Everyone wants to better themselves. Whether it’s for their health, wealth, relationships, or career, people are always looking for new methods to enhance their lives and become better than they are. While it’s easy to think about which habits, attitudes, or skills can be improved, it may be difficult to know where to start.
To help, here are some simple and straightforward ways to improve your life and become a better version of yourself:
You may think meditation is only for Buddhist monks and yoga instructors. But actually, it’s a very useful and beneficial practice that can improve your physical and mental health. Scientific studies have shown that meditation lowers blood pressure, boosts the immune system, lowers anxiety and depression, and increases focus and concentration. Famous practitioners of meditation include Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, as well as many successful CEOs. If they can find time in their schedules to do it, so can you.
To meditate effectively, all you need is time (as little as 10 minutes a day) and a quiet place. The goal of meditating isn’t to think about nothing, it’s to be mindful. Being mindful means that you are in tune with the present, so when any thoughts arise, do not try to get rid of them. Instead, acknowledge that they are there, and then focus yourself back to your comfortable, present state. By embracing your present self and thoughts, you'll become equipped with calmness and stability to handle the worries and fears that appear in life.
2. Stay Hydrated
Being properly hydrated is generally overlooked, even by the most health-conscious people. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, water makes up 60 percent of your body’s composition and is needed to perform essential functions, such as regulating internal body temperature and lubricating joints. Staying hydrated can even help you lose weight and curb your appetite, so it’s vital to replenish the water your body releases daily.
How much water should you be drinking then? The Institute of Medicine recommends that men drink 3.7 liters (15 cups) per day and that women drink 2.7 liters (11 cups). While this may seem like a lot, the amount of water you need also depends on your activity level, location, and temperature. In addition, beverages like coffee and tea, as well as fruits and vegetables, can contribute to your daily water intake.
3. Get Enough Sleep
If you stand by the old adage of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” you’ll want to reconsider. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report stating “insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic.” From 2005 to 2007, nearly 30 percent of US adults received less than six hours of sleep per day, which is lower than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per day.
What are the effects of not getting enough sleep? The CDC reports that people experiencing insufficient sleep are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases, including cancer, as well as reduced quality of life and productivity. While work schedules, responsibilities, and increased access to technology can limit the amount of we sleep we get, it’s important to give your body proper rest. Getting enough rest every night provides major benefits on your day-to-day and long-term health, including building your immune system and giving you enough energy and alertness to function fully.
4. Read (Even Just a Little Bit)
As a child, being a bookworm wasn’t cool. As an adult, being well-read is admirable, but isn’t always doable. If you’re busy most of the time, it seems like a luxury to sit and read for a few hours. At the same time, your free time could get diverted to catching up on TV shows, watching movies, or browsing the Internet. Why bother with reading?
A recent study from Quick Reads on adults who read books regularly for pleasure found that reading for just 30 minutes a week resulted in greater life satisfaction, enhanced social connectedness, and increased preparation and protection for handling difficulties in life. It was also found that regular readers reported having lower feelings of stress and depression, as well as stronger feelings of relaxation from reading than from consuming other types of media (TV shows, websites, magazines, etc.). When you’re waiting in line, eating your lunch, or about to go to sleep, crack open a book you enjoy for just a few minutes. It can have drastic positive effects that are too great to ignore.
5. Never Stop Learning New Things
Most of us end our academic pursuits at some point in our lives, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying to learning new things. Whether it’s a new skill, field of study, or language, learning new things can make us more creative, more understanding of the world around us, or inspire us to achieve new goals in life. It can also have benefits when it comes to improving memory.
Dr. Denise Park, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas Dallas, found that seniors who learned a new, challenging skill significantly improved their memory. Learning strengthens the connections within the brain, which can help ward off the effects of dementia. The brain, like any other muscle, must be worked out in order to function optimally. Focus on learning a challenging skill that excites you. Your brain needs it.
6. Be Optimistic
You know those people who always seem happy and chipper no matter what? While they could just naturally see the brighter side of things, they could also choose to be optimistic.
Having a positive outlook on life can help you combat your own negative thought patterns that contribute to feelings of self-doubt and insecurity. It can help you achieve goals, find new opportunities, and inspire others. For most of us, being optimistic is a choice we have to make, but there are ways to instill positive thinking. These include substituting negative aspects with positive ones, smiling more often, and reading inspiring quotes or stories. These small changes to your way of thinking allows you to enjoy the life you have now and be better prepared to handle obstacles or hardships when they arise. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain when choosing to be optimistic.
7. Give Back
Being grateful for what you have helps you stay positive and happy when things go awry, but that’s only part of the equation. The other part is actively giving back to the world, which can be done in a number of ways. Volunteering your time or giving donations is not only great for the cause you serve, but for your own life satisfaction. It can give you a sense of accomplishment and a boost of self-esteem since you can make a difference in someone’s life, the community, or the world at large.
There are many charities and nonprofit organizations that could use volunteers. Start by finding a cause that interests you and a way you can support it. If you’re an animal lover, for example, local shelters often need people who can take care of the animals and help keep the facilities maintained. Additionally, you could donate to animal preserves and conservation foundations that use donations to protect wildlife and their habitats. When you can give back, it not only makes the world better, it makes you feel better too.
8. Always Set Goals for Yourself
As you grow older, you’ll probably experience a plateau in your professional or personal development. Maybe you’re bored or you don’t feel challenged anymore. It’s normal to experience this, but it doesn’t mean shouldn’t do something about it. You probably have dreams and things you want out of life. Instead of ignoring them or making excuses, set goals for yourself and make a plan to work towards them.
By setting goals, not only are you setting yourself up to achieve the things you want, you’ll be happier when you achieve them, especially if your goals are ambitious. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that those who achieved goals that were both valuable and doable were much happier overtime. However, not every goal you achieve will produce the same level of satisfaction. Goals that are challenging, but still possible to achieve, lead to more happiness than achieving more simplistic goals. Choose a goal that has value to you in some way, but isn’t easy to achieve. Begin by breaking down your goals into small steps and be sure to work on those steps a little bit every day. The time you put into your goals everyday will lead to big achievements and overall happiness.
9. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
It’s human nature to compare yourself to others when it comes to appearance, status, or success. You can’t help but do it sometimes. However, when comparisons start to create feelings of inadequacy, stress, and self-blame, you have to curb your attempts to compare yourself. Not doing so can make you lose focus on yourself and rob you of happiness overall.
You can stop comparison thoughts by focusing inwardly when they arise. Remind yourself of what you’re good at, what you’re proud of, or what you’ve achieved. Instead of being resentful or harsh on yourself, get inspired to make a change that will get you closer to what you desire. Remember to be grateful for what you do have. If all else fails, take note of what columnist Mary Schmidt advises: “Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.”
10. Disconnect From the Virtual World (Once in a While)
Even though you’re reading this from a screen, taking breaks from the Internet is good for your wellbeing and social life. A Stanford study on how Internet usage changes daily life revealed that 25 percent of people who use the Internet more than five hours a week feel that it has cut down their time with family and friends or attending social events. Even when heavy Internet users aren’t connected to the online world, they still tend to experience negative effects. A survey by Tata Communications reports that 64 percent of respondents admit experiencing FOMO, or ‘Fear of Missing Out‘ - a constant anxiety that you’re left out of what’s happening online.
Instead of spending most of your free time on the Internet, make the effort to spend time with your family and friends, practice your hobbies, or visit a new place. It also gives you a chance to assess whether the things you care about online are more important than things in reality. Most likely, you’ll find that what you can experience is real life is so much more enriching and engaging than what’s online.
These ten ways can jump start you on a path to a better self and even a brighter future. It’s never too late to begin and it’s never too late make positive changes for yourself.