggests buying a basket with a handle you can slip over your arm. “This way, your hands are free to hold the banister.” Similarly, if your laundry room is downstairs, stuff your laundry into a pillowcase and throw it over the banister. When laundry is clean, put it back in the pillowcase and drag it upstairs to fold and put away.

4. Get organized.

Instead of scattering doctor’s records, test results and treatment updates throughout the house, create one tidy home for them all, suggests Smith. Buy a small crate with six to eight hanging files and labels. That way you can easily drop things in and pull items out. Keep a notebook charting doctor visits, levels of pain, medications – and keep that notebook in the crate as well.

5. Anticipate pain.

Although it sounds pessimistic to think about pain before it starts, anticipating pain may be the best way to relieve it. Once pain starts, it can be hard to stop. Treating it before it happens is often a better option. “Many people have pain first thing in the morning or are sore after exercise,” says Deborah S. Litman, MD, a rheumatologist and assistant clinical professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. “So take a pain reliever before bed at night or before you exercise.”