Twenty-five habits that will change your lifeby Nancy Mann Jackson
Talking about change is easy, but taking control of your life and actually making monumental changes often seems too daunting to try. However, improving your life and yourself doesn't have to involve earth-shattering transformations; by making simple, incremental changes, you can gradually create a better, more fulfilling life for yourself.
Your Spiritual Life
1. Spend time with God daily. Rise earlier each morning, go to bed a little later, or skip a mindless activity you need to let go of. Spend the extra time in Bible reading and prayer. Making quiet time a daily habit will bless your life.
2. Make gratitude a way of life. Start a "gratitude journal," every day listing four or five specific things for which you're thankful. Don't repeat the same things over and over; be constantly on the lookout for new blessings for which to give thanks. Making gratitude a way of life will open your eyes to numerous blessings and refresh your attitude.
3. Talk about your faith. Faith is a personal thing for most people, but that doesn't mean it has to be private. If you're not accustomed to sharing your faith with others or talking openly about Christ, make a commitment to start talking. Look for opportunities to mention your faith in everyday conversation by offering to pray for a friend who's hurting or giving God credit for His work in your life. If your mentions of faith are genuine, you'll not only become more assured of God's role in your life, but you'll make a positive impact on those around you naturally.
Your Social Life
4. Get involved in your community. Join a tennis league or book club, take cooking classes, or volunteer at a local soup kitchen. When you get involved in activities that excite you, you're bound to meet others with similar interests.
5. Meet or get to know one new person every few weeks. Whether you meet someone in your neighborhood coffee shop, at your church, or on the Internet, widening your circle of acquaintances is always a good idea. Say "yes" to that lunch date, ask someone to join you for dinner or coffee, or simply call someone who seems to need a friend. Become genuinely interested in others, and you're sure to learn something new or make a treasured friend.
6. Read a book every month (or two). The more you read, the more you learn. If you make reading a habit, not only will you expand your horizons, enjoy yourself, and learn new things, but you'll also become a more interesting person.
7. Change the channel. If you're a TV watcher, don't spend all your time watching reality shows. Take advantage of the educational programming available on The History Channel, A&E, or your local public TV station. There are numerous shows that offer entertainment as well as education. Make it a goal to swap one mindless program each week for a more mind-enhancing alternative.
8. Pull the plug. Instead of spending all your evenings in front of the television, try limiting TV watching to one or two nights per week, and fill your time with other pursuits that won't stifle your creativity and brain power. Take a walk, read a newspaper, or engage in meaningful conversation with a friend or family member. You may be surprised how many more meaningful endeavors you can find to replace your couch time.
Your Physical Life
9. Sleep better. If you have trouble sleeping, try going to sleep at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning. If it's difficult for you to fall asleep, try listening to music or taking a hot bath before going to bed.
10. Eat healthy snacks. Avoid buying junk food by shopping the perimeter of the grocery store where there are fewer processed or fatty foods. Rather than grabbing something from the vending machine when you get hungry at work, bring carrot sticks or fruits from home.
11. Get physical every day. Exercising at the gym or taking a walk around your neighborhood or a nearby park are excellent habits. But, even if you don't exercise regularly, incorporate activity into each day. For instance, take the stairs rather than the elevator; look for faraway parking spots at the grocery store or mall; do your own yard work; and walk to the store or other errands when you can.
12. Drink water. Improve your health by drinking 48 to 64 ounces of water each day. If you prefer soft drinks or tea, start with water each morning and don't allow yourself to have the other drinks until you've already had several glasses of water.
13. Recycle. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average U.S. citizen produced 4.4 pounds of waste per day during 2000. This is the equivalent of more than 1,600 pounds of trash per year per person, or more than 220 tons of waste being generated each year. Eventually, the trash piles up, and the earth suffers the consequences. Do your part to improve the environment. Start with newspapers or aluminum cans and work up to recycling glass and plastic.
14. Give away your stuff. When you're ready to get rid of old computers, cell phones, electronics, clothes, and shoes, donate them to nonprofits or other community organizations. Not only will you lessen the landfill load, you'll also be meeting a need.
15. Screen your cleaning products. Many of the typical products you're accustomed to using are made with harmful chemicals that can actually damage the environment and your respiratory system. Replace chemical-ridden cleaners with natural-cleaning products, and you'll be able to clean and breathe at the same time.
16. Eliminate clutter. Open the mail over the garbage can or recycling bin and throw out junk mail immediately. Evaluate the number of magazines you receive but never have time to read, and consider rotating subscriptions. Group frequently used papers, such as phone lists and take-out menus, in one three-ring binder, suggests the National Association of Professional Organizers.
17. Get tech savvy. Consider scanning papers you want to keep — including everything from household records to old college papers — and keep them on a disk or CD, freeing yourself to toss out unnecessary papers.
18. Clean as you go. In the kitchen for example, make a habit of washing each dish (or putting it in the dishwasher) as you dirty it. Cleaning in small increments is more manageable than facing an entire week's worth of dirty dishes all at once.
19. Clip coupons — and use them. Watch for these money-savers on basic food and other household items. If you don't take a daily newspaper, it can be worth buying a Sunday paper just for the coupons. Keep them in your wallet or in your car, so you're sure to have them the next time you go to the store. A few cents here and there add up to significant savings over time.
20. Live on a budget. According to Dave Ramsey, financial guru and author of Financial Peace and other books, 90 percent of individuals' financial problems are solved when they create a budget and stick to it. Ramsey says your budget's first line item should be giving, followed by savings. Intentionally managing your money can reduce your stress level and expand your options for the future.
21. Give. Give. Give. Giving away money may not seem like a wise financial tip, but being generous with your money can actually be fulfilling. Try increasing the amount of money you give to your church, or choose a worthy cause to support on a regular basis. When you commit a portion of your income to help others, your financial concerns will dim in comparison to their needs.
Your Professional Life
22. Sit up straight. If you sit for long periods at work, correct posture can prevent back pain, unnecessary strain on your body, and increase your productivity. According to Laura Inverarity, physical therapist and writer for the "Physical Therapy" section on About.com, start by sitting in your chair and moving your hips back as far as you can until they are against the back of the chair. Next, adjust the seat height until your feet are flat on the floor, making sure your hips are at the same height or slightly higher than your knees. Remove all objects from your back pockets, and adjust the backrest height so that it is comfortably resting in the curve of your lower back.
23. Take a break. You'll actually be more productive at work if you allow yourself to take occasional breathers. Break up your work into segments and reward yourself with a five- or 10-minute break when you complete a project or a portion of a project. Grab a cup of coffee or a drink of water, step outside for a breath of fresh air, or allow yourself a few minutes to simply daydream or chat with a co-worker about something other than work (but don't get carried away!).
24. Take initiative. Minimize boredom and build your own confidence by taking the initiative to make a difference in your workplace. Find a new challenge or undertaking to tackle that interests you and can benefit others or your organization. Volunteer to take on the project no one else wants; organize a company-wide charity drive or event; or get to work 30 minutes early to hold a Bible study with interested co-workers.
25. Take vacations. Even if you don't take an actual trip, use your vacation days and take some time away from work for an extended period of time (at least three to four days) at least once a year. Getting away helps you release stress, unwind, and stimulate creativity for a better job performance.
By practicing these habits over time, you can improve your life in big ways. It's been said that if you practice something every day for two weeks, it becomes a habit, and each new habit will contribute to your new life — one that's healthier, happier, and more fulfilled. Even if you already practice some of these suggestions, keep in mind that those areas still have room for sprucing up.