For many, striving to continually improve oneself is a top priority. Unfortunately, finding the time to focus on personal development can be difficult, with the idea of prioritizing self-care intimidating and time-consuming. However, a hectic schedule does not have to deter you from achieving more success. It’s actually very easy and doable. Studies show that even small actions can result in considerable change. In fact, a popular theory called the butterfly effect suggests that a domino- or ripple effect comes from just one small change.
“Small shifts in your thinking and small changes in your energy can lead to massive alterations of your end result,” says a quote widely accredited to author Kevin L. Michel. With that in mind, the 12 simple-to-follow actions below—which take less than 10 minutes each—can have a significant impact on your life!
1. Get Outdoors
A recent Stanford University study suggests that walking in nature helps people lower their risk of depression. As over 50% of the population now resides in urban areas, and that number is projected to rise to 70% by 2050, it is becoming more important to reconnect with nature.
City dwellers have a 40% higher risk of mood disorders and a 20% higher risk of anxiety. However, when participants took 90-minute walking breaks in nature, researchers found positive changes in the brain compared to participants who took the same amount of time in a high-traffic urban setting.
2. Shut Down
Smartphone addiction negatively affects both our physical and mental health. Use of technology and our dependency on it has exploded. Nancy Colier, author of The Power of Off believes that the technology boom has caused an epidemic of unconsciousness and is keeping us from doing what is most important. She states, “We are spending far too much time doing things that don’t really matter to us.” Colier noted most people check their digital devices by as much as 150 times a day—that’s once every six minutes. Not shockingly, the average person spends more time on their smartphones than they do sleeping.
Shutting down the constant noise technology brings (even if it’s for just a short time) can help us feel more connected to reality, promote inner peace and help us take control of our lives. Try a short digital detox—a weekend without texting, surfing the web or watching videos. Or try a week of technology-free evenings. Shutting down can provide some much needed mental clarity.
Meditation can improve focus, enhance creativity, reduce stress and promote emotional health, among a host of other benefits. Several studies have shown how meditation helps reduce stress while subsequently lowering the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. It even helps reduce anxiety, including job-related anxiety. This is especially true of yoga, as it promotes both meditation and physical activity.
Set aside five to ten minutes a day for meditation practice. The benefits will far outweigh the time and effort, and it can drastically improve your well-being and overall emotional health.
4. Read a Book
In today’s fast-paced life, people are always on the go and rely on everything in digital form, including books. As such, access to books is much easier – titles you have a hard time finding in person may have digital copies available for sale.
Studies have found that reading for as little as six minutes is enough to reduce stress by as much as 68%. Cognitive neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis, who conducted a study with Mindlab International at the University of Sussex, found that reading to reduce stress beats listening to music (61%), having a cup of tea or coffee (54%), and even taking a walk (42%).
5. Find Support
Spend time with people who support your goal. Call or email one person each day who can provide you with emotional or career support. Simply building your network can help catapult your business or career, and can have immense benefits over time.
6. Set Daily Priorities
Setting goals for your day will help you do what matters most and allow you to stay focused on your priorities. If you do not yet have a system in place, now is a great time to do so. Start by organizing your life and prioritizing important, “deep” activities focused on health, learning, relationship, and even travel.
By consciously planning and investing in your life, and moving towards goals you set for yourself and your future, you’ll soon notice the progress and feel a sense of accomplishment.
7. Write in a Journal
Simply writing down what you are thankful for, your future goals, and your feelings can provide calmness and clarity, and even boost happiness. Today, more people are drawn to “bullet journaling,” which is an artistic way to organize thoughts and get things done.
Several studies already point to a number of benefits coming from expressive writing, including improving various mood disorders and boosting memory. This therapeutic way of putting pen to paper, whether on a blank notebook or a pre-formatted journal with writing exercises and templates, helps the mind release stress and fuel creativity.
8. Learn Something New
Continuous learning can boost your success and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. Try learning a new word or an interesting fact each day. Take up a new hobby or sport or simply read about a topic of interest.
If you want to dive deeper, try learning more about your current profession and its related businesses or disciplines. Read more and add to your vocabulary, as this helps you in expressing ideas and presenting them in a persuasive manner, especially if you are in a cutthroat industry where you can’t afford to be behind on the latest news and tech.
9. Be Positive
Positive thinking eases stress and can help improve your health. Many people don’t even realize they have plenty of negative self-talk in their heads, especially if it comes automatically and without a filter. By becoming more conscious about how you think, you can control how you view things and events in your life, and ultimately solve whatever issues you face. Studies also suggest that optimistic people also tend to live healthy lifestyles – they engage in more physical activity and follow a generally healthy diet, often avoiding vices like excessive alcohol or cigarettes.
“We know why optimists do better than pessimists,” says Psychologist Michael F. Scheier, who did groundbreaking research on the power of positive thinking. “Optimists are not simply being Pollyannas; they’re problem solvers who try to improve the situation.”
10. Watch an Uplifting Video or Listen to an Uplifting Podcast
A quick video or short podcast on a topic you’re passionate about can boost your mood and provide some needed inspiration. Most of these videos and audio are free or very cheap – they’re easy to access and you can listen to them on the go, such as on your way to work or during your breaks.
11. Do Some Self-Reflection
Take a moment to look inward and examine your thoughts and feelings. This can even go well with journaling or meditation. A self-reflection process allows you to examine your thoughts and feelings and how they affect your daily life. The human mind has an average of 50,000 thoughts a day. In a paper titled “The Lost Art of Introspection: Why You Must Master Yourself,” it was revealed that about half a person’s thoughts fall under negative self-talk. Additionally, 90% of those thoughts are repeated from days before.
12. Create a Vision Board
Visualizing your success has been proven to help you reach your goals. Spending just 10 minutes a week to add something to your vision board or to review it can help you achieve personal and/or career success. In fact, many studies show that mental imagery can positively (or negatively) impact the mind. Celebrities like Jim Carrey, Oprah Winfrey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lindsey Vonn, and Will Smith all professed their visualization tactics. Bestselling author and motivational speaker Jack Canfield suggests not just creating a vision board once, but to make it a habit by visualizing on a regular basis to help you attract your ideal life. “By adding a visualization practice to your daily routine, you will naturally become more motivated to reach your goals,” he said. “Post your affirmations, inspirational words, quotations, and thoughts… choose words and images that inspire you and make you feel good.”
Try a few or even all of these if you can, and see how your daily routine and life improves!