Growth happens every time we say yes to small positive changes.
Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies. ~Mother Teresa
We expect so much from ourselves. We fail to acknowledge that big change is HARD. The result? Loss of faith, giving up, abandoning goals.
Go ahead: make BIG plans. Set lofty goals. Just remember, real change happens slowly and in the in-between moments.
Big change happens with lots of micro improvements.
1. Drink Tea. Cradling a steaming hot mug of tea is soothing. I like peppermint. I reserve a very special mug for my tea and never use it for coffee. My family knows it’s my mug. The first sip equals tranquility. Tea is full of antioxidants so the bonus is it’s healthy.
2. Make Your Bed. As Admiral William H. McRaven so plainly stated in his UT Austin commencement speech, “Making your bed will reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.” An unmade bed is a sign that you are not making time for small improvements. A made bed means you value your environment.
3. Smile. Are there deep lines on your forehead or cute crinkly ones on the outsides of your eyes? Smiling changes your brain chemistry. It can change your mood and your outlook. Plus, forehead lines are unsightly. Smile even if you don’t feel the smile in your heart.
4. Eat a Green Vegetable. We all know that spinach is better than Flamin’ Hot Cheetos (don’t believe me? read this). Everyone knows the difference between healthy food and unhealthy food. Don’t overthink it. Add a green vegetable every day. It’s a good small step toward a healthier diet.
5. Ingest Positivity. What are you reading? What are you watching? Who are you talking to daily? Control the input and you will master your happiness. Too much Bachelor and too few encouraging podcasts will erode your well-being. A little Bachelor is OK.
6. Phone A Friend. Every single day. Call someone that makes you feel good. Find time to connect because it is too easy for us to let days go by without making time to nurture our tribe. Community is critical to our sense of self and emotional health.
7. Control Your Environment. If you walk into a messy house you will foster a messy mind. If you walk into a clean, orderly house you will feel calmer. Practice tidying up before you go to bed. It’s so much nicer to make coffee in a clean kitchen. Dirty dishes are depressing.
8. Take Stock. I do this daily right before bed. How did my day go? Did I accomplish things that make me proud? Am I progressing toward my goals? This is not a formal process. It takes five minutes. Think of it as a quick gut check. Don’t lose time by failing to review your progress.
9. Banish Worry. I am a hypocrite. I worry. I fight worry daily. It helps to know that 80% of the things we worry about don’t happen. 10% happen less dramatically and 10% come to fruition. It’s easy to prepare a 10% contingency against the things that might happen. Try not to worry.
10. Make A List. If your head stores your list then you will forget things and spend your time feeling confused and aimless. The act of writing a list allows the brain to download unimportant snippets and make room for more deep, critical thinking. Try Bullet Journaling.
11. Keep Your Car Clean And Full Of Gas. A car wash employee once told me that a clean car turns easier. I don’t believe this, but a keeping a clean car with a full tank of gas is very mature. Cars are not storage lockers or dumpsters or restaurants. Dirty cars develop dirty smells.
12. Walk. Movement greases the joints, encourages more movement and keeps us healthy. Like vegetables, we know movement is good for us. Some of us have no issue incorporating a daily fitness routine. Others should just walk. For now. Maybe a more rigorous routine can come later.
One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. ~William Shakespeare
13. Embrace Nature. Do you live near something pretty? I think we all do. I live near the beach and every day I try to absorb its beauty by spending time with it. Even in a large city you can find green grass, swaying trees and water. Your soul needs exposure to nature. Read Thoreau’s Walden.
14. End The Day Happy. Before your eyes close each night you must work toward contentment. Happiness isn’t a constant state of glee. Happiness is contentment. What happened today that felt good? Recognize your strides and let those things be your last thoughts before drifting off to sleep.
15. Start The Day Happy. Upon waking each morning, find your stores of hope. I try to wake each day feeling hopeful. Hope shapes our outlook. It doesn’t have to be grand. You can hope your morning coffee is extra good. You can hope the sun is shining. Pull the hope through your subconscious and into your intentions each day.
16. Get A Dog. This probably isn’t easy. I’ll give you a shortcut instead. Find a dog to pet. We don’t deserve dogs. They are goodness wrapped up in snuggly fur. Dogs live for their people. No one will ever be as happy to see you at the end of the day as your dog will. We all need the pure love of a dog.
17. Practice Daily Grooming. I’m not just referring to a shower. Please do that daily. It’s the next step after your shower. Things like shaving and exfoliating and moisturizing. I once worked with a woman that practiced daily moisturizing. Her skin glowed. She glowed. It’s small, but it matters.
18. Limit Mindlessness. We lose whole evenings in front of the TV or in the depths of social media. We hear warnings all the time, but I can simplify the logic for you: do you want to trade a precious hour of your life to lose yourself in someone else’s? The world needs your contributions, not your likes.
19. Discover Your Rituals. This circles back to my daily tea habit. I try to layer beautiful rituals throughout my day. The art of uniformly folding and stacking my clothing. A 30 minute block of uninterrupted reading before bed. Morning french pressed coffee. Your rituals enrich and add depth to your life.
20. Find a Creative Pursuit. I love to write. Are millions of people reading my writing? No. That’s not my goal. I write because putting words on a page feels so good and counterbalances the task-oriented blocks of my day like paying bills and working. What is your outlet? Don’t have one? Find one.Tell me this didn’t make you chuckle!
21. Laugh. I’m older so it’s harder to make me laugh. I miss belly laughs that burn my abs. I have a few funny friends and thanks to YouTube (click here — you’re welcome) there is no shortage of funny content. Try hard to find something to laugh about daily. Laughter is the best antidepressant.
22. Breathe. I catch myself breathing shallowly a lot. We all default to a shallow breathing pattern. Deep breathing depends on consciousness. We must purposely fill our lungs with air and rhythmically exhale. It minimizes the impact of external stressors. Check right now. Are you breathing deeply? Try Box Breathing.
23. Give. I try to do something nice for someone every day. I usually miss a few days every week. The funny thing about giving is, you get more from giving than the recipient of your gift. Ask anyone that regularly volunteers and they’ll tell you it’s a cornerstone of their happiness.
24. Burn A Candle. Scent is powerful. It triggers the other senses. When I light an evergreen scented candle, I’m instantly strolling on a forest path carpeted with spongy pine needles after a spring rain. Maybe you prefer a cozy cottage with knotty wood floors and gauzy white curtains filtering a beam of warm sunlight into a lemony-smelling room. Transport with scent.
25. Embrace Minimalism. You do not need all the stuff you currently own. I promise. We are a culture of excess. The endless chase for the next shiny object is overstuffing our closets, homes, minds and lives. Don’t you want simpler, easier choices and less to look after? Sell your stuff.
What about you? What makes your life better?