“If you don’t design your life, then someone else may just design it for you, and you may not like their idea of balance.” — Nigel Marsh
Successful people know the importance of taking care of themselves first, and don’t let their lives get so off track that they aren’t constantly improving. You owe it to yourself and to those around you to be the best version of yourself, and let’s be honest; we could all use a little improvement.
Here are a few super-simple habits and routines that are easy to implement but could dramatically improve your life this year:
1) Start practicing a gratitude attitude.
“Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you do not have, you will never have enough”. — Oprah Winfrey
Adopting a gratitude attitude is really about changing your perception of the world around you. If you find yourself believing that opportunities are far and few and unlikely to come across, this attitude adjustment may be just what you need.
Having sincere gratitude allows us see endless possibilities and realize that we are actually surrounded by opportunities. In order to achieve your dreams you need to believe in it; gratitude allows you to believe in your dreams and visions which eventually allow you to reach your full potential.
2) Take a breather.
During a hectic day, taking a break is usually the last thing on our minds. But even champion athletes need some bench time every once and a while, and so do you.
According to Sharon Salzberg, the author of Real Happiness at Work, “without some breathing space in the face of constant demands, we won’t be creative, competent, or cheerful.”
The little time taken off from work is well worth the investment. For starters, put everything down for a few minutes and take a walk.
It might not seem like a big deal, but according to Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage, taking the time to get outside can be very advantageous and by spending only twenty minutes outdoors you can enhance your mood, expand thinking space and improve your working memory.
I promise, whatever you were working on before your little breather will still be there when you get back — and you might even have your next big idea when you return.
3) Make time for meditation.
If you haven’t already jumped on the Zen Bandwagon, it’s about time you stop making excuses and just start meditating.
Studies have shown that meditation can help to reduce depression and anxiety, increase memory and awareness, may grow your empathy for others and can boost your immune system.
How and when you meditate is completely up to you; do what works into your schedule and what you are most likely to be able to develop into a routine (remember, the easier the task, the easier it is to make it a habit). The Conscious Life is a great resource for beginner meditators, answering questions like what to do if you find yourself falling asleep, explaining various breathing exercises and suggestions on time of day and surrounding environment. The best part? You can actually do this while sitting at your desk in the office.
4) Design your life around happiness.
Happiness can seem like such an abstract concept. After all, a Hallmark card or Dove chocolate wrapper doesn’t exactly give you a concrete way to create a happier life.
But according to Stanford’s famous “Designing Your Life” class, you can actually home in on what happiness means to you, and restructure your life around it. Instead of just abstractly chasing happiness, they suggest you journal it daily.
Start by writing down the specifics — when you were happy, what you were doing, why did it make you happy, etc.). If you notice reoccurring themes or patterns, start changing your goals or routines to incorporate them.
5) Do good for others.
Former President Obama said that “if you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
That’s more than just a pretty speech. Multiple scientific studies have shown that paying it forward not only makes others feel better, but creates long-lasting feelings of joy within yourself, and can provide that much-needed boost to your overall mood.
University of Pennsylvania Professor, Martin Seligman, notes: “We scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable monetary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.”
Bring some donuts into work. Offer people coffee. Offer to help with a project. Do what you can to get the whole team beaming, and they’ll do the same for you.
6) Cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset.
You don’t have to own a business (or even work in a startup) to be an entrepreneur — being an entrepreneur is a mindset, and if you aren’t thinking that way already, it’s time to get on board.
According to Forbes, “being entrepreneurial is essentially about thinking and doing something that we have not done before. It is about assessing a situation, designing alternatives, and choosing a new way — or perhaps a combination of ways.”
You do not need to invent a new app to be innovative — just start thinking outside of the box. Start trusting your instincts and thinking bravely — you have the entrepreneur in you, you just have to be willing to give it a try.
7) Switch it up.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein
If you have been trying to succeed at something for a while now and it hasn’t been working, or, even more important, it isn’t making you happy, it is time to try something else. It does not mean that you are a failure. It means that you are smart enough to realize when something isn’t working out and that you have enough dignity to do something to make yourself happy.
8) Tech isn’t always helpful.
Arianna Huffington once said that we take better care of our smartphones than we do ourselves, and she was right. The average smartphone user checks his or her device every six and a half minutes. That’s 150 times a day.
The media mogul had to reinvent her life after collapsing from exhaustion, and she found that unplugging from her devices was a key component to finding happiness.
Checking your email and phone constantly creates unnecessary stress and can eat away at your happiness. So if you don’t need to use it, put your phone in a drawer till the end of the day. If having it is necessary for work, limit the amount of times you check it to once every half hour. I do, and it’s made a huge difference.
9) Practice being your future self.
Quite simply, to become that ideal, future version of yourself, you need to practice being it this year.
According to Peter Bregman, CEO and leadership expert, in Harvard Business Review, “You need to spend time on the future even when there are more important things to do in the present and even when there is no immediate apparent return to your efforts.”
Whether you want to get in better shape or start a business, it’s not going to happen overnight. Instead of waiting for this change, start prioritizing and scheduling bite-size improvements today, no matter how busy you are.
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If you have any things to add to the list, I’d love to hear them!
Originally published at medium.com