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7 Tiny Changes That Can Drastically Improve Your Life

7 Tiny Changes That Can Drastically Improve Your Life

Change affects all. But change is complicated. Some people claim that extending an otherwise small habit and consuming it quickly produces the most effective change. They might have a point. After all, there are success stories of people who quit cold turkey. So it’s definitely true that change works differently for different people. But the kind of change that uplifts you is accessible without the choking that comes with drastic introductions. It’s called adding tiny changes. Add one tiny change each day, and they’ll accumulate over time, eventually resulting in a better you. So if you’re ready to improve life. Here are seven to try.

1. Change the self-talk you wake up with

The thoughts that enter into our just awoken minds are often the same ones that drift to sleep with us. Now, I know it might be a bummer when you wake up and don’t feel well or you glance at the window and it’s gloomy out. You obviously can’t control either of them. But rather than directing attention to uncontrollable things, seek out the inner thoughts that can deeply affect the rest of your day. Our inner self-talk is one legendary component. Sometimes I wake up, and pessimistic thoughts pummel me. One useful trick I use is to repeat a couple short mantras or affirmations before I get out bed. Think of how amazing it is that you’re changing into something, and able to choose so much!

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2. Change one thing you listen to while commuting

You’ll manage just fine, even if there is a loud, misbehaving child on the bus to work or another driver just cut you off. Podcasts are great audible entertainment paired with educational information. You can download them from a digital media store and then store them in an mp3 player or smartphone. Devour at least one on the drive or commute to work and the time is almost guaranteed to go by quicker. You’ll also emerge to your destination with a little more readiness to aid you in just about any situation.

3. Change what you drink first thing in the morning

What’s the first thing you drink in the morning? A tall glass of milk? How about a mug of warm coffee? They aren’t bad drinks in themselves, but maybe the best alternative is water. Water is a power team of hydration, nutrition, and customizable taste. Throw in a fresh citrus slice for an all-natural sweetener. Drink one glass of water before anything else, and you’ll likely feel refreshed and hydrated before reaching for something more sugary and dehydrating.

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4. Change your relationship to the universe

As night breaks, your routine might consist of curling in front of the television or surfing on the web. By all means, you don’t have to break your television or internet, just spend a minute or two taking advantage of the shortening of the days and embrace the night sky. If that doesn’t suit you, spend a few minutes a day on an astronomy site and look up pictures of space. It’s humbling to think that you’re here, and everything else is so distant. You might feel overwhelmed and even a little depressed, but keep looking and think of intertwining yourself with the universe in harmony. Comparing human anxieties and problems to cosmological spectacles is like comparing a child’s toy to a planet.

5. Change the method you use to debate

Named after the iconoclastic Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, the Socratic Method can rip apart ingrained beliefs. The instructions are simple. Identify a declarative statement in an argument or in a belief. Respond with a question predicated on a contradiction to the original statement, and take the altered statement into account. Ask a new question. So if someone argued that all people like ice cream, think of a question that doesn’t necessarily make it true. Do people with lactose intolerance like ice cream? Your opponent will probably respond and declare that people with lactose intolerance only like certain types of ice cream. Then introduce a new statement, so it includes the alternative answer. So people with lactose intolerance only like certain types of ice cream. Finally, ask a new question. What makes lactose intolerant people like certain types of ice cream and so forth? Use this on one argument of your own or on another person’s argument.

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6. Change how you confront anxiety

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, has helped countless people with their psychological problems. The ABC method is one little charm that can highlight your most harmful behaviors. To trace a damaging behavior back into its inception, first label the event (A), the beliefs you may have held about it at the time (B), and then the pattern of behavior or emotions that followed (C). Let’s say your best friend didn’t greet you this morning. You believed that they wanted to terminate your friendship with them, and so you felt angry and glared at them. Try keeping a journal and using the ABC method to interpret behavior a little better.

7. Change how you praise yourself

Most of us crave compliments. Compliments are actually tools used to remind us of all the good things we are and deserve. Unfortunately, compliments are often forgotten and washed away into downtrodden seas. Counter that by starting a compliment file and putting one in today. Use whatever digital or physical material you prefer, and observe the compliments people or yourself praise you with. Once you got one, write the compliment down and detail the compliment if you can. So if someone insisted your cooking is amazing, you could write that down and the meal you made for them. You could even take a picture of them eating the food (if they agree of course), and clip it below the details for a hands-on sensory experience. Highlight or tag the ones that echo most true to you and read it whenever you need a quick pick-me-up. Regardless if some of the compliments are genuine or not, you’ll feel better knowing that you’re paying more attention to them.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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