Implementing a few habits can greatly improve your life. If you feel stuck, unhappy, or you are just passively watching your life go by, it’s time to do something about it. Of course, we all have different ideas on what happiness might look like, different goals and dreams, but the basic building blocks for balance and growth are pretty similar for everyone.
Here are 15 constants that will improve your life when you start applying them daily:
1. Be Aligned to Your Values
When your behaviour aligns with your values and principles, when you do what is right, or rather what you feel is right, you become the most authentic version of yourself. It is no surprise that the word ‘integrity’ is defined as ‘the state of being whole and undivided’. This alignment makes you feel good about yourself, trust yourself more. It nurtures self-respect, self-esteem and offers you a guide to who you are and what you are meant to do.
To put it simply, in the words of Abraham Lincoln:
2. Change Your Inner Talk
Notice how you speak to yourself and if the words mean anything else than kindness, start changing the pattern to improve your life. Negative self-talk is one of the most damaging -and yet widely experienced- afflictions. So, turn off the inner critic, get in the habit of practicing self-compassion, talk to yourself like you would talk to a loved one: with love and kindness.
3. Practice Gratitude
Research shows that the daily practice of gratitude dramatically improves not only mental health and general happiness, but also physical health, with a notable decline in doctor’s visits. For example, American psychologists Dr Robert A. Emmons and Dr Michael E. Mc Cullough measured a significant increase in optimism and feeling good about life in participants, after 10 weeks of writing things they were grateful for every week.
When we feel gratitude, the brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the happy hormones that improve our mood. So, every day, take a moment to express what you are thankful for, whether it is in your thoughts, in a gratitude journal, or by writing a thank you letter (or text, email, or whatever 21st century app you like best!)
4. Avoid Negativity
Just like gratitude makes you happier, negativity makes you sadder. Anger, jealousy, annoyance, holding on to grudges, criticism (all right, we all like a slam sometimes … just don’t overdo it). The idea isn’t to avoid these negative feelings altogether, but the point is to watch that you don’t let them take over your mind. Have them, just don’t keep them.
5. Smile More
Smiling is simply wonderful. Have you ever looked at someone who smiled at you, for no reason, just because? How great did it make you feel?
When you smile, ‘happy hormones’ are released (yes, the same as with gratitude), making you in turn feel happier. This is true even when you force a smile. In his book ‘Smile: The Astonishing powers of a simple act’, Ron Gutman explains that ‘British researchers found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2000 bars of chocolate’.
It doesn’t taste as good as chocolate, but a smile just stays a moment on the lips without a lifetime on the hips.
6. Ditch Your Phone
I know you know this, but do it! The average person touches their phone on average 2617 times per day. Yes, 2617 times! Per day! Hopefully, this make you as sick as it makes me.
I won’t lecture you on brain drain, short time memory, disturbed sleep patterns, trouble concentrating etc. Try turning your phone off for at least 2 hours every day. Many companies are starting to do this for their staff, they have a 2 hour-no-meetings-no-phones every day. It works wonders, people are starting to notice the benefits of full concentration power! Turn off all non-essential notifications; no, you don’t need to be alerted every time someone likes you post. Finally, and most importantly, don’t go to bed with your phone. Leave it in another room, or at least in a (closed) drawer.
7. Stay in Control
Your life is yours to create. You are not an observer. You are the driver. I get it, sometimes it feels like people or circumstances don’t allow you to fulfil your dreams. And yes, it can be difficult, but it is important to understand that you have the responsibility to make it happen, to take action, and to make sure that you are in control, no one else. Get in the habit of thinking like this, and notice how much it improves your life.
8. Have Goals
Setting realistic but ambitious goals gives your mind a focus. This sets into action a very powerful mechanism that ignites motivation and draws on all your resources to make the objective happen.
Research has shown how effective goal setting is, whether it is one isolated goal or a full vision board for your future. A Harvard MBA study from 1979 found that the 3% of students that had their goals written down and a plan were earning ten times as much as the other 97% of students, just ten years later.
9. Stay Motivated
Motivation is what will keep supplying your energy source. Notice the good things you are achieving, recognise your progress, learn from your set-backs, reward yourself. To maintain a state of ‘flow’, it helps to visualise your outcome, keep thinking of what things will be like, and how great it will feel once you have reached your goals.
10. Do Something for Others
Helping others can give us a sense of purpose, a connection, a sense of belonging. It develops empathy and our ability to connect with others. Not only does it make the world better, but it also increases our sense of self-worth in doing so. When you realise that you can affect someone’s life positively, you feel that you are part of a bigger picture, and that you have the power to improve that bigger picture.
You can call it meditation, relaxation, mindfulness, presence. The idea is that you spend time in silence, being mindful of what is around you. With work, kids, activities, social media, our brains tend to be on overdrive, with too many tabs open. Get into the habit of allowing your brain a rest, even for just 5 minutes every day. Switch your mind off for a moment, allow it to be fully present. Notice what you can see, hear and feel. This is a real brain soothing exercise.
Exercise can greatly improve your life, mood, sleep quality and even self-esteem. It releases endorphins and other ‘feel good’ chemicals that boost wellbeing and pain relief. To get results, exercise doesn’t have to be super intensive; a 30-minute walk or a dance-off at home to your playlist will work wonders.
13. Have a Morning Routine
Whatever you do, don’t reach your phone as you just wake up. Those first moments are very important to programme your mindset. Spend a few minutes visualising your goals for the day or the week, or let yourself feel inspired by your vision board. You can also kickstart your day with some positive affirmations, click here for some examples.
14. Connect With Others
One of the greatest human needs. Connection. Reach out to others and remain your authentic self. (There is no real connection when you are pretending). Be around others that make you feel good, that celebrate your wins, that see you and bring the best out in you. It may take some time to find your crowd, but keep looking, you will get to it. And watch it drastically improve your life.
15. Do More of What Makes You Happy
This is a very simple and yet so overlooked piece of advice. Have a think of what activities/interest/actions make you happy. When was the last time you experienced pure joy, genuinely laughed, felt content, even for just a moment? Think back. What were you doing? Who were you with? Where were you? What made that time happy? And get into the habit of doing more of it!
If you write down these 15 items and tick the checklist every day, your mindset will start to shift. Your perspective will focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. And yes, 15 might seem like a big number, but you can start with a couple of simple ones, like practising gratitude and doing a little something for others every day, and watch the magic happen.