By Dawna Stone
Senior Vice President
Few would argue that striving to continually improve oneself is a top priority. However, finding the time to focus on personal development is often difficult. This bold idea of prioritizing self-care may seem intimidating and time consuming, but it is actually very easy and doable.
Fortunately, a hectic schedule does not have to deter you from achieving more success. Studies show that even small changes can result in considerable change. In fact, a popular theory called the butterfly effect suggests a positive domino or ripple effect coming 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 Australian politician Kevin Michel. Just imagine how these 12 simple-to-follow actions, which take less than 10 minutes each, can have a significant impact on your life!
1. Get outdoors
A new Stanford-led study suggests that walking in nature helps people lower their risk of depression. As over 50% of the population now reside in urban areas, and 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 20% higher risk of anxiety compared, though the reason for urbanization’s association with increased levels of depression and other mental illnesses is still unclear. However, when participants took 90-minute walking breaks in a natural area, 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 with it (even for just a short time) can help us feel more connected to reality, promote inner peace, and help us take back control of our lives. Try a short digital detox—a weekend without texting, surfing the web or watching videos, or 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 proved how meditation helps reduce stress while subsequently lowering the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. It even helps reduce anxiety, including job-related anxiety, especially through yoga as it promotes both meditation and physical activity.
Set aside 5 – 10 minutes a day for a meditation practice. The benefits will far outweigh the time and effort and can drastically improve your well-being and overall emotional health.
4. Read a book
In today’s quick-paced lifestyle, people are always on the go and rely on everything digital, 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 found reading for as little as six minutes is enough to reduce stress by as much as 68%. Cognitive neurophychologist 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%) – which are all great and effective on their own.
5. Find support
Spend time with people who support your goal. Call or email one person each day who can provide you 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, among other goals.
By consciously planning and investing in your life, and moving towards goals you set for yourself and your future, soon you’ll 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, boosting memory, and in some cases even help reducing symptoms among cancer patients and improving a person’s health after a cardiac event such as a heart attack. 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 often don’t even realize they have plenty of negative self-talk in their heads, especially if it comes automatically and without filter. By becoming more conscious with how you think, you can control how you view things and events in your life, and ultimately solve issues faced. Studies also suggest that more positive, 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 had a groundbreaking 1985 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
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, seeing what it means to you and how it affects your daily life. The human mind has an average of 50,000 thoughts a day, and in a paper titled “The lost art of introspection: Why you must master yourself” it was revealed that about half of that falls under negative self-talk; additionally, 90% of those thoughts are repeated ones 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 reveal how mental imagery can positively (or negatively) impact the mind. Even today’s top celebrities and businesspersons 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 for a one-time thing – 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!
Senior Vice President
Dawna Stone is the author of seven books, a business owner, certified health coach, motivational speaker, and creator of the 5-Day Detox and the 14-Day Clean-Eating Program. Dawna appears regularly on local and national television. She has appeared on the Today show, Martha, MSNBC, HSN, and morning news programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox. Dawna is a highly sought-after speaker and has done speaking engagements for Chobani, Disney, American Heart Association, Mass Mutual, Wharton Business School, Women’s Entertainment Television, PGA Tour, Super Bowl Leadership Forum, Susan G. Komen, and many more.