The only way to improve your life is to consistently make choices that will make your life better. It’s tempting to think you need to make sweeping changes in an effort to shake things up and improve everything all at once. But the reality is, it’s the little things that add up and have a huge impact on us.
If you really want to start improving your life, start with small but meaningful steps that you can build on over time. Take on new and exciting activities, but begin slowly so you don’t get overwhelmed. In no time, you’ll begin to see your life improved by taking steps that help you build knowledge, improve confidence and engage in activities that make you feel healthier and more connected to your inner self and to others.
Here are seven steps that will help open your mind, release stress and remind you of what’s really important in life. Start today, and in just seven days you’ll begin to notice the small but profound improvements to your life.
1. Begin learning a new skill
What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to learn, but have never made the time for? Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to speak a foreign language, play an instrument, knit or use a sewing machine. You may wish you had a practical skill, like Photoshop or Excel spreadsheets, but never made the time to learn it.
Or you may consider taking up an activity you used to enjoy but gave up on, like learning how to Rollerblade or ski. Pick something that’s been gnawing at the back of your mind and come up with a plan to learn it.
Next, look for the resources you need to help you master this new skill. To learn a foreign language, there are a number of apps available for download. LinkedIn Learning offers many tutorials to help you with business, management and software tools. YouTube is another great resource, offering free tutorials on anything from learning to Rollerblade to using a sewing machine. Set aside 15-30 minutes every day to work on your new skill, and see how awesome it feels to start chipping away at this bigger goal.
2. Give yourself a reward every day
One of the greatest pieces of self-care advice is nestled away in an early episode of Twin Peaks, courtesy of Agent Dale Cooper: “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair or two cups of good hot black coffee.”
Too often, people get hung up on the idea that a self-reward should be a big, rare event limited to special occasions; that it needs to be planned in advance and earned through hard work. The truth is that it doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t need to push yourself in order to deserve something nice. In fact, it’s much healthier to indulge once in a while (in moderate doses, of course), rather than constantly live in deprivation.
Giving yourself a little treat each day will provide you with an extra boost of happiness and positive motivation. Consider it the emotional equivalent of hitting the “refresh” button. So, rather than burn out, you’ll be rejuvenated and ready to tackle the challenges of your daily life.
3. Start an exercise program
Exercise is not only an important part of living a healthy life; it’s also a great way to improve your mood, maintain control over your weight, suppress your appetite and reduce the effects of stress. And as the ultimate incentive, people who exercise live longer and healthier lives than those who are sedentary.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of the two. If you're not getting that level of activity now, it's time to start doing something about it.
No matter what your fitness level, you can start a home exercise program. First, assess your fitness level by taking into account your basic level of fitness. Then consider what your goals are. Do you want to lose weight, increase flexibility, build muscle? Are you hoping to train for a marathon or another fitness challenge? Set clear goals so you can gauge your progress. You should aim to incorporate strength training of all major muscle groups into your fitness routine at least two days a week. Try making exercise a daily habit. Start slowly and work up to more rigorous exercise routines over time.
4. Declutter your environment
Whether or not you’re a fan of the Marie Kondo approach of decluttering by asking yourself if an item “sparks joy,” you have to admit that living in an orderly and clean environment is a great way to improve your life. It can decrease feelings of stress and help you operate more efficiently.
A clutter-free living environment creates a feeling of ease and contentment in your home and office life. A neat and tidy space allows you to perform daily tasks more efficiently because everything is readily available and you know where to find the things you need.
Removing clutter is also physically healthier because it removes dust particles that accumulate on all the stuff we never use. And the process of decluttering can give you a sense of accomplishment. You’ll take pride in your environment, which means less anxiety or embarrassment when visitors pop by.
5. Make a bucket list
A bucket list (a list of things you want to do before you “kick the bucket”) is a great way to provide clarity on what’s important in your life. A bucket list can be whatever length you want it to be, and it can include both short-term and long-term goals you want to accomplish. This list is an important step to improving your life because it can help you see what’s most important to you.
The ultimate goal of a bucket list is to help you make the most of each day. Instead of letting your days float by in a blur, use a bucket list to give your life purpose, focus and direction.
It can help you determine what experiences you want to have, and help you reach for the things you want to accomplish. Once you have the list, you need to start having these adventures, exploring your world and building the memories that will make you smile each day.
6. Confront a fear
We all have fears. Fears can help keep us alive and safe. But fears can also hold us back, especially if we let them control us. Take time to define your fears. Some fears are valid, but others are simply deep-rooted anxieties. Separate “real” fears from worst-case scenarios that you have let spiral out of control. When we confront our fears, we build courage and learn to overcome these dark thoughts.
As you work through your fears, you develop wisdom. Some of our fears may come true, but living through adversity helps us gain insight. Even if the worst happens, we can learn to overcome. Understanding our fears helps us develop compassion for others.
We can put ourselves in other people’s shoes and have empathy for what they’re going through. And most importantly, facing your fears will help you build resilience and tenacity. If you have confronted your fears, you have learned to overcome obstacles. You have learned that you can succeed even under difficult circumstances.
7. Reconnect with an old friend
There is nothing quite like the joy of reconnecting with an old friend. Sometimes we let space and time come between us and those we cherish. Sometimes friendships fall away or become muted, not out of any feeling of misgiving or malice, but because we get busy and don’t make the effort to maintain those ties.
But when we revive old friendships, we reconnect with our past. And you may find that those connections are still as strong as ever; that you can pick things up right where you left off.
Old friends can remind you of who you were before life got complicated, and this can help you see who you want to be in the present. They can reawaken those old dreams and desires you once had. Perhaps you’ve moved beyond those old ambitions. Perhaps those old desires are no longer valid. If that’s the case, those friends we’ve had forever can help us gauge how far we have come, and remind us how far we have yet to go.
This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.