17 Ways You Can Develop New Habits and Improve Your Life
It's possible to adapt to new ideas and habits if you're willing to try.
I'm an optimist, but I've noticed that even the pessimists are jumping on board and making the world a better place. Do we need an, "Entrepreneurs Unite?" It's time for us to think something new, do something new, and be something new.
As Walt Disney said, "We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
Usually, that's a quote I would use as inspiration when approaching a new year. However, it has been helpful during the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, the only positive about this horrible, no-good year has been that it has sparked innovation. A lot of innovation!
The thing is, why wait until a new year or stressful time to embrace the new? After all, it's been found that trying new things makes you healthier and happier. And, you'll also be more creative, efficient and smarter.
Start with baby steps
If you want to begin flexing your "new" muscles, ease your way into it. It's a simple way to ensure that you'll stick with it. Why? Because the following activities are small enough that should be able to easily fit into your busy schedule.
Here are six ways you can try something small that will help you get practice for bigger adjustments.
1. Add a twist to something established
Perhaps the easiest way to embrace the new is by putting a spin on the things that you enjoy. For example, if you use the treadmill every morning, go for a run or bike ride inside. You're still engaging in physical activity, but you're now getting the health benefits of spending time outside.
2. Shake up your routine
We're creatures of habit, and that's not exactly a bad thing. Routines, after all, provide structure, can ease anxiety, and makes planning a whole lot easier.
At the same time, when every day is the same, it can become tedious. And, if not addressed, can eventually put you in a rut. That's why occasionally you should shake things up.
You don't have to completely shatter your routine. It's making slight adjustments. For example, you could take a different route to work. Other ideas would be working somewhere besides your office or having more walking meetings.
3. Use your non-dominant hand for simple tasks
Again, this shouldn't be too challenging or overwhelming. The idea is that using your non-dominant hand for simple tasks, like brushing your teeth, introduces new neural pathways.
"It's like having more cell towers in your brain to send messages along. The more cell towers you have, the fewer missed calls," explains Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, chief of biological psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center.
Moreover, studies have found that this can improve impulse control and emotional health.
4. Try a new restaurant or cuisine
We all have our favorite restaurants and meals, but you might be missing out something incredibly delicious. And, who knows? Maybe that will inspire you to travel or learn more about where the dish came from.
So, if there is a new Peruvian restaurant in town, try it out. Your taste buds will thank you and you may want to learn more about the culture. And, even if you can't get to such a joint, find a recipe online and make it at home.
5. Read, write, and draw
When you write, draw and read — specifically, read fiction — a study from Emory University found that stores change the brain. "Stories shape our lives and in some cases help define a person," says neuroscientist Gregory Berns, lead author of the study and the director of Emory's Center for Neuropolicy. "We want to understand how stories get into your brain, and what they do to it."
Berns adds that reading a novel "can transport you into the body of the protagonist." In turn, this can help us develop empathy and forge stronger relationships. But, the best news for fiction is that it takes you out of the here and now and lets your body and brain relax a little. Your sleep habits can be attained easier if you have a little light reading before bed rather than the light of the TV.
Additionally, you can improve your vocabulary by learning a new word each morning. For instance, I get an email every morning from Dictonary.com containing the "word of the day."
Other suggestions? Engage in art and journaling. Both can improve the neural pathway that controls attention and focus.
6. Build your schedule around "input" activities
"The vast majority of people (especially those with audacious goals) build their entire lives around "output,'" writes Nicolas Cole, author, and founder of Digital Press. "They wake up ready to tackle their To-Do list. At 10 a.m., they have a call (output). At noon, a lunch meeting (output). At 3 p.m., a blocked-off work session (output)."
In short, their "entire day is built to do, with "input' activities becoming something of an afterthought." Instead, flip the script like Hawk in Cobra Kai — without becoming a bully, of course.
Cole recommends planning "your day around the pockets of time when you read, listen and reflect." Why? Well, when you finally get around to the "doing," you'll have plenty of ideas.
Break out of your comfort zone
When you exercise, you eventually have to push yourself harder. If not, you're going to plateau. It's like increasing the number of pushups you do or the distance you run. I'm not really sure that exercise makes you happier than mone,- but keeping yourself in shape is well-known for positive benefits. The same is true when embracing the new.
Here are a few ways to break out of your comfort zone.
1. Sign up for a class or workshop
While you can certainly learn on your own, there's something to say about joining a class or workshop. For starters, you have an expert guiding you, as opposed to frustratingly trying to figure it out on your own. Additionally, this can encourage you to follow through with other tasks that are weighing on your mind.
Also, attending a class or an event can enhance your interpersonal relationships — like taking a cooking class with your significant other. And, getting out — however you manage it, mask and all — gives you the chance to meet new people and expand your network. My wife and I signed up for a "little event" of learning how to make superior chocolate shakes. Then we repeated the "class" over and over with friends.
We now have all the equipment, learned to source superior products from other countries and found great value and commonality with our friends. You don't have to do the same activity, but find something different and new.
2. Do something that scares you
Are your terrified of public speaking? If so, commit to a speaking opportunity. It may keep you up at night. But, this will force you out of your shell and encourage you to find ways to conquer this fear. Learning how to speak accurately and well is a skill everyone should work on, but the point it -- conquer something. Here's a list of ten PhDs and their suggestions and observations on fears and what to do about it.
3. Freshen up your home or workspace
As I mentioned earlier, we're creatures of habit. However, if you keep things exactly the same life can get stale. Carve out a block of time to do a little redecorating. Examples could be optimizing your desk setup, repainting your bedroom or putting in a garden in your backyard.
4. Take on new responsibilities
The caveat here is to only take on the new responsibility if you have the availability. After all, you don't want to overextend yourself. But, if you take this on, look for new work responsibilities so that you can learn or enhance your skillset and knowledge.
You may not have a lot of time, but at least check out some options. A little reading can give you a whole new thought process.
5. Go against the grain
I've always wondered why people would flock to popular destinations, such as the beach, on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Sure, the weather is awesome, but why put up with the traffic, crowds and price surging?
Instead, you can always look for less popular destinations. It's an effective way to discover a new area and break out of your comfort zone. I've found that people flock to popular destinations, and they become popular for a reason — the public doesn't just vet your business, they vet these places by spending their money there.
6. Plan a trip
Speaking of trips, getting away from your normal routine is the best way to do all of the above in one-shoot. Maybe you're afraid of flying or a language barrier. As a result, you learn how to cope with your anxiety, or you take a language class. Taking a trip is the best way to explore and break out of your daily routine.
Furthermore, it's good for your health and wellbeing. Even just planning a trip can make you happy, since it gives you something to look forward to. Besides, you deserve a vacation every now and then.
Go big or go home
Now that your "new" muscles are in peak shape, it's time to go all in. I mean, why did you put in all the hard work if you weren't ready to push your limitations?
Take something — anything — and give that thing a bigger effort than you have given something for a long time. The thing doesn't matter because this is an exercise in "the big push." It's an exercise in coming alive. Go hit balls — all day — on the range, or at the batting cages. How much did you improve? How do you feel? How well did you sleep that night?
Try to make this "thing" not connected with work — just this once. Here are a few ideas for going big.
1. Declutter your life
While some people are born minimalists, a lot of us have a hard time letting go. However, when you let go, you can reduce stress, increase your productivity, and potentially improve relationships.
You don't need to overwhelm yourself. Just set aside the time to clean out and organize a specific area. For example, on a Friday afternoon focus on your office, and on Saturday move over to your kitchen. Whatever you no longer need or make you happy, donate, or toss.
Try to understand your relationship to clutter, and recognize the mad rush of excitement you get when you clear it all out. That mad rush is your signal that you needed relief from the mess.
2. Evaluate relationships.
Another part of decluttering is removing toxic people from your life. But, you may also want to commit to a new relationship or reconnect with someone. For instance, you could attend a networking event (on a vid, or wherever) or shoot a text to a long-lost friend.
3. Consider adoption or fostering
If you have the resources and have the willingness, adopt or foster a pet or help a child learn a new skill. Besides being a rewarding experience, fostering an animal is another chance for you to develop new skills for yourself. You can even pass along the skills and knowledge you already possess, like teaching a dog a new trick of helping a child improve in a subject matter.
You don't necessarily have to move across the country or overseas. However, that type of moving would really knock you out of your comfort zone. Even just moving to a new community allows you to meet new people and discover new areas that you were never familiar with.
Other areas to move would be: move to a new gym, a new hiking trail, a new type of movie, a new genre of books, a new set of friends for a while. Think something new. Move yourself and your thoughts in a new way — it doesn't have to be a change of location.
5. Pursue your dreams and passions
Finally, commit to a big goal. If that goal is starting your own business, then work on it as a side hustle. As you grow a new business, you can leave your job and venture out on your own. Your dreams and passions don't have to be gigantic right now. But make a plan to move forward on one thing you've had in your mind for a while, that you'd like to do or become.
A new business is certainly not for the faint of heart, but any new or frightening challenge that will force you to think, do something new — or be something new — can help you evolve.
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