I've often found that the things that make the biggest difference in my daily life are the ones that require the smallest actual adjustments. That's right — there are small things you can do every day that can be major game changers in terms of health and happiness. Like when I started drinking more water, or just wearing sunscreen under my makeup.
I used to avoid the concept of "self-help" at all costs, imagining it would take me down a road of juice fasts, marathon training, and meditation sessions — none of which are admittedly up my alley. I figured if I wanted to really improve my life in meaningful ways, it would require a top-to-bottom overhaul, and I honestly just didn't really have the energy or inclination.
So the realization that self-improvement — whether it be specifically about health, or just the way I feel about each day — is really more about the little things was a major eye-opener. It also made me feel like meaningful change was in reach, not matter how busy or overwhelmed I might be in general.
If you're looking to make some meaningful changes in life, but aren't exactly ready to commit to a month-long silent yogi retreat, here are 11 actions that take less than a minute that have the power to change your whole day.
1. Make Your Bed (Seriously)
In a now famous commencement speech given by Navy SEAL Admiral William McRaven to the University of Texas, Admiral McRaven said that when you make your bed each day, you'll have already accomplished something by the time you walk out the door. And what's more, no matter how the days go, you'll return home to that accomplishment. It's a super simple, yet super impactful morning ritual.
2. Do The Dishes At Night
This is a personal tip that I read somewhere on the interwebs a few years ago and that has made a huge practical difference in my life. No matter what, I make sure my kitchen sink is clear of dishes at night (which also often means I have to unload my drying rack as well). This means that I always wake up to a clean sink/tidier kitchen, which helps set the tone for my whole day.
3. Put Things Back Where They Belong
In an e-mail interview with Bustle, Annie Traurig, professional organizer and founder of Live Simply, noted the utter importance of simply putting things back where they belong when you're done using them, whether this be in your home or at your office. ""We are responsible for putting things back where they belong. [...] If you're only doing the first part — the taking out — and not attending to the second, you are bound to end up in a mess." And remember, putting something away only takes a minute, but putting away an entire week's worth of accumulation can take an hour!
4. Listen To An Upbeat Song
According to a 2013 study published by the University of Missouri, listening to upbeat music can actually improve your mood. The study's author, Yuna Ferguson, noted that it's important not to overthink, "Am I happy yet?" while listening, and instead just allow yourself to enjoy the experience. So don't be afraid to turn up the jams when you're feeling low.
5. Light A Scented Candle
A 2009 study published on PubMed.org found that teens who received aromatherapy were significantly less stressed than those who received a placebo, indicating that it could be a very effective treatment for stress management
According to holistic medicine expert Dr. Andrew Weil, breathing is one of the fastest and most effective ways to calm your system and reduce stressful feelings. He advocates the 4-7-8 breathing technique on his website, in which you breath in for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and breath out for eight.
7. Practicing Gratitude
According to UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons in a piece for Happify.com, research shows that simply taking a moment to think about what we're happy for each day can greatly improve our overall sense of happiness. So just take a minute either right when you wake up or right before you go to be to think about what you're grateful for, not matter how you're feeling about the day.
8. Watch A Funny Video
According to an article on Prevention, a study conducted by Stanford University showed that laughter increases dopamine in our brains, which is a chemical that elevates mood. So the pull up some Amy Schumer or an SNL digital short on YouTube and let the good times roll.
9. Deal With Mail
According to Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D. in an article for Psychology Today, "Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed." And what creates clutter more than stacks of mail that hasn't been dealt with? Try to make it a point to deal with mail right when you come home each day, whether it be tossing it in the recycling or putting it in a follow up box somewhere easily accessible in your home.
10. Write A To Do List Before Bed
Psychologist Shelby Freedman Harris also noted that one of the biggest things that keeps so many of us up at night is thinking about all our worries and all the things we need to do the next day. She recommended taking time before bed to actually write these worries down or even just making a simple to do list. That way you can check these thoughts off as already dealt with as they come when you lie in bed.
11. Drink Water Between Caffeinated Beverages
In a piece for SFgate, sports medicine writer Jan Annigan suggested alternating every caffeinated drink you have each day with a glass of water. "The diuretic effect of caffeine increases your urine output. The more you drink in a short amount of time, the more water you could lose," she said.
Lasting, meaningful changes don't have to require mammoth actions on your part. There are plenty of things that take less than a minute that will reap major benefits in your life. So go forth, and start feeling great!
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