Do you feel like your life is on autopilot? Have your days spread into years and you wake up feeling like you’re a mouse on a wheel? Maybe you just feel like something is missing and you need to change your life.
You fondly remember when you were in college or high school with such fabulous plans for your future. You look around wondering, “What happened?” It’s not that you don’t love your partner, your kids, or your life overall, but it feels too repetitive. You’re feeling restless and bored. You want to make some changes in your life – things that will improve it, add something new or different, and provide you more time for fun things with less stress.
You are not alone. According to the Harris Poll for 2017, only 33% of Americans are happy, yet 73% are optimistic in general. That does seem par for America. We are always striving for a better life which leaves less room to be happy in the now. Yet, because we believe it is possible to achieve better, we are optimistic.
Making changes in our life is not easy. It can be scary, uncertain, and uncomfortable. We have been in a certain routine for years and our brains have gotten far too comfortable with it. Yet, we want something different. Maybe we even need something different, because things in life aren’t working in a manner that furthers our success. You might be thinking that change takes a long time to implement, but that’s not always the case.
In this article, we will discuss 7 easy ways to change your life in one month. First, let’s look at a couple other facts and factors in regards to change.
The steps toward change
Daydreaming about what life would be like “if” is different than deciding and committing to change. Every New Year’s Eve, millions of people make “New Year’s Resolutions” toward changing something or a few things in their life for that year. This can grow into a great tradition. If nothing else, it keeps one reviewing what is internally important to them. On the flipside, people do not usually follow through on those resolutions throughout the year. As a matter of fact, they may never follow through or it may take a few more years before they get serious about their goals. Why is that?
Dr. John Norcross Ph. D., an internationally known expert on behavioral changes and author of several publications and books, has committed 30 years of research toward this subject about change.
Dr. Norcross states that there are five stages of making changes:
- Precontemplation: You are being pressured to change but are either unaware or resistant.
- Contemplation: Starting to think about change but still not quite feeling it or are not confident. Norcross recommends taking this time to review the pros and cons of changing. Maybe start to get items in order to make the change.
- Preparation: Intend to start making changes soon. You start planning your schedules around making the change, gathering support from friends or family, and setting dates and goals.
- Action: This is when you actually take action in making the change. Norcross warns that now is when your inner critical voice is going to retaliate, argue against you, and prey on your every weakness to get things “back to normal” or to what is comfortable. Make sure you have a strong support system, an outlet for increased stress, and a way to deal with the fear and anxiety.
- Maintenance: Creating a plan to maintain progress, including learning and implementing skills to combat your inner voice, allowing a support group to help you and keep you focused on your goal.
How habits are formed
We all have habits. Getting up in the morning and going straight to the coffeepot is a habit. Driving the route you take to work is a habit. Biting your lip when you are focused is a habit.
We all have small and big habits we do every day. Some we are conscious of, some, not so much. Many were created based on a need or strong want. Perhaps you really want coffee in the morning (arguably, need); clearly, you need to be clean for work, and you probably need to drive to work. Maybe you feel nervous so you bite your lip as a self-defensive need.
How or when we developed these habits, we probably don’t even think about. Maybe we should. Maybe realizing how habits developed can help us understand how to create new ones or rid ourselves of bad ones.
The formation of habits can be broken down into 3 steps.
- The trigger: Something acts as a trigger for you to take some sort of action. Your alarm clock going off is a trigger.
- The action: This is the action you actually take. Your alarm triggered the action to get out of bed.
- The reward: This is where your brain receives some sort of reward for taking action. You got out of bed so you could arrive to work on time. The reward was not losing your job and having the ability to bring home a paycheck for you and your family.
Charles Duhigg, an expert in behavioral psychology and author, suggests that one of the main reasons people fail at creating a new habit is because they don’t understand how a habit is formed; more importantly, they don’t reward themselves. Our worst habits are formed quickly by chemical releases in the brain. Smoking, drinking, gambling, and drug abuse are all easily formed because our brain lights up with a swell of dopamine and other hormones.
Most habits don’t create that rush immediately. The rewarding sensations require more long-term, consistent action, and the response doesn’t necessarily have the same potency. For example, when you want to start exercising, you don’t feel the dopamine release until you work out for a certain amount of time and at a certain level of performance. With exercise, you are physiologically attempting to re-create the sensation of a dopamine rush until you reach that peak of performance.
Ironically, studies have shown that eating a small piece of chocolate after a workout will create the same “rush” as what is created by the workout itself when you hit that peak of performance.
It is that reward or “feel good” sensation that keep people motivated. It is important when changing a habit or creating a new one that you reward yourself immediately. This allows your brain to equate feeling good with the new activity. Such a reward could be:
- The chocolate, as mentioned above
- Allowing yourself 15-20 minutes of a hobby that brings you great joy
- Taking 15 minutes to listen to some really good music and dancing
Easy ways to change your life
Big rewards do not require big steps. There are many different little and easy things you can do that change your life.
1. Keep a gratitude or happiness journal.
Take 10 minutes out of a day to write at least three things you are grateful for or three funny things that happened that day. Studies have shown that in as little as one week, participants were less depressed, and the positive effects lasted for months.
We can’t think of a better way to change your life than increase positive thinking through gratitude.
2. Decrease screen attention.
Spend less time looking at your phone, computer, or laptop. Whether it is to scroll through social media, check your email, or text, we have become too accustomed to that instant gratification. It is reducing our productivity, attention span, and sleep. Maybe read a book, magazine, or newspaper instead. Make sure to turn off any screens 30 minutes before bed to ensure you are getting good sleep as well.
3. Get up early and start your day.
It has been shown that the most successful people get up by 5 a.m. That is not always possible for everyone, but striving to get up early and starting your day helps you stay focused and on schedule.
Getting up an hour before your family may give you time for yourself that you desperately need. Peace and quiet can be a great stress reducer, allowing you to perform better the rest of the day. This single decision can change your life.
4. Get some physical activity.
Not everyone likes to exercise, but our body and brain like exercise. Taking a 20-minute walk is good for your cardiovascular system, but it also helps to clear your head and de-stress. Breathing fresh air and being in the sunshine can brighten your mood and help you see things more positively. On the contrary, sitting for over eight hours a day only breeds heart disease, obesity, tiredness, muscle strain, and weakness.
5. Create a system.
A system is composed of daily routines and goals. The goals should be both short- and long-term. It helps to build routines that focus on what is important to you, rather than just what is urgent. The things you do in your day(s) should lead you to your goals to change your life.
Structure the time you get up, the time you work, the time you go to bed, and the other time you have control over in your day. Do your best to stick to it but be prepared to amend it as needed. This is a way of taking control over your life rather than having your days flow down the river with nothing to remember for it.
6. Schedule your tasks.
Make a list every morning or the night before of things that must get done. This allows you to focus and gives a sense of urgency to what you need to do in your day.
We have a lot of distractions in our day and things get lost in the shuffle. By making a checklist of what MUST be done that day and what can be ignored until later, you can better keep your attention and complete projects.
As adults, we tend to focus only on our responsibilities, and everything seems urgent or rushed. Take a breath. Give yourself time to de-stress through playful activity – whether that is playing a group sport, joining a club, doing a family fun outing, or gaming.
It is essential to stay tuned to your child side, because it is our child side that keeps us aware of life, the world, and others. If you change your life in this way, it affords you curiosity and the capability to learn new things. This also allows us to socialize and bond with others. Best of all, it helps us to smile and laugh.
Final Thoughts on Ways to Change Your Life in One Month
Life is short. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the rut of day-in, day-out routines without ensuring you are getting something more out of it. Life will go on either way. Ninety percent of what we do isn’t remembered tomorrow. Make the other 10% count. Try these 7 easy ways to change your life and see what your tomorrow brings.