We all want to do more and be better, I get that. But I, for one, am super busy. College, work, social life… I wish I had the time/energy/money required to quit, travel the world, eat exotic new foods, and walk away with a new lease on life. But sadly, I don’t – and I doubt you do, either. So what’s a girl to do? How do you make your life better in little ways?
I’ll be honest with you – you’re not going to magically become a better person by doing anything for five minutes. Anyone who tells you different is probably trying to sell you something. But sometimes little habits can make a big difference. As the new school year starts, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about those little habits, so I thought I’d share a few big-impact ones with you guys.
5 Tiny Habits That Will Change Your Life
Give compliments freely
And by that, I mean give a very specific kind of compliment.
A few months ago, I tried to do a seven day challenge of complimenting a random stranger every day. I thought it would make a cool blog post. I thought I’d have awesome, heartfelt interactions with people. Maybe I’d make a new friend. Here’s what happened: I’d tell a random girl on campus that I liked her random article of clothing every day. She say “Aw, thanks!” We would go our separate ways.
I might have made that girl’s day, but I felt shallow as heck.
That botched challenge made me realize just how often I default to shallow compliments. There’s nothing wrong with telling my friend purple is a great color on her. But I think it’s equally important to remind her that I’m impressed with her drive, passion, and sense of humor. That’s what makes complimenting strangers so hard. I don’t know what makes them great.
When we remind the people around us what makes them awesome, we remind ourselves, too. It makes me feel really lucky. (And I suspect it brightens their days.)
Know The Difference Between Good and Bad Stress
Stress is the worst, but without it, where would we be? On the couch, in our jammies, watching Netflix. Stress and anxiety are unpleasant, but they motivate us to actually
get shit done do things.
And no, not all stress is good. I could try to list all possible examples, but it would take a while. I think your best bet is to learn to tell the difference.
Now, I’m an anxious person, so I know how hard it is to be objective, but give it a shot. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask “Can I control this?” If the answer is no, redirect your attention however you need to. If the answer is yes, ask “How?” and make at least one small step. That feeling of progress will help you manage your stress.
Sometimes you’ll be worried about a whole slew of things, some of which you can control, and some of which you can’t. Learning to separate the two will make your stress a lot more manageable.
Say “Thank You” Instead of “I’m Sorry, I’m Sorry, I’m Sorry”
That aforementioned anxiety tends to include me apologizing – a lot. Thing is, the apologies are often a lot more about me than they are about the person I’m apologizing to. A steady mantra of “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” shows how I feel.
When I apologize once, I’m acknowledging a mistake. When I apologize over and over, I’m expecting my friend to recognize my feelings. I act like telling them “I feel bad!” will make them feel better. But the people in my life don’t want me to feel bad – they probably care more about their own feelings at that point (and rightfully so). Instead of apologizing for being late four or five times, I’ll say “Sorry for being late – and thanks for waiting, I appreciate it.”
It’s easy. It’s simple. And it works.
Surround Yourself With Things You Like
This one’s kind of materialistic, but bear with me. I can feel all you minimalists cringing, but guess what? You surrounded yourself with simplicity, which you like. You’re already there.
You don’t have to buy 6,500 thread count sheets and mountains of pizza to make this one a reality. Just start paying attention to the things that make you feel good.
For example – I love well-lit rooms and fresh air. So when I study, I like to be near a window. Actually taking the half-dozen steps to get closer to that window makes a measurable difference in how happy I am. Find those little things for you, and chase them. I promise it’s worth it.
Know Your Flaws
You’re not going to be a better person until you figure out what’s holding you back. It’s easy to say that you’re going to get better at something you’re only okay at. If you only sometimes rinse your dishes right after using them, it’s not going to be too hard to rinse them every time. But if you tend to leave dishes in the sink for a week, well, that’s a different story.
I’m very much a “pretend your problems don’t exist” person. (It’s one of my flaws.) But you’re never going to be a better person until you improve on the things you’re actually bad at, and knowing those weaknesses is the first step.
Confronting your flaws can be painful. I want my flaws to be cute, quirky ones like “laughs too loud” or “is 5 minutes late all the time.” I want flaws that don’t actually hurt me or the people around me. But honestly? I’m not the likable main character in a movie, I’m a real person with actual weaknesses, and they’re going to keep messing up my life until I own up to them and fix them.
And that’s true for you, too.
But there’s good news
And the good news is that we’ve got this. Seriously. You know that powerful, awesome feeling you sometimes get? When you feel good about yourself and your life? Some people feel like that almost all the time. I’m not one of them yet – and since you’re here, I’m guessing you’re not either. But we can get there.
Five little simple habits won’t make you happy forever, won’t solve all your problems, won’t fix all your flaws. But they’re a start. Now we just have to keep that momentum going.