6 Simple Changes That Made Me a Happier Person

Since the start of this year, I’ve focused less on resolutions and more on resolving to do and be better in general. Goals are great, but habits are what bring about real change. After all, goals are successfully attained as the result of habituated actions that help you reach them. I decided to focus more on changing certain habits and less on measurable goals, to see what happened. The result? An overall happier me. Here are six simple changes I made to my mentality, my routine, or my daily habits that have truly changed me for the better.

 

Going to bed at a set time & waking up with positive intentions

I am a natural night-owl, which usually makes for rough mornings. It’s especially hard for me to turn in at a decent hour on days where I feel like my whole day has been comprised of work and errands. I’d rather stay up to get in some much-needed “me” time. However, the gains don’t compensate for the losses I take the next day — in mood, energy level, or productivity. As an adult, it’s seems counterintuitive to give yourself a bedtime, but it’s worked wonders for me.

Going hand-in-hand with a decent bedtime, is getting up on the right side of the bed each morning. I do my best to wake up with positive intentions for the day, rather than grumble about work, the weather, wanting to sleep in, or any other negativity that may come all too easily when my soft sheets are begging me to stay. I say intentions, because life is not perfect and some days will go wrong, perkiness be damned. But after my dad had a very serious health scare last year, I realized that every day is not promised and I can control how I approach each morning.

 

Viewing exercise as a choice, not a chore

Photo courtesy of Nike Women

How many times have you caught yourself saying, “I have to work out” when talking about exercise? Do you have to? Will you be penalized if you don’t? It seems silly to say “I get to work out,” but after I fractured my ankle two summers ago and was casted for three months, I realized what a privilege it is to have a fully functioning body.

Up until then, I had mostly viewed exercise at the very least, as a chore, and at the worst — as a punishment. Whether it was because I had only clocked in a couple sessions that week or had eaten something unhealthy, exercise was my recompense. If you know me, this may come as a surprise since I’m an avid exerciser. What a way to live, huh?! It’s like finding out an artist feels forced to pick up a paintbrush.

Being injured helped me realize that exercise is a choice and it’s my responsibility to view this positive choice in the positive light that it deserves — as a way to take care of myself, as an appreciation of my miraculous working body, and as a pathway to endorphins. It’s helped me become more committed to my workouts, even on days when they may not conveniently fit into my schedule.

 

Establishing social media boundaries

Social media is a tool that connects people all over the world. It helps businesses thrive, is a platform for people to make money, and provides inspiration in every category from interior design to the culinary arts.

But as everyone knows, there’s also a dark side to social media — comparison, online bullying, jealousy, and loss of productivity are just a few black holes of social media.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have found myself trapped in several of these black holes, whether it’s an absent-minded time suck or comparing my body to a model’s photoshopped perfection. In order to combat these pitfalls, I started to establish social media boundaries.

First, I unfollowed most bloggers, celebrities, and other people whose job it is to make their social media an effervescent highlight reel. The lives portrayed on social media by many who are getting paid to be influencers don’t depict all the realities of human life, and while there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s best for me to not subject myself to media masquerades on a daily basis. Second, I implemented “designated Instagram time” throughout my day. I try to stick to only checking my social media platforms at work in the morning, during my lunch break, and when I get home from work. It helps me be more in the moment, to not get distracted from work, and to still keep up with my Instagram fam in a way that feels healthy. Lastly, I periodically go on “fasts.” While the nature of my job makes it impossible to stay off of social media completely, I will spend a few weeks occasionally foregoing my personal accounts so that I can stay off the grid for awhile and just be me, without the hashtags.

What works for me may not be what works for you. Maybe you eat, live, sleep, and breathe social media without a problem or maybe you could care less about posting. The undeniable fact is that we live in a digital age inundated by Tweets, status updates, and photo sharing. I want to carve out my corner of the digital space, while also keeping my feet on solid (real world) ground, and this is how I accomplish that.

 

Swapping the T.V. remote for a book

Growing up, I was the child under the covers with a flashlight reading into the night well past my bedtime. As a teenager, I never much minded summer reading for school and going to the library felt a little like Disney World. And then dial-up internet went obsolete and wifi happened. And then Netflix happened. And then Hulu happened. And then On Demand happened. And you know what? It became a lot less effort to watch anything I wanted at the tips of my fingers than to delve into a book.

Even though I once considered myself a bookworm, I had turned into a couch potato. It’s not to say that I didn’t read, because I did. But the amount of hours I spent bingeing a new series far outnumbered the amount of pages I was consuming — and it bothered me.

I told myself that I would read at least one book per month. Reading during my lunch hour and at least an hour before bed each night has helped me surpass this quota, and has also rekindled my love for the world that the written word opens up.

“The book is always better” because your imagination fills in all the holes a movie or T.V. show typically would for you. My imagination is my happy place and it’s fun to be a resident of it again.

 

Meal prepping every Sunday

Photo courtesy of Minimalist Baker

If you ask me on a Sunday if I like meal prepping, the answer is, “Not really.” If you ask me Monday-Saturday if I like meal prepping, the answer is a resounding, “YAS!”

Meal prepping requires just that — preparation. Researching recipes, making a list of ingredients, and grocery shopping all have to happen before you even make the meal. All these things considered, meal prep takes up a valuable 4-5 hours of my weekend. But, I’m personally willing to sacrifice my Sunday evenings for a list of benefits that include:

  • Spending quality time with my husband
  • Doing something that doesn’t involve a screen
  • Having healthy meals throughout the week
  • Saving money by not going out to eat for lunch during the work week
  • Not having to worry about “what’s for dinner” after a long day’s work

Meal prepping essentially gives me time back during the work week when I need it most and clears my schedule for other things like workouts, down time, or time with friends.

 

Saying “yes” when it counts, and “no” when it matters

I think the most valuable things you can give someone are your time and your word. If somebody asks for a favor, I rarely say no. While an admirable trait, it’s something that has caused me to feel overwhelmed on many occasions. I don’t like disappointing people and I tend to put a lot on my plate even when I know I should be delegating responsibilities. Additionally, as an introvert, I also feel a lot of pressure to speak up in meetings, go to happy hour after work when I’d rather go home, or fear I’m “wasting” my Saturday night in PJs when I should be out having fun.

I’ve been learning to say “yes” when it counts and “no” when it matters.

What I mean by this is, you should agree to things if:

  1. Another person could benefit, without doing physical/emotional/mental harm to yourself
  2. You benefit from it — whether personally, professionally, spiritually, intellectually, mentally, etc.
  3. It will cause you to grow in some way
  4. It makes you feel good

You should reject things that:

  1. Make you feel used, unappreciated, or highly uncomfortable
  2. Cause you to feel emotional, physical, or mental distress
  3. Hinder you or stall your growth
  4. You don’t want to do (within reason)

Skipping out on a social event for some alone time is okay. Skipping out on a phone conversation with your brother because you’d rather catch up on Game of Thrones, is not. Speaking up in a meeting, while uncomfortable, is something that you should practice — especially if you have something to contribute. Saying “no” to a toxic friendship doesn’t make you a bad person, and saying “yes” to everything doesn’t necessarily make you a good one.

These six simple changes don’t require a drastic amount of time, money, or effort, but rather decisiveness, discipline, and practice. Feel free to share in the comments changes that you’ve made in your life that have transformed you for the better.

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