Life can at times be difficult, boring, or just not quite what we envisioned for ourselves. We get stuck in a rut, a never-ending circle of bad habits, obligations, laziness, and fear of failure. We keep spinning our wheels in place and there never seems to be enough time to do anything about it. Well, I can assure you, there can be plenty of time if you decide to make it. I’m going to assume that initial spark of motivation to change , no matter how small, has brought you to this article, so in a sense, you’ve already made the first tiny step. Now it’s time to make some grown up steps towards self-improvement, and you can start by doing the things listed below.
1. Do a quick warm up and then stretch for about 15 minutes in the morning or during the day
When you get out of bed or any time during the day when you feel cramped, do a quick 5 minutes of light running or aerobic exercises to warm up the muscles and then stretch from head to toe for about 15 minutes. This will improve blood flow, make you feel fresh, prevent minor aches and pains, and make you less likely to injure yourself during physical activities.
2. Start doing a fun form of cardio that lets you blow off steam
Cardiovascular exercise is great for the heart and can help you blow out all the pent up adrenaline and anger you have. Just choose something that you find fun – for some it’s running long distance, for some it’s sprinting, some like dancing, some yet swimming or punching a heavy bag. Some 3-6 times a week should be enough.
3. Develop a healthy sleep pattern
Set a particular time when you want to go to sleep and a time when you wish to get up, and set up your alarm clock to wake you up at the same time every morning. Before going to bed, have a short wind-down ritual – showering, brushing teeth and turning off the lights – and make sure the room is free of all noise and lights.
4. Cut down on sugary drinks and high-calorie foods with few micronutrients
If you can’t just quit altogether, try to eat as little fast food as possible. You can switch to diet soda or home-made juice, drink plain black coffee and water. Consumption of anything that is deep fried, full of trans-fat and has no micronutrients or fiber has to be minimized for the sake of health and your figure.
5. Start eating more fruit and vegetables
Speaking of micronutrients, plenty of vegetables with every meal and a few good servings of fruit each day will ensure that your body has what it needs to feel fresh, focused and ready for anything. It will also help you avoid catching most of the common pesky diseases or feeling sluggish.
6. Do intense strength training 2-4 times a week
This will make your muscles grow, but it will also strengthen bones and connective tissue, which will make you less injury prone, improve your aesthetic appeal and boost your confidence through the roof. Regular exercise will also improve your sex drive and help balance out your hormones.
7. Try to be nice and polite to people throughout the day
Not only will being polite and generally nice make people like you and more likely to help you out, it will also put you in a positive mindset and help you stay out of trouble. Many a fight has broken out because of a few harsh words and many friendships have started because of a few kind ones.
8. Work on controlling you anger and letting go of grudges
Serious fact: road rage and screaming outbursts in bars have gotten many people stabbed, shot and beaten. Grudges and easily hurt pride have ended countless relationships. Work on cool-down tactics like deep slow breathing, and apply them as soon as you feel you’re getting angry. Try not to stay angry with someone over a small thing for more than 10-60 minutes, and then just let it go.
9. Learn how to protect yourself and those you love
Knowing how to protect yourself and those around you will lower your risk of getting assaulted, but it is about more than just knowing how to throw a punch. You need situational awareness, an understanding of how criminals work, an understanding of how violent people think, knowing what happens during dangerous situations, knowing the legal difference between a fight and self-defense, knowing how to secure your home, knowing what not to do avoid getting attacked, knowing how to be assertive etc. You’ll need to read up on all of these things or get some first-hand instruction, before working on your hand-to-hand combat and 200 meter dash skills.
10. Devote an hour a day to reading books
You can read just about anything from classical literature, art and history to books on gardening, staying safe or home DIY. Try to diversify your interests and read both fiction and non-fiction. You will become much more interesting because of all the new things you’ve learned and a lot of the information can come in handy.
11. Dedicate some time to learning useful skills
With some things it’s not enough just to read about them – you have to keep practicing to get better. The good news is that you can get good enough at doing small household repairs, cooking or using a piece of software in a few months of active practice. Find the skills that would be most beneficial to you and take 20-60 minutes out of your day to practice them.
12. Come up with a schedule
All this exercising, reading, practicing, meditating and anger management will require some spare time on your hands, and the only way to stay on top of things is by making a schedule. Fit in work and family time, but be sure have plenty of little tasks throughout the day and week that will help you improve instead of scheduling four hours of Netflix time.
13. List the biggest problems you have and work on fixing them one by one
There are always a few things that we keep in the back of our minds and that keep eating away at us, making us anxious and killing our focus. Make the list of the biggest problems in your life that you would like to solve and bad habits that you would like to change, and then direct most of your energy on one thing until you have solved it or at least made it a smaller problem. Then move on to the next, constantly trying to diminish their hold on you. Ditching bad habits is not easy, but it can be done and it will do wonders for your mental health.
14. Take 10-20 minutes to meditate each day
At the end of the day or whenever you feel stressed, just slip into something comfortable sit down with your back straight, and close your eyes two thirds of the way down and start drawing long slow breaths. When a thought enters your mind, acknowledge it and just let it pass over, like saying no thank you to a Jehovah’s Witness at your door. This will help you control your emotions and reduce stress.
15. Name your biggest fears and insecurities and face them
This can be done every day. Name all that you fear and that makes you anxious and insecure, and then address these issues one by one. Say out loud how some of these are irrational, overblown or can be and will be overcome in specific ways. Convince yourself that you are strong, charming and smart enough to overcome all of it, and push yourself outside of your comfort zone from time to time, so you can learn to handle challenges.
16. Clean up your house
Some people are slobs that thrive in chaos, but even they can find a method to the madness. Cleaning the room you spend most time in is essential – throw out the trash, dust, vacuum, let some air in, put things in their place, put away the pile of clothes on the chair in the corner, move all the junk off the floor and make some space. A clean home has a more professional feel to it and can keep you motivated and make you more efficient.
17. Buy some new clothes that you look stunning in
Looking good means feeling good and the right attire can take care of both those things. If you have no fashion sense, take someone who knows their stuff with you and get yourself a few new items that really bring out your best features. Trust your “stylist” and don’t worry, a lot of great clothes can be very affordable due to sales and if you look for quality rather than brand names – it’s all made in third-world factories anyway.
18. Get out more and meet new people
A lack of social life and a bit of variety when it comes to friends can lead to depression, close-mindedness and plenty of missed opportunities. Nothing will happen to you if you stay at home all the time or hang out with the same people in the same places. Not only will you get new experiences and learn new things, you may actually get some great job or career-building opportunities.
19. Focus more time and energy on improving your love life
Going out is fun and all, but a lot of people are missing out on that great feeling of meeting someone new and having plenty of stress-reducing and endorphin-pumping human contact. So, make it a mission to approach cute and sexy people and get more comfortable around someone you like. If you are in a relationship make an effort to keep things hot and exiting, and don’t skimp on little gifts and fun dates.
20. Start saying “No”, “Sorry” and “That’s interesting, go on” more often
Saying “No” means knowing what you want, establishing boundaries, not letting people take advantage of you and not succumbing to peer pressure. Saying “Sorry” means you know you can make a mistake sometimes, that you care about other people’s feelings and that you care about keeping the peace more than you care about stroking your ego. The last one is all about letting others speak and listening to what they have to say – you’ll remember a lot of useful information about them and come off as a good friend. All of these will reduce stress, nip problems in the bud and strengthen relationships.
I know this seems like a lot at first, but if you start making an effort right now, and begin doing these things regularly you will improve your life significantly within the next year.
Featured photo credit: Amy Clarke/Never a frown, with golden brown via flickr.com