Yes, I am sure you’ve noticed it too. We’re at a little more than the halfway mark of the year. Depending on how you’re feeling about life in general at this point in time, you could be going either of two ways: “there are STILL six months left in this year!” OR “there are still SIX MONTHS left in this year!”
I’ve never really been a super optimistic person. I usually tend to look at the negatives more than the positives. I’ll fret endlessly over the worst-case scenarios. The negative what-ifs can take a life of their own thanks to my overactive imagination. So, yes, I am definitely not the most optimistic person you’ll meet. And yet, something about where we are at right now, collectively and personally, I feel as if things can only go up from here.
Yes, we could still hit a lower low, we could still take some more tumbles and heartache and losses, but when I look ahead, I really do believe that there is so much growth and learning ahead of us. And that excites me tremendously.
If you’ve ever thought that things don’t really change much in six months, you only have to look at the beginning of the year and then look at today, and realize that things can change by a WHOLE LOT in six months. Having seen what we’ve seen over the last few months and all the lessons we’ve learned along the way both collectively and personally, how can we let the next six months go by without actively trying to get better and improve our lives in at least some ways??!!??
11 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR LIFE
If you’re looking for ideas on how to improve your life over the next six months (or even longer, because truly, personal development is a lifelong exercise), I’ve got a big-ass list right here for you:
1| Start a gratitude journal
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is one of the most positive things we can do for ourselves. It forces us to be more mindful about our days, and that can never be a bad thing. :)
Gratitude journaling is also an effective way to make us pause and appreciate the little things in our lives. Be that perfect cup of coffee made by your mom, or the warmest of snuggles from your pet, or unexpectedly finding money in an old jeans pocket – it’s these small, little joys that add so much warmth to our day-to-day, and without a mindful gratitude journaling habit, we might not even take a moment to register these small joys.
The best part about cultivating gratitude journaling as a habit is that it requires so little by way of tools or equipment or even time, for that matter. You need just a notebook and a pen, or even your phone, and that’s really all. Pick a time that would work best for you – you can even make it a part of your morning or bedtime rituals – and start that outpouring of thanks.
The Five-Minute Journal
an evergreen favorite!
2| Improve your mental health
It’s 2020 and I think we’re slowly coming to a place where talking about mental health in general, or mental health issues in particular, is becoming more commonplace than what it used to be.
We tend to say “mental health” and “seeing a therapist” in the same breath, and while I believe that seeking therapy* could be super beneficial, but there are other ways of improving your mental health as well, including connecting with others, helping someone else in need, journaling, meditation, avoiding toxic people, restful sleep, eating nourishing foods, and exercising, among other things.
The key to improving your mental health is figuring out what works best for you and cultivating a set of healthy coping mechanisms as well to get you through the occasional bad days. Because let’s be real, we all have bad days, and we all could use a mental health break every once in a while.
*If you’ve been having an endless string of bad days, or if you’ve been struggling with specific issues that just don’t seem to go away, I would highly recommend that you seek some kind of professional help at the very earliest. There is ZERO shame in seeking help for mental issues, and professional help can make a world of a difference to the quality of your life.
3| Deep dive into your business/side hustle
Have you always had an idea for a side hustle that you were excited about but never got around to starting it because you felt you weren’t ready yet? The thing is, you will end up waiting forever if you want to start something new only when you’re 100% ready.
When I started my Etsy shop for my branding business last year, I was far, far from ready. I didn’t know all of the things about branding, and I certainly didn’t know shit about running a business, but I’ve been learning along the way and while it’s been really slow progress, at least, there is progress. Otherwise, it would have forever remained a pipe dream, and I would have nothing to show for it.
Among the many lessons that this coronavirus season is teaching us, one thing that stands out to me is that we don’t know what really lies ahead. How much longer are you willing to hit pause on your dreams, waiting for things to fall magically in place tomorrow, and what happens when that tomorrow doesn’t really come, or it comes about in a manner which is far from what you were expecting?
So yes, start now, start before you are ready. Trust that you can figure it out and learn along the way.
4| Start a creative hobby
Creative hobbies can be an excellent way to handle stress, and they also help keep our brains sharper. They definitely make us more interesting as well by adding another facet to our personality!
With all the busyness of everyday life, your creative hobbies might have fallen by the wayside, but now is as good a time as any other to bring them back into your life. Start small – maybe 30 minutes a week to begin with, and then add more time as you start to enjoy the creative freedom.
Obviously, like with most other things in life, consistent effort will go a long way in improving your skills, and for all you know, by the end of the year, you will be totally rocking a brand new creative skill!
Here are some ideas for creative hobbies to get you started.
5| Get a handle on your finances
A few months ago, the topic of finances came up in one of my discussions with my therapist. I was ruing about how terrible my shopping habits are and how I never seem to save any money. We did go into some analysis of past behavior, but the penny dropping moment was when she asked me:
Of course, you can take this question and apply it to just about any situation in your life, but sticking to the subject of finances, if it is something that you are struggling with, I believe you owe it to yourself (and your future self) to start taking positive actions which will get you to a better place.
If anything, the last few months have kind of driven home the importance of having good financial health, no matter what your income level. Here are some micro-actions that you can take in the next few months to improve your financial health:
- track your income and expenses for at least a month to get an exact sense of what your finances
- cut out on any unnecessary subscriptions
- start a small savings account (every little bit adds up, trust me)
- check with your banks/credit card companies if you can restructure any of your existing debts
- improve your money mindset
- reduce your dependence on your credit cards, unless you’re actually able to pay in full every time
- start building out an emergency fund with at least 3 months of your salary
- don’t buy something just because it is on sale
6| Get physically stronger and fitter
There are no two ways about this – regular exercise is one of the core tenets of a healthy life. This is not just about losing weight, but really the overall quality of life.
If exercise is something that you find yourself rebelling against (I know, I’ve been there, despite knowing better), sometimes it helps to change the label. Tell yourself that you will incorporate “more movement” into your day. Yet another option is to pick up a structured program and work within the suggested routine (that seems to work best for me). Start small, because even the smallest, consistent action will show you results.
If there is only one thing that you to pick up from this long list, I would want it to be this one for sure. As someone who’s started exercising only very recently, I know that it can be a struggle but I also know now that the benefits are immense. It really is one of the best things you can do for yourself, to improve your life.
7| Give up one bad habit
I have way too many bad habits to list out here, but one thing that I am consciously trying to give up is my terrible love for cola. My consumption has definitely reduced over the last few months, and for the last 20+ days, I’ve gone completely cold turkey. I am hoping to make this habit stick for the long run.
I am not a master bad habit breaker, so I can’t really give you a lot of valuable tips on how-to, but from my recent experience, a couple of things that are helping me are a) not trying out too many new things at once, b) replacing the bad habit with a more positive habit (drinking copious amounts of water in my case), and c) avoiding thinking about it too much (basically creating positive distractions). I am praying I haven’t jinxed it by talking out loud about it!
The jury is still out on whether it takes 21 days or 66 days for a new habit to stick, or an old one to break down, but either number is significantly less than the 184 days that are still left in the year. Won’t you even give it a try?
8| Do some inner work
Do you struggle with sitting by yourself in absolute silence, just you and your thoughts? Is that uncomfortable for you? Does that silence rattle you? I guess it’s because in those moments of quiet that the tough questions start: What am I doing here? What is my purpose? Is this really what I want to do in life? Am I truly happy? What am I really doing here?
No one says it better than Carl Jung:
Doing inner work is imperative to personal growth in the long run, especially if there are areas of your life that you are consistently struggling with.
Now, if you’re wondering what the hell is this inner work exactly? I am sure there are more nuanced definitions for it, but I like to think of it as learning about yourself, your conscious and subconscious thoughts, your limiting beliefs and deep work on your ego. It’s not pretty, which is probably why we shy away from it, and it really does involve facing the worst (and best) aspects of ourselves and growing forward armed with that knowledge.
A good way to start would be a guided journal* to do some self-exploration. And obviously, there are loads of books which will help you along in your journey. A few that I would recommend are: Ikigai, The Calling, Vibrate Higher Daily, and The Gifts of Imperfection (a personal favorite).
9| Read at least one non-fiction book AND IMPLEMENT THE LESSONS IN YOUR LIFE
A good non-fiction book has the immense power to change our lives for the better. No matter what genre of non-fiction you’re into, be it personal development, business, history, environmental issues, human rights matter – whatever – I think almost all of them hold valuable lessons for us, or at the very least, they can help us become more knowledgeable and aware.
Which is why, I would highly encourage you to read at least one non-fiction book over the next few months. Pick any subject that interests you – there is no dearth of relevant books!
Now, if you end up reading a work of non-fiction, that’s great. But the real value comes from going a step further and being really mindful about what you’re reading. Unless you plan to put the knowledge you’ve gained into some kind of positive action, it’s just as good ticking off yet another book from your TBR pile. I know how it goes, because I’m totally guilty of just reading these non-fiction books for the sake of reading, rather than learning, a habit that I am trying to change.
10| Build healthy rituals into your day
Rituals have a way of grounding us, and they can often become small pockets of mental peace and joy in an otherwise chaotic day-to-day routine. About a month or so ago, I tried out a slow morning routine for almost three weeks, and I have to say, that was one of the best things I did for myself all year. That routine has since then been disrupted but I am easing back into it again, little by little.
The best kind of rituals are the ones that uplift you from within. Positive rituals can benefit both your mental and physical health. It can be as simple as having a glass of warm water when you wake up to something more elaborate such as a 10-step Korean beauty regimen. Whatever floats your boat, really!
11| Take on a 30-day challenge
If you’ve been feeling like your life has become too much of the “same old, same old” and you’re itching to change the status quo, a 30-day challenge could be the perfect shake-up that you need.
Read More: 65 Amazing 30-Day Challenge Ideas
You could use a 30-day challenge to learn something new or go deeper with a habit you’re trying to build into your life. In fact, you could pick any of the things in the list above, and turn it into a 30-day challenge.
- You want a stronger core? Take on a 30-day plank challenge.
- You want to read more non-fiction? Start a 30-day non-fiction reading challenge.
- You want to improve your mental health? Do a 30-day gratitude journaling challenge.
The possibilities are really endless. You can use this format to start making a difference in nearly all aspects of your life. The best part of a 30-day challenge is that while it’s a long enough time frame to solidify a new habit (whether it’s adding a positive habit or letting go of a bad one), it still feels like a manageable time commitment. It also forces you to take a small action, leading up to big change, which is the sustainable way to bring about change.
Phew, that turned into a really long list! And for good reason. I am ever so hopeful that what lies ahead can only be better than where we are at the moment, even if it feels like it’s getting worse for a bit in between.
I hope this list inspires you to take action, and that at the end of the year, you can look back and say that this year truly improved your life for the better. Six months is a long enough time to make some positive changes in your life, and with consistent effort, we can achieve just about anything we set our heart and mind to.
How are you planning to improve your life over the next six months? Are you excited about what lies ahead? What changes are you keen to make in your life? I’d love to know in the comments below. Also, please feel free to add any other ideas you might have on how to improve your life! I am all ears for new ideas. :)