If you could just pick one or two habits to create in the next few months — habits that will have the most impact on your life — what would they be?
It’s not an easy question. Here are 18 little changes that will make your life better and more effective. Pick one or two, give them a try for a few weeks – and see the impact they have on you. Do what works for you.
1. Try to start your lists with “I can”, not “to do”.
I know this sounds falsely positive and even a little lame, but it makes such a difference. When I started doing this, tasks that seemed like they were overshadowing my day became things that I could choose to do. Splashing out on some nice stationery makes a change too.
2. Get a radio alarm clock (yeah, old school!)
When I first started working, I bought myself a radio alarm clock and it changed my life. I think by far it’s my greatest life tip. Waking up to music or voices is so much nicer than waking up to an alarm. You don’t have to immediately turn it off, which means you are less likely to turn it off and fall straight back to sleep, and you don’t have to move. Also, waking up to a slightly different sound each day means you don’t have one sound that always makes you wince.
3. Take a couple minutes break throughout the day and stretch.
4. Create a mood lifting playlist.
On a day that you’re feeling on top of the world, make a playlist for days when you’re down. It can be easy to overthink these playlists (“It must be inspiring! The mix must be seamless!”) but honestly, just add songs that you like, in no particular order. Or if selection isn’t your forte, then Spotify’s Mood Playlists are great.
5. Make one healthy change a week.
It’s the oldest rule (but also the simplest) in the book of changes – but for me, waking up earlier has meant that I can sit down, eat breakfast, and take some time for myself before I have to get ready for work. I usually take half an hour to read a book or watch a short episode of a TV show while I eat my Bran Flakes with raisins (eat your fibre, folks), a banana, and coffee.
My mornings feel so much less rushed, and I’m a lot less stressed when I get into work. Plus, my stomach no longer starts asking for lunch at 10:30am like it used to. Take it from me: Eating breakfast makes you feel like a real adult person.
6. Tidy up for 10 minutes a day.
I do it before I start making dinner or sit down to watch TV or start talking to my housemates. This includes things like taking water glasses out of my room, taking my packed lunch box out of my work bag, taking my gym kit out of my bag, putting clothes back in drawers, or putting clothes-washing on. It has made it so much easier to keep on top of things and not get overwhelmed with untidiness. And it’s a lot easier to do it than than when you have to stop watching TV to get up and tidy!
7. Buy yourself some flowers.
I don’t know what it is, but there’s something so cheerful about a simple bunch of blooms that can’t help but to lift your mood. I move my vases around so when I walk into a room or wake up in the morning, you kind of forget they’re there and just get a nice little warm fuzzy feeling when you see them again. I tend to go to supermarkets at the end of the day and you can find flowers reduced to almost next to nothing.
8. Make your phone wallpaper uplifting.
Whenever I’m feeling glum, I look at my stupid phone wallpaper and I always feel better. Whether it’s a photo of your own dog or your boo – make your phone background bring a smile to your face.
9. And remember to put your phone down.
I’ve been trying to leave my phone in other rooms when I’m around the house so I can focus on reading a book, or watching the telly, or staring into space, so I don’t obsessively check the internet every second of the day. On that note, I’ve also turned notifications off all my social media apps. That way I still check into them now and again, but not every single time an alert pops up.
10. Go for breakfast with friends before work.
Once a month I get up early and go for breakfast with my work besties. I look forward to it every time. It’s the best start to the day (gossip + pancakes) and puts such a spring in my step.
11. Walk everywhere if you can.
I like walking everywhere. It clears my head and provides actual space to think and just be mentally idle that even sitting still has a hard time providing in a world overwhelmed by the constant draw of screens and a million other stimuli.
So I walk for miles and miles every day, and I’ve noticed a visible change in my mental state for the better. I’m often prone to a general recurring state of overhanging sadness when left idle, and I’ve yet to find a way that keeps the demons so often at bay as this. On top of everything, it’s actually useful in a very practical way, as it literally gets you to where you’re going.
12. Have a bath.
The world always looks more welcoming when you’ve had a shower. This week I was feeling pretty crappy so I treated myself to some new moisturiser and now I smell like basil and lemon and every time I catch the scent it reminds me that things are gonna be okay.
13. Watch a documentary.
I find that watching documentaries is a great way to unwind, because you’re technically just watching a film, but you’re also learning something. I always finish a documentary feeling like my brain has been enriched in some way. Netflix’s documentary selection is great because they have something for literally any mood you’re in – I recommend The Hunting Ground for something quite intense, or Twinsters if you want something a little bit more light-hearted and fun.
14. Open up to your friends.
It takes guts to ask for help. Often it means admitting you’re vulnerable, but this isn’t a bad thing. Asking for help actually means you’re being proactive about your situation. It’s important to confide in someone before your problem escalates into a catastrophe. Don’t be afraid to say: “I need this.” Learn to open up and share and be there for others the way you hope they might be there for you.
15. Give one item of clothing to charity.
I keep a bag of things to go to the charity shop in my wardrobe all the time. It’s not very big, like a large tote bag, and when it’s full I take it to the charity shop. If I buy something new and I don’t have a hanger for it I’ll find something I don’t wear and put it in the bag. I never miss anything I put in the bag. I often feel guilty giving away clothes, because it feels like a waste of money, especially ones you haven’t worn very often but have been in your wardrobe for ages. But actually I never wear them, I’d rather buy new clothes than wear my old ones I don’t really like, and you are actually doing something good by giving clothes to charity. It’s so much easier constantly editing your wardrobe than having a big clean out once a year.