23 Self Improvement Exercises to Transform Your Life
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Have you ever heard the African proverb that says, “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside can do you no harm”?
If you can improve yourself to the point where your personal growth just continues to increase, you will be hard-pressed to find anything that can do you any harm.
Making small improvements on a regular basis may actually be better and more effective than trying to make a lot of big changes at once.
Small changes turn into habits while trying to make a large change could lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, and ultimately failure.
Books like The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy and The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson both emphasize how significant of an impact your daily choices and actions have on your life. The small, everyday decisions that you make will either lead you to your ultimate goal or begin to take you in the wrong direction.
You can also practice Kaizen (continuous self-improvement) to build good habits that will help you in the long run. In this approach, you are never finished improving, and you are always looking for areas in your life where you could be better or more efficient.
Daily self-improvement is all about your motivations and goals.
It boils down the choice to either live the best life that you can or just to float by under the radar.
Or to quote Shawshank Redemption (One of my favorite movies), it is the choice to, “get busy living, or get busy dying“.
This post will feature 23 self-improvement habits that feature those small incremental changes that will (in time) improve your life.
(Side note: One way to improve your life is to read and learn something new every day. A great tool to do this is to join over 1 million others and start your day with the latest news from Wall St. to Silicon Valley. This newsletter is a 5-minute read that's informative, witty and FREE!)
Some of these ideas are probably familiar. You may already be taking action on many of these daily self improvement habits. Some may be new.
Well, let's get to the daily self improvement habits. Below is a clickable table of contents if you want to see all the daily self-improvement ideas in a single glance.
What You Will Learn
- Practices That Make You Better Every Day
- Practices for the Body
- Practices for the Soul
- 15. Practice daily mindfulness.
- 16. Practice mindful listening.
- 17. Practice gratitude.
- 18. Recite positive affirmations.
- 19. Develop a mindful journaling habit.
- 20. Surround yourself with positive people.
- 21. Heal your negative self-talk.
- 22. Learn to forgive yourself and others.
- 23. Be giving and kind.
- Found this list of exercises for self-improvement helpful?
Practices That Make You Better Every Day
1. Keep a reading habit.
Reading will not only help you increase your knowledge base, but also expose you to new words constantly, which will keep your brain growing. Just like going for a run gives your heart and muscles some exercise, reading helps improve your memory function by giving your brain a proper workout.
Memory declines with age, and brain functions begin to fade. However, regular reading could help slow this process, keeping your mind sharp. Here are 200+ great self-help books that you can read to keep you on the path to self-improvement.
A good reading habit will help you reduce your daily stress, improve your memory, and even make you more creative. As it helps to ward off Alzheimer’s and dementia, reading will also keep your mind healthy.
Whether you can read during breaks at work, on your commute, or even to your child at night, add in as much reading to your day as possible.
2. Have a growth mindset.
People who have a fixed mindset believe that you are born with your talents, and no matter how much you practice or try, you can only reach a certain level of achievement.
However, with a growth mindset, you believe that you can always continue to improve yourself. Never stop learning and educating yourself. Having a growth mindset will let you develop your abilities and intelligence with effort, learning, and persistence.
3. Meditate regularly.
People have been meditating for thousands of years to combat stress and anxiety. Meditation, and especially mindfulness meditation, allows you to have peace and clarity in the present moment of awareness.
There are many different ways to meditate, but all of the techniques revolve around cultivating awareness and expanding your consciousness.
The purpose of meditation depends on who is meditating, but anyone who meditates on a regular basis will benefit from it in physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual ways.
It relieves stress and anxiety, decreases blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, helps the body use oxygen more efficiently, and improves sleep.
4. Align your priorities with your goals and values.
Your priorities are the things that are the most important and meaningful in your life at the present moment. If you want to improve yourself, you must make it something that you are not willing to compromise.
Examine your values and goals, and make sure you are doing what you can today to ultimately reach those goals. You won’t get anywhere without setting a goal and making sure that you have a plan in place.
5. Visualize your success.
When you think about a big goal you have or an accomplishment that you want to pursue, it is normal to consider the obstacles that you will have to face.
The problem is, that we tend to let these obstacles overtake our dreams, and it ends up preventing us from making any progress. But instead of creating barriers, envision victory.
Literally, visualize what it would feel like to achieve your goals. What would it look like, who would be around, and what implications would it have for your future? If you can see yourself obtaining your goal, it will be easier to work toward that goal.
6. Measure your improvement.
Measuring your progress is a vital part of achieving any goal. It can help you stay on track and keep you motivated to move forward, even when you touch on a rough spot.
Research has found that when a goal is coming from one's own motivations rather than being put forth by another person, people are more likely to keep the necessary drive to achieve their goals.
The reason for doing process analysis and consistently looking at your improvement is to improve your performance in meaningful ways. Without keeping track of your progress, you may not even know if you are improving, and you won't be able to tell which things are meaningful.
Are you delivering value to other people, both in your personal and professional life? The plethora of measures of internal achievement doesn't say too much about the value that you are delivering. It is the process performance where you want to see constant improvements.
7. Make good use of your time.
It is important to use your time wisely. If you find yourself with the luxury of having some free time, don't waste it in front of the television. Instead, manage your time effectively so you can make proper headway toward your goals.
It is imperative to develop effective strategies to balance any conflicting demands on your time. Take some time each morning to determine your most important tasks for the day, and create a plan to ensure they get accomplished.
8. Learn new skills.
When you stop to consider the things that you do each day, you probably don't think about taking the time to learn new skills. Living hectic lifestyles makes it seem daunting to learn new things, but you may be missing out personally and professionally.
Continuing to learn throughout our lives is essential for staying current in an ever-changing world. If you stop learning new skills, you may actually begin to move backward while the rest of the world is quickly moving forward.
Those who consistently succeed are those who are best at learning new skills. Try any one of these 101 new skills you can learn that can dramatically improve your personal and professional life.
Practices for the Body
9. Exercise on the regular.
People tend to spend the majority of their days sitting, especially those who work in office jobs. Our bodies were not made to be sedentary all day, so it is important for your overall health to get up and moving as much as possible.
Exercising outside of work is crucial, and is an important starting point. However, limiting yourself to only moving for that one hour a day will not make up for sitting or lying down for the remainder of your time.
Find the exercise that’s best for you, and stick to it. You can even do some office deskercises to combat the dangers of sitting all day, or you can build a daily walking habit to help you lose weight.
Find a friend to help keep you accountable for your exercise. If you are able to work out in groups, this will also help add some social time to your day to make your exercise more enjoyable.
10. Respect your body.
Use products, eat food and perform activities that will not harm your body. You have one body for your lifetime, so it is imperative to take care of it along the way.
Avoid harmful substances, such as alcohol, cigarettes, and processed foods. Instead, work with your body to provide it with the fuel it needs to achieve optimal health. Eat whole foods as part of a plant-based diet, and make sure to allow your body to get the restorative sleep you need to stay healthy.
Additionally, talk to your doctor to see what kind of vitamins or minerals you may need to add to your diet. It is best to get most of your vitamins from your diet, but it is also important to take supplements if you are deficient in something that your body needs.
11. Practice self-care.
Although the term “self-care” may sound indulgent, it is critical for one's overall well-being. Stress and exhaustion from working too much have toxic effects on the body.
While it is important to work hard during times when you are trying to be productive, it is equally important to take care of yourself and your body so you are always on top of your game. Here’s our big list of self-care ideas that can help you get started.
12. Eat mindfully.
Mindful eating is all about focusing on the way you eat. Research has shown that practicing mindful eating helps improve digestion, decreases your appetite between meals, and helps you enjoy your food more.
Focusing on what you eat can be enough to help you make better choices, avoid overeating, and savor your food. Not only is this good for your gut, it is also an effective way to control the amount of food you eat.
13. Schedule regular breaks and downtime.
To be your best self, you need to make sure you are allowing your mind and body to recover when they need it.
Balance your working hours with breaks and downtime to give yourself a chance to recover.
Stick to the schedule you create, and do not look at this action item as being optional. You have to rev your body up so you can achieve success for the rest of the day.
Taking breaks is important! After taking a break, you will have more energy and be better equipped to tackle the work you are doing.
If you try to work without taking a breather every now and then, you will start to fade and will be more likely to make mistakes.
Get some water, go outside for a short walk, or just grab a snack to help reset your mind.
14. Mind your daily water intake.
Most people don't drink enough water. But drinking enough water every day helps improve your health, fitness, weight control, mood, and even your energy levels.
When you don't drink as much water as you are putting out, you can become dehydrated. This may happen even more if you are in a warmer climate, doing strenuous exercise, hiking in high altitudes, or elderly.
Drinking water helps balance and maintain your fluid levels, so it is important to be mindful of how much you are drinking each day.
If you are not a fan of drinking plain water, add some lemon to it to make it more flavorful. You can also infuse some fruit or cucumber into your water to add vitamins, minerals, and flavor. There are a lot of creative ways to add more water to your day and stay hydrated.
Practices for the Soul
15. Practice daily mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of giving all of your attention to the present moment and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness has been found to be an important factor in stress reduction and overall happiness.
Practice mindfulness throughout the day, and enjoy the benefits to your physical and mental well-being.
16. Practice mindful listening.
Mindful Listening helps you stop your running thoughts so you can hear the message that is being shared with you, and so the speaker can feel understood.
This will help you make deeper connections with the people that you meet, and it will make you feel better about yourself. It will also help you develop empathy, listen to your speaking partner for longer, and retain information.
17. Practice gratitude.
Taking some time each day to really pinpoint the things that are going well for you can help lift your spirits and let you feel a new sense of appreciation. Keeping a gratitude journal is a good way to start practicing gratitude.
This may seem like a tough thing to do when everything around you seems to be negative. But turn towards your own thoughts and experiences to recognize the things in your life that are helping it to be great.
18. Recite positive affirmations.
An affirmation is a good tool to use because it can program your mind into believing the things you are telling it. This is because the mind can't tell the difference between what is real and what you are making up.
Reciting affirmations is a good way to start your day. The affirmation you recite depends on what you want to achieve.
Some affirmations include those for:
19. Develop a mindful journaling habit.
When you mindfully journal, you are no longer passively experiencing life as it goes by. Instead, you are taking the time to engage with the thoughts, feelings, and ideas that come your way. Doing this forces you to be in the present moment and take in the details of your surroundings.
This will also help you reflect on things that happened during the day that you may not otherwise think about again. Think back on the moments that really made your day happy, and stop to consider how those moments made you feel at the time, and how they may have had a lasting positive effect on the rest of your day.
20. Surround yourself with positive people.
As the old adage goes, “You are the company you keep.” Stay away from toxic people that can bring negativity into your life. This applies to both your real-life and online presence.
Positive people will help you stay more positive about your own life, and their energy will radiate into how you view your world. You want to limit the negativity in your life because if you are not careful or conscious about it, negative thoughts can seep into your own mind and change your outlook on your day.
21. Heal your negative self-talk.
How do you talk about yourself to other people? Also, how do you talk about yourself to you?
The way you talk about yourself to you has a huge impact on how you think, behave, and make decisions about your life. It’s important to increase your self-awareness to know yourself better and make you less susceptible to negative self-talk. This will make you think and feel more positive as you go through your day.
22. Learn to forgive yourself and others.
Are you holding onto grudges from years ago and still letting them bring you down?
It is important to learn how to forgive and forget so you can let go of burdens and live a freer life. Forgiving people who hurt you, and forgiving yourself for your own shortcomings is one step to living a happier, less stressful life.
Letting go of the past will allow you to live a happier life that is free from negative thoughts. It will allow you to be content with living in the here and now.
23. Be giving and kind.
To live a more meaningful life, you have to be kind both to yourself and other people. Treat yourself with kindness, and treat other people with that same amount of kindness that you would expect to receive.
Remember, it is important to work on your self-improvement every day so that you are continuously becoming a better person. This isn't something that you can visit once every few months. You need to always be focusing on areas in your life that could use some improvement.
Start by picking a few of these practices and doing them on a regular basis until they become a habit. Then once you have a few of them down, try some more to improve yourself even further.
Found this list of exercises for self-improvement helpful?
What strategies do you use to work on yourself each day? Leave us a comment to help other readers expand their knowledge base of self-improvement techniques.
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