Improve Your Life
That's it. It's a new year, it's a new dawn, it's a new day, and it's time to make some improvements! Luckily, it's just about as easy said as it is done -- even the smallest things can feel like giant leaps to becoming a better you. With a mind that's set on a new and improved you, this upgraded version of you will be taking over in no time.
Making Simple Improvements
- Make goals. Simple. The best way to get things done is to decide you're going to do it (and then to write it down and tell people about it). So these life improvements you're about to make? Think of them as goals. Like New Year's resolutions that don't happen on New Year's and actually stick and make you feel good.
- Make them small, though. This life improvement stuff isn't about setting yourself up for failure and thus becoming miserable and downtrodden. Make goals, but keep them small. Make a goal to work out 4 times this week instead of that lofty aspiration to lose 25 pounds. Decide to do the dishes before they pile up. Get up right now and floss. It'll never get done until you think about doing it!
- Identify what you've been tolerating. Seriously. Think about this. What have you been putting up with at home, at work, with your friends, with yourself? If it'd help you, make a list. Is it a leaky faucet? A friend who needs to be brought down a peg? How your roommate decorated the living room? Once you get going, you may not be able to stop!
- Now that you have a few things you've identified, start getting rid of them. In fact, this could be your goal. Fix that faucet (or call a plumber). Tell your friend that the sentence, "I don't mean to brag, but..." isn't doing her any favors. Bring a painting home and hang it in the living room. Imagine how good it will be see that list of yours shrink!
- Clean your house. You know all that flowery feng shui slash chi, stuff? As much as some people get a little out of hand with it, the basic tenets do ring true: a pleasant environment makes us feel good. If you're feeling a little chaotic on the inside, an easy way to clear up some space and make sense of things is to literally de-clutter your surroundings.
- If you took 20 minutes right now to pick up, you'd feel a noticeable sigh of relief. It's one of the simplest things to do, and yet we humans are so prone to not doing it. 20 minutes! That's it. You might not be finished, but seeing that your life is starting to get organized is great motivation to continue.
- Budget. Another simple thing you can do to improve your life is to start a budget. Even if ends are meeting just fine, the benefit of a budget is that you can see what you can set aside and start working toward something rewarding. So instead of living life frugally, take an hour to figure out your spending habits and what you have to work with. Maybe there's another $100 in there that can start your Hawaii-or-bust fund!
- Don't know how to budget? As if wikiHow would leave you with any excuses. How to Budget Your Money practically covers all your bases for you. Start stocking up on suntan lotion now!
- Manage your time. A simple mistake plenty of us make is that we do all the right things...we just don't do them in the right order or we spend too much time on the unimportant or during our most mentally productive hours, we end up eating nachos. Time is, unfortunately, of the essence, it's fleeting, and a stitch in it saves 9 later. If you get good at managing it, you may even find more for the fun stuff.
- A simple way to start is to identify how you waste it. Instead of trying to restructure your entire day's routine, just see where you're not really doing all that you could be doing with it. That hour you spend on Facebook a day? That's a decent place to start.
- Leave work at work. Once you leave work, don't spend the night thinking about that email your boss sent you. Don't interrupt dinner to make one last phone call. If you're going to work beyond work, then work -- don't spend your free time free in body, but totally preoccupied in mind. What a drag.
- In fact, leave everything where it is. That fight you had with a friend? Leave it. You'll deal with it when you need to. Your dad's degrading health? Be as caring for him as possible, but then go home and be that ray of sunshine that you are. Everything has its place. If you take every worry from every domain in your life and combine them, the chaos will be intolerable.
- Write a list of things you're grateful for. It's a little cheesy, sure, but it does have value. It's so easy to see that green grass over there -- when in fact you're just not looking down to see that your grass is green, too. So pull up Notepad or Sticky Notes after this paragraph and scribble down a few. You'll literally see what you've got going for you. And it'll feel good.
- If you're of the mind that you have nothing to be grateful for, you're not doing it right. For starters, you have a computer of sorts since you're reading this, so there's that. There's probably a roof over your head, people in your life that care about you, and you're breathing right now and all. Those are all pretty awesome things, really. Without them, there's nothing else.
- Concentrate on a hobby. Being crappy at six languages won't do you a lot of good. Being able to play chopsticks on the piano unfortunately doesn't make you a musician. If there's something you're interested in, go all out! When you master something, you have something to be proud of. Something to talk about. Something you understand and love. So instead of spreading yourself thin, zero in on one. Then you can reap the benefits!
- If you set out to do something, you should set out to do it well. Becoming truly good at something is such a good feeling. The other things that you want to do will happen in time -- right now, pick what's on top of your list. Have you always wanted to learn a martial art? Play the piano? Paint? Fix cars? The only time to start is now!
Making Big Changes
- Think about your discontentment. When it comes to our everyday lives, it's too easy to just keep moving, keeping yourself so busy you don't have to face who you really are and how you really feel. Coming face-to-face with reality is a scary prospect, but in order to find what makes you happy, it must be done. So take a step back and look at yourself. What's the honest reason you want to make changes ?
- It's fine if you don't know right now. It's fine if your answer is something totally intangible and abstract like "being afraid you're not yourself" or even being afraid that you are. You'll get somewhere a bit more concrete soon; just keep it in mind. A generic unhappiness is a red flag that something's up. And you do know the reason why. It's just hiding from you for right now.
- Instigate a self-image overhaul. If someone tells you you can't change your personality, they're wrong. You can go from an introvert to an extrovert, you can go from awkward to socially apt and you can go from hating yourself to loving yourself (just to name three). So if the way you view yourself is keeping you from being happy, start doing something about it. It may take a while, but what good thing doesn't?
- Again, the main obstacle here is pinpointing what it is you want to change. Is it something on the outside, like your weight? Or is it something on the inside? Both are doable! But do know that sometimes it seems like something is the answer and it's not. If you think you're ugly, losing weight may just result in you thinking you're thinner and still ugly. Before you take on this task, make sure you're Raise Your Self Awareness enough to do it right.
- Take a look at your relationships. As much as we hate to admit it, plenty of us would rather be with someone who makes us miserable than sleep alone. Why is that? What's so terrible about being by yourself? And this doesn't just go for romantic relationships -- we keep around friends that are detrimental to us, too. So look at yours. Is there someone in your life who shouldn't be? Why are you keeping them around?
- If your answer to that first question is "yes," then there's no correct answer to the second question. It's going to suck, it is. There's no two ways around that. But after it's done, the weight off your shoulders will make you feel like you have wings (without the Red Bull). And then you can start spending time with people who make you feel like your life is exactly where it needs to be. Or, heck, you could start spending time with you.
- Start looking for a new job. "Not exactly the economy I want to do it in," is what you're thinking, isn't it? And that's okay. We're not saying quit your job, be broke, and barely survive until you find another one. We're saying just start looking. There could be an opportunity out there that you never would've found if you didn't look. Jobs don't often fall on doorsteps anymore! So instead of slumping around your current one, secretly waiting for when Steve Jobs' ghost comes to you in the night with an offer you can't refuse, start searching. There's no harm in it.
- Odds are you know if the job thing is sticking in your craw. And for the record, it's totally normal not to be crazy about your job. It's a job. That's why it's called "a job." But if your boss's cornflower blue tie is your weapon of choice when you picture his impending death, that's not. Know where you fall on the spectrum before any conclusions are jumped to.
- Move. The end-all-be-all of life choices. If you're not happy in your current situation, you could always move. It's gonna be a ton of work (physical, mental, and paper), but it could be totally worth it. There could be jobs you want elsewhere, there could be a lifestyle you crave elsewhere, there could be people who just get it elsewhere. Could that ring true for you?
- It's a lot easier than you might think. People do it all the time and they thrive for it. The reason plenty of people are scared to do it is because they haven't had a taste of it before. Abandoning the only thing you know is, yes, a scary prospect. But once you do it, once you see that you can handle it, it becomes exhilarating. A new life awaits! Now where to?
Improving You -- Mentally and Physically
- Meditate. You know all that chaos in your head? The running thoughts, the worries, the pointless mental wanderings? Meditation, even just 10 to 15 minutes a day, can help clear your mind and focus your energy. And it's 15 minutes to relax! Why not give it a shot?
- It'll be so much easier to budget your time when your head is clear and you've distressed. A little meditation can get rid of all that noise and pressure that we all have in the day-to-day. Don't knock it till you've tried it -- you could be surprised by just how effective it is for you!
- Alright, not a meditation fan? Then try yoga. Not only will you burn 5 calories a minute , but you'll get that same zen feel like you would in meditation. That mental sigh of relief or breath of fresh air -- now that's life improvement!
- Eat slower. Food is meant to be enjoyed, not scarfed down on the way to something else. Taste it. Relish it. Enjoy it. When you eat slower, you get more out your meal and you actually eat less. Your body has the time to register what you're putting into it and appreciate it. When you practically swallow your food whole, it's gone before you realize it and you're just left wanting more.
- This is a good mantra for pretty much everything. "Stop and smell the roses" has more truth to it in this day and age than ever before. So when you're sitting with your best friend over coffee, think about how great it is. When you're watching the sunset, think about the beauty in front of you. So many people don't even realize what's in front of them!
- Drink water. Yep, drinking water will make your life better. It can help you lose weight, clear up your skin, cleanses your body, helps you poo and makes you feel more energized on the whole.
It's the liquid of life. All those empty calories from soda and alcohol just keep you cycling between buzzing and crashing, which is no way to be healthy!
- Health is such a big part of the game -- but you never think about it when you have it. The second it goes away, however, nothing else matters. So do yourself and your body a favor by drinking an extra glass with every meal. Your body will do the improving for you!
- Keep your diet easy. If you cut out 175 calories a day, you'll lose 5 pounds in less than 100 days.
Just 175 calories! You don't have to starve yourself to make slow, lasting changes.
- If you eat slower, the calories may come off themselves! Studies show that those who eat slower automatically eat less without even thinking about it.
- Create a list of easy-to-make snacks. When you can reach for a healthy, easy snack quicker than you can that McDouble, what are you going to choose? Making health accessible is the only way you can stick to it. So keep half a dozen choices in your pantry -- fruits and nuts, mainly -- and the snacking will no longer be an issue!
- Feed your mind with thoughts of who you want to become. In other words, start thinking positive. When you can picture who you want to be, acting like that person, becoming that person becomes 10x easier. The next time you're in a situation (whether it's with a friend or in front of the fridge), think about what this ideal you would do. And then you can do it!
- Do you know who this person is? Think of their qualities. Their tendencies. Their habits. Create this character in your head. It could be 99% you, it could be 1% you -- as long as you know what it is you're striving for, you can strive for it. Otherwise you'll end up something you didn't plan on being!
- Be confident. When we're caught up in our insecurities and flaws, it's hard for life to be any good. It's hard to get any enjoyment out of it at all, really. When we feel confident, even if it's for a minute, nothing can really bring us down. It's a tough nut to crack, but once you do, you won't be able to go back.
- Need something a little more concrete? Try saying "no" once every day. You probably constantly do things for other people, things you don't really want to do, things to appease others -- and just once, say no. Do something for you. Quiet that pushover inside you and spend your time how you would choose. Sometimes you need to put others first, yes, but there needs to be time for you, too!
- Monitor the mental chatter. We all have it. That voice in your head that tells you you shouldn't or can't do something. That you should feel shame, guilt, or intimidation. What good is that voice anyway? Has it ever done you any favors? When you start hearing it, stop. Start thinking about what good these thoughts are doing you. Ain't nobody got time for that.
- In the end, everything that matters is in your head. It's how you feel about it. You could wake up tomorrow and you're life would be improved simply because you feel it's improved. So grabbing this chatter in your head by the horns and taking the reins is really the only way you can get to that improvement. The bad news? It's a challenge. The good news? You have all the power!
Improving Yourself through Others
- Get rid of toxic friends. Sometimes it's hard to realize that the people around us, those we care about, aren't actually good for us. Is there someone in your life that leaves you feeling drained more than energized? They're probably a toxic friend. As much as it may be awkward and difficult to initiate, you gotta get rid of 'em. They're doing you no good. They're just dragging you down.
- The thing about toxic friends is you know it when you have one. You don't really have that good of a time when you're with them, they leave you feeling kind of bad about yourself in a funny way, and life is just a bit darker even after they've gone away. In other words...why again are you hanging out with them?
- Identify good things about those around you. It's all too easy to get caught up in how your partner/family/friends/roommates annoy the crap outta you. You end up gossiping about each other, resenting them when they put the toilet paper on in the wrong direction, hating that face they make all the time...when really they're wonderful people. We just forget about all their awesome qualities because the negative is so much easier to see. Concentrating on the positive will make your life feel so much more complete, even though technically nothing has changed.
- Take a minute to remember what drew you to them in the first place. Are they funny, kind, quick-witted, smart, or honest? Do they make a mean chocolate cake? Always remember to TiVo your favorite TV show? Not laugh at you when you have food stuck in your teeth? Exactly. Not everyone does that!
- Be affectionate. You know how much you care about the ones you love, but they may be starting to forget. When you're more affectionate, you'll get more affection in return -- making your life seem more full of love and all that sugary good stuff. Getting more hugs is a definite improvement! You know, for the G-rated side of it all.
- Write a letter to a faraway friend. As each year passes, it seems like the norm is to go faster and faster and faster. As a result, we let our friendships fade and quit concentrating on the stuff there just doesn't seem to be time for. So take a break and reach out to that friend that moved far away (or that you moved away from). Snail mail is becoming less and less common -- that letter you write them will put a huge grin on their face -- and you'll feel so good for keeping up with them!
- Our minds reward us for being social. How else would humans survive if our brains weren't trained for it? So the more effort you make, the wider your social circle will feel, the more people you can depend on, and the better your life will be. It's the small stuff that'll get this done!
- Connect to someone new. Alright, so you've connected to the old friend -- now it's time to liven up your social network by connecting to someone new! This can be done every day and with little effort. And afterward you'll feel totally accomplished (not to mention probably having learned something or laughing). So talk to your cashier. Hit up your new neighbor. Make an effort with that quiet coworker. There are opportunities everywhere!
- If you're at a loss for how to start, try disconnecting first. Disconnecting to connect, that's right. Put down your phone, take out your headphones, stop checking your email every 5 minutes and start staring life in the face. It's the only way you can recognize and take advantage of the people and things in front of you. It's the only way to get the most out of everything. Is what's on your phone (Candy Crush, really?) that much more interesting than the people in front of you?
- Do good deeds. Like, fo' real. You know that phrase, "It's better to give than to receive?" Well, it's true. It's so, so true. Do some good deeds for others, and your life will feel so much better for it. You'll feel like you're doing something that matters. You'll be accomplishing something. You'll be affecting the lives of others for the better. What's not awesome about that?
- Improving someone else's life is a way to improve yours. The logic doesn't seem totally direct, but it's just as simple and just as effective. And it's much more enriching knowing the world is better because of you!
- Need some examples? Help your old neighbor get around. Have a friend that has three kids, all with extracurriculars? Offer to pick them up from school. Give your waitress who's in grad school an awesome tip. And if someone does something for you, be sure to pay it forward!
- Volunteer. This is basically taking "do good deeds" a step further. Instead of these good deeds being spur of the moment, take a scheduled time out of your week to volunteer (though you should still be doing those good things!). Go to your local animal shelter, homeless shelter, hospital, school, or nursing home and ask how you can help. They'd be crazy to turn you away! What better way to spend your time?
- An hour a week makes a difference. And if you're thinking, "What's in it for me?", even apart from it feeling good, it looks great on resumes and just in general conversation. Loads of people hold down jobs, a family, travel, read, and make time for the gym -- very few of them add volunteering on top of that.
- Remember no one is perfect. It's a matter of being comfortable in your skin.
- Don't adhere to advice simply because someone gives you it, instead view it within the context of your own situation and look at as many possible alternative solutions as possible.
- People are social creatures. You don't have to be extroverted and socialize with everyone if you're somewhat introverted in nature. However if you feel isolated you may need to exert that certain part of yourself that branches out and reaches people in the most loving and beneficial manner.
- Your comfort zone begins at the heart, yours to be exact. To be confident in front of others you must have confidence in yourself. Try taking a look in the mirror and complimenting what you like about yourself, after all if you don't believe in yourself no one else will. Remember not to fish for compliments and display arrogance. True confidence is a silent power that others admire, so you don't need to flaunt it.
- If there is a problem, correct it as immediately as possible. However if you could not or did not do this allow yourself some time to adjust to it and to make better decisions in the present and future.
- Never ever live in the past. It will hold you back from being yourself and being able to make friends.
- Don't rely on others for every problem in your life. There are certain areas of your life that you may need to correct using your own intellect and/or intuition.
- Don't tell anyone that you are perfect... or even that you are trying to attain perfection. But you can tell people that you are trying to make changes in your life. Yet do not rely so heavily upon the expectation that they will be favorable of your choices, even if they are beneficial for you.
- Don't overdo it. Personal change takes time. Forcing yourself to change before you are ready will ultimately be ineffective
- Pampering yourself sometimes is not a bad idea, but doing so while neglecting others will make you appear to be arrogant and self-centered.
- Be frugal in the areas of your life that require it. The most common example in this area is that of finances, however frugality may be a necessity in other areas such as how much you give and take from others as well.
- You cannot expect to get everything you want out of life, doing so is not only unrealistic but illogical. But you can expect that you can make a better life for yourself and others if you decide to work hard enough toward it.
Sources and Citations