We should view the changes in our lives as a positive force. After all, these changes are responsible for our personal growth.
Many people tend to put off making changes in their lives until the start of a new year; as if these changes will be less painful if they are disguised as new “resolutions.” However, only a handful of people are actually every able to comply with all or any of the new resolutions they make. So how do you make positive changes and become a better person every day?
One of the best ways to make changes without becoming completely overwhelmed is to commit to one small change every single month. Treat it just like any other big project you must tackle. When you look at the overall project, it seems very demanding and you don’t even have an idea about where to start. However, if you divide the project into smaller projects or tasks, they are much more manageable and easier to digest. Additionally, you will be rewarded along the way each time one of your smaller goals is achieved.
Ready to make some improvements? Below are 12 small changes that can help create a whole new you.
January: Setting Goals
The first month of the year is like a clean slate. This is your opportunity to create a roadmap that will take you right where you want to go depending on the goals you set. Now is the time to be honest with yourself and determine what it is you really want this year. What goals do you need to achieve in order to accomplish this?
As you are creating your goals, it is critical to ask yourself the following questions:
- Are my goals specific? Are they clear and well defined?
- Are my goals measurable with dates, quantities, etc.?
- Are my goals realistic? Are they attainable?
- Are my goals relevant? Are they connected to my plan?
- Do my goals have deadlines?
The truth is that without defining goals for yourself, you are simply letting your life happen. Decide what you want for yourself this year and draw your plan of action.
Whether it is a series of newspapers, trade journals or simply the latest “whodunit” novel, reading is good for you and it should be a part of your everyday routine. In addition to the obvious benefits reading provides, such as mental exercise, enhanced focus, and a bigger vocabulary, daily reading offers so many more benefits.
It has been proven that the quality of your sleep will increase dramatically if you simply replace your electronic screen with a paper book or magazine during the last few minutes of your day. By removing the light from the electronic device, your brain receives signals that it is the end of the day and actually prepares your body for sleep.
Daily readers are more likely to demonstrate a greater degree of empathy and compassion toward others. Stories about the challenges and successes of other people, both fictional and nonfictional, often tend to motivate readers to put themselves in the character’s shoes. Frequent readers often wonder how they would react to similar circumstances. This thoughtfulness, in turn, carries over to their own personal interactions.
Journaling is today’s version of “keeping a diary.” It is simply a book where you are free to share your deepest thoughts. There is so much information available at our fingertips instantaneously, it is impossible to think we can keep track of every single detail, including our own thoughts and desires. While we can manage lists and agendas on our computers and phones, there is something actually cathartic about using an old-fashioned piece of paper and a nice pen to write down your personal thoughts, dreams, wishes, etc.
The act of journaling offers many benefits, aside from just helping you to stay organized. Maintaining a journal also helps strengthen your brain and improve your creativity, while reducing your stress and cortisol levels. The types of journals you create are endless; there are daily journals. travel journals, food journals, progress journals, worry journals and pregnancy journals just to name a few. Choose a journal topic that is interesting to you and pertinent to your life.
The experience is truly amazing and it allows you to discover a lot of things about yourself. One pro tip is to always include at least one positive entry in any journal you maintain. Life is a balance between the good and the bad. And journaling can be a great way for you to start seeing the positive things around you.
There is no question about the importance of having good friends. A good friend is a friend that you can always depend on to hold your hand and be there for you through all of the ups and downs. The Spring is a season of planting seeds and new beginnings, which makes April the perfect month to focus on your friendships.
With such ready access to social media these days, it is easier than ever to find and contact people and build your personal network.
Just think about that friend who you haven’t seen in years. You used to laugh and share inside jokes, but you lost touch with each other over the years. Why not try to contact that friend and catch up on each other’s lives?
While you are catching up with old friends, there is always room in the heart for one more friend. Spring is the perfect time to meet new friends. Try striking up a conversation with someone with whom you have something in common. Enrolling in a class, checking out a new restaurant or cafe, or just complimenting someone in the park are great ways to meet like-minded friends.
May: Start Moving
Since we are so close to the summer, why not get out and start exercising? I’m not talking about running an Ironman this year. Contrary to the belief of many, you do not even need a gym membership or special equipment to “exercise.” A simple walk around the block is better than nothing. Humans tend to move toward pleasure and away from pain. Therefore, exercise needs to be enjoyable. There are countless fun activities that will get you out and get moving.
- Play with your kids in the park.
- Take your dog for a walk.
- Play Wii or an active VR game with (or without) your kids.
- Go scuba diving (my favorite).
- Park in the space farthest from your destination.
Aesop said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” With longer days, June makes an excellent month to give a little something back to your community by volunteering with a variety of local organizations.
Your personal beliefs and experience should help you choose which organization you would like to assist. The stronger your belief in a cause, the more rewarding your volunteer experience will be. In addition to making a positive difference in someone’s life, you will likely end up learning a new skill or two and probably make a new friend, as well.
Most of us are guilty of having too much clutter in our lives, and it has been proven that clutter creates mental stress. Your brain has to process every single object your eyes see. If you are looking around a room that has stacks of mail, boxes of toys and piles of clothes, imagine how much your brain is attempting to process just as you stand there. Quite simply, it is sensory overload for your brain.
There is no time like the present to organize your space. During this month, create your own organization challenge (or find one online). It does not require a great deal of effort or 8 trips to Ikea. Simply tackle one small section of your house every single day. Spend one day cleaning out your medicine cabinet, removing all expired meds and group them by use (first aid, pain relief, cold & flu, etc). The next day can be spent organizing the cabinet with the pots and pans. You will be able to break up a large, daunting job into small, manageable tasks by focusing on one small section every day.
If you are like many who have never tried meditation before, realize it does not have to be accompanied by a ritual or mystery. In fact, all you need to do is to find a calm place where you can sit comfortably, and just focus on your breathing. Meditation is simply an exercise in which you focus your brain on one specific object or activity, such as your breathing, in an effort to clear your mind of all other clutter and emotion. According to a study from the University of Washington, daily meditation is a great way to reduce the stress you encounter every day, as well as boost your immune system.
September: Leave Your Comfort Zone
This quite possibly is one of the most difficult things to get someone to do – leave their comfort zone. Why? Because it is comfortable in the zone, and it is scary “out there.” The most common reason people remain in their comfort zone is the fear of failure. Contrary to popular belief, it really is not that difficult to step outside your comfort zone. Start with making small changes such as driving a new route to work. Your fear might be rewarded with a new restaurant or a shorter commute. Next, make the decision to no longer view failure as a negative thing. If you begin to look at a failure as simply one way NOT to do something, then it is not negative. Now, failure has become your teacher. Finally, do not take yourself too seriously; after all, no one else does. Get out there and start having some fun.
October: Closing Your Circle
Negative Nancy; Sour Puss Sam; Grumpy Gretta… We all know people or groups that qualify as “toxic.” These are the negative people that want to make us feel bad or who are always complaining about something. As you are taking steps toward improving yourself and your life, you no longer need to hear constant negative feedback. If someone has nothing positive to contribute to your life, it is time to begin disassociating yourself with that person. You can go “cold turkey” and stop socializing with him or her immediately. Or, if you prefer, you can gradually reduce the number of calls and texts you return while becoming less and less available for meetings or conversations. As you move toward a new and improved version of yourself, you will move away from negative detractors.
November: Showing Your Love
Everyone wants to feel loved and appreciated, especially by their own family and friends. However, as we rush around with our busy schedules, it is all too easy to forget to communicate that which is usually taken for granted. November, the month of giving thanks, why not take an extra moment to actually give your love every day? Take an extra second to tell someone specifically how much they mean to you. Let someone know that you love them with all of your heart. Why not demonstrate your love by calling a friend or family member with whom you have not spoken in a while? Help your elderly neighbor with her grocery bags or even bake her some cookies. These are all very simple, yet extremely impactful ways you can share your love this month.
December: Time To Reflect And Refocus
By the end of the year, you will have conquered a mountain of challenges, and each one started with one small step. This is the month to reflect on the incredible journey to have taken this year. Take a look at the progress you made, and be honest about the setbacks. Identify your weaknesses and where you can make a few small changes for success. Once you have determined these, you will be ready to begin your list of 12 new small changes for next year. They may be vastly different from this year – after all, you are a new version of the person you were just one year ago.