Self improvement can be a long, long process. Waiting to see the fruits of your labor can be frustrating, to say the least. It is often said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.
Why not make that first step something that has immediate results?
Try these ideas to jump-start your overall self-improvement process, or just to brighten your day.
#1: Tap Into Gratefulness. It’s so easy to get mired down in what we don’t like, what we don’t have, what we wish we did had. By taking the time to reflect on what you do appreciate about your life, you can help to focus your thoughts and energy on those positive things. In some cases, this may seem a little difficult, so you may have to start small. Maybe you’re grateful that your favorite show is on tonight. It’s not a big thing, but it is something that makes you feel good. To go a step further, consider creating a “gratitude journal” where you can write 5-10 things each day. Make a point not to repeat things you’ve already written, and by the end of the week, you’ll have as many as 70 things on your list.
#2: Spark Your Curiosity. Is there something you’ve always wanted to know more about? We live in the information age, and the amount of knowledge at our fingertips is amazing. Always wanted to know how sugar was refined? Curious about the life of FDR? Get online and find out. In just a few minutes, you can learn something new. Not only is it a fun activity, but it engages your mind, leads to a sense of self satisfaction, and actually makes you smarter.
#3: Make Yourself Smile. The very act of smiling can change your mood. Even if it’s a forced smile at first, your body will follow suit, relaxing and causing you to feel better physically. By the end of a few minutes of “making” yourself smile, you’ll usually find that you’re just doing so naturally. Another benefit of smiling is that it makes you more approachable. Smiling at a stranger often illicit a smile in return, which means you’ve not only improved your own life, but you’ve made someone else’s day a bit brighter, too.
#4: Become Generous. Random acts of kindness don’t just mean something to the recipient of your generosity, they also improve your own life. Consider paying extra in the coffee line to cover the price of the next person’s order, or pack up some unwanted items and donate them to a good cause. Being generous actually increases the “good feeling” chemicals in the brain, which means you will greet the rest of your day with a more positive outlook. Continuing to practice generosity can even impact the way others see you, which can certainly improve your life not just today, but over the long run, as well.
#5: Get Moving. If you don’t exercise at all, then something as small as taking a brisk walk can be enough to make you feel good about yourself and your accomplishment. As with other activities suggested here, it can also increase endorphins in the brain, leading to a long-lasting feeling of contentment. If you do exercise regularly, then you likely already know the benefits and can take it a step further by exercising somewhere new or incorporating a friend into your routine.
#6: Think positively. Sure, it may be unreasonable to avoid all negative thoughts forever, but there’s no reason you can’t do it for the next hour. If you feel a negative thought coming into your mind, give yourself permission to think about it at the end of the hour and return your thoughts to focusing on something positive. This exercise can relieve your stress levels and help retrain your thinking so that you can make it more of a lifestyle than an occasional exercise. Or if you want to really make an impact, instead of thinking positive, make the switch to FEELING positive.
By implementing these ideas, you can literally improve your life right now. There are obvious benefits to that, as who doesn’t want things to be even a little better than they are? A less obvious effect, though, is that when you start seeing results immediately, it encourages you to continue on your thousand-mile journey. You start feeling so empowered that you are more likely to find more and more ways to improve your life, and as they keep working, the cycle repeats.