I love how end-of-year reflections cause us to think about making self-improvement. However, I do not believe that self-improvement automatically occurs at the start of a new year. Instead, I believe that it occurs after we have maintained positive habits throughout the year.
For the New Year, I’ll like to share a few positive habits that you might find helpful:
- Keep a gratitude journal: In July this year, I signed up for The Gratitude Challenge organized by Kevin Monroe. This was a 10-day challenge with prompts for each day to spark gratitude. I journaled about each day of the challenge. After this activity, I learned the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal—a whole new level of calmness and clarity. I recommend keeping a gratitude journal because it forces us to pay attention to the things we tend to take for granted. Whether you prefer a physical journal or a digital one, decide to use it solely for gratitude journaling. Also, find prompts or questions to kickstart your thinking such as, “three things that made you smile today,” or “five people who helped you through a difficult time at work,” or “what you like about the city you live in.”
Tip: Instead of writing a superficial list of things/people you’re grateful for, share your thoughts, and get personal by using more details. The details make a better story and give you a greater sense of gratitude.
- Read books: Some of the most successful people in the world are people who share a habit of reading books. So it’s a common practice each year to see people list all the books they plan to read. I tried that one year, and when I didn’t end up anywhere close to the number of books I set out to read, I felt terrible. And of course, newer books got released within that year, and I found myself reading outside that list.
Tip: Shift your focus from completing a specific number of books in the New Year. Instead, focus on the value you’ll like to receive from reading any book. Think of subjects or genres that you’ll love to learn about. Find books in those categories, set aside some minutes to an hour per day for reading, and commit to finishing each book.
- Keep an active lifestyle: There are many benefits to exercising—stimulates brain functions, strengthens muscular capacities, reduces health risks, improves mental health, and controls weight gain. However, when we talk of exercise, most people think of the gym. Going to the gym is excellent for those who can, but it isn’t the only way to keep an active lifestyle. For example, I prefer dancing or hiking over weightlifting. I recently signed up for a dance workout class, where we dance to mostly upbeat music—the music and the dance moves make it fun for me. There are also small lifestyle changes that you can make. These include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking your car further away for a longer walk, or doing walking meetings instead of sit-down meetings.
Tip: Do what you’re comfortable with and make it fun.
- Eat a healthy breakfast: This is quite difficult for many people, especially if you have to rush off to work every day. However, science teaches us that eating breakfast helps us to stay focused throughout the day. Breakfast provides higher energy levels, better memory and concentration, lower levels of bad “LDL” cholesterol, and better overall health. The main components of a healthy breakfast include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. For a chance to start each day on a positive note, eat a healthy breakfast!
Tip: Plan ahead. Prepare your breakfast the night before, pack it up, and grab it the morning.
- Develop deeper relationships: Throughout the year, you may make new connections at work, at a conference or networking event, or elsewhere. Take inventory of those connections to see which ones you will like to develop deeper relationships with and understand why you are doing that. Work on those relationships by following up on your initial meeting, finding common interests, and starting conversations with them. Also, create time to talk or meet with them. For professional connections, developing deeper relationships could take the form of mentor-mentee or peer-to-peer coaching, coffee/lunch dates, regular check-ins, or asking for advice.
Tip: Be a positive contributor to those relationships.
- Volunteer: A study has shown that volunteering helps to boost our mental and physical health. Through volunteering activities, we can empower people, make meaningful connections, gain new perspectives, and make a positive impact on society. Whether you’re volunteering abroad or in your local community, volunteering will teach you new skills (particularly soft skills). It will also give you a better sense of purpose.
Tip: Volunteer for a cause that you are passionate about. You will find yourself putting in more work and making a more significant impact.
- Take care of yourself: Make an effort to keep a healthy balance between work and your personal life. Prioritize your overall health–get enough rest, take breaks, get routine health checkups, drink lots of water, and do activities you enjoy doing.
Here’s to a happy and more rewarding New Year!