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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 April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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