20 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Life
Last Updated: Feb 16, 2012
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In the infamous words of Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” That, of course, is not an invitation to skip school and steal your father’s car, but taking stock of your life does give you the opportunity to make small adjustments that could improve the quality of daily life. Watching what you eat or dragging yourself to the gym can feel like drudgery. So how can you tweak the process to get pleasure out of the most mundane daily routines, such as waking up and getting ready for work? We asked some of our experts as well as the passionate members of the LIVESTRONG.COM Community. Think of their tips as minor upgrades that will incrementally get you into first class on the ride of life.
START PAYING ATTENTION TO YOURSELF
“Pay attention to how you feel. Notice how your body reacts when you eat certain foods. Observe how you feel when you exercise, after you exercise and all the times in between,” says Tara Stiles, yoga instructor and host of “The Yoga Solution.” She notes, “When we pay attention, instead of rushing into impulse decisions, we eat better, exercise more and make choices that sustain a healthy and happy life.”
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WORK OUT WITH PEOPLE
“Exercise with your very best friend,” says LIVESTRONG.COM Community member steffik1. “Every day I walk with my best friend for 60 to 90 minutes, but because we are chatting and walking it feels like five minutes! So you get to exercise and spend time with your bestie.” In fact, research has revealed that people train harder with a friend, especially someone that you deem as especially fit. Alternatively, make some new healthy friends like community member BeachGurlz does. “A great way to improve your chances for regular exercise is by joining a group. Earlier this year I also joined a running group, despite of the fact I’m awesomely slow,” says BeachGurlz. “Having a large(ish) group means there’s always someone there to chat with ahead of time and to celebrate with afterward. There are folks there to compare notes with, and you’re not dependent upon a single partner who may or may not opt to show up.” Ditto for Irishgirl71, who says, “I joined a running group and made some amazing new friends.”
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FIND SIMPLE WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR SUGAR INTAKE
“I do drink a lot of water but have always had diet soda as a part of my everyday life -- usually two Coke Zeros a day,” admits LIVESTRONG.COM Community member remylee34. “Last year I decided that this was not the best thing for me and worked on cutting soda from my daily routine. I discovered sparkling water, which gives me the ‘fizz’ that I love without all of the additives!” Examine your daily routines and figure out where you can cut down on your sugar intake. For instance, says remylee34, “I also stopped using flavored coffee creamers with 35 calories per tablespoon and a ton of sugar. (I cannot imagine how many calories I was consuming.) Over a few weeks I was able to wean myself down to just adding some milk to my coffee, and now that is all I use.”
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MAKE EVERY MINUTE COUNT
“One of the biggest myths about fitness is that you need to spend hours at the gym. Short, intense workouts that are 15 minutes or less can be highly effective at stimulating muscle, increasing your metabolism and building strength,” says Jim Smith, CSCS and founder of Diesel Strength. Don’t know where to start? “Pick three compound exercises (for example, deadlifts, pull-ups and barbell military presses) and perform five to eight repetitions of each. Move quickly between exercises with minimal rest. Repeat this cycle for 15 minutes,” he says. “Trust me, it’ll feel longer than that.”
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START A POSITIVE ADDICTION
“What I do is find an exercise that I like doing well enough to develop an addiction to it. Positive addictions are the friend of the fitness-conscious person,” says LIVESTRONG.COM Community member annewest9. “Once you get up and start moving, it will take much less effort to get you to do it again and again and again -- rinse and repeat daily!” The rule of thumb is that it takes about 21 days to develop a new habit, but what should your new healthy addiction be? Perhaps what worked for BeachGurlz: “Introducing daily walks clears the head and lets me sort through the upcoming day.” Your new addictions don’t have to be difficult or even fitness-oriented. For instance, smiling and laughing more often could increase your overall outlook, improving your life with each giggle.
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DRINK MORE WATER
“Every time you see a water fountain, take 10 big gulps. Most people are at least somewhat dehydrated, so this is a reminder to increase your water intake. Drinking 10 gulps is like getting eight to 10 ounces of water,” says Martin Rooney, CSCS, founder and CEO of Training For Warriors. “Do that eight times a day and you’ll be much better hydrated.”
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DOCUMENT YOUR PROGRESS
“My best advice is to take responsibility for what goes in your mouth: Document and log your nutrition and your calorie intake using the well-thought-out food tracker on LIVESTRONG. The scale is a very helpful tool. Weigh yourself every day first thing in the morning after taking care of business (relieving yourself),” says LIVESTRONG.COM Community member EJMM2, recommending that people document and analyze their weekly averages of losses and gains or pounds maintained. “With the right mindset, focus and dedication, anything is possible,” says EJMM2.
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START YOUR HEALTHY-EATING PLAN ON SUNDAY
“Prep your meals at the beginning of the week,” advises Dr. Kara Mohr, expert on weight loss and behavior change and co-founder of Mohr Results. “I take two hours on Sunday to plan my meals for the week, grocery shop, cut veggies, hard-boil eggs and put together salad starters -- salad without lean protein or dressing. That way you always have healthy food at hand, and the time it saves each day is invaluable.”
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DEFINE YOUR OWN SUCCESS
“People need to know that success is defined and achieved differently for everyone,” says LIVESTRONG.COM Community member cfinoz60. “Their bodies and metabolisms or sensitivities to foods are different. Their health risks are different. Their goals are different. Their attitudes are different.” While defining and even recording your goals are keys to success, cfinoz60’s wise words remind us that it won’t help to compare your progress to others’. “Not one person is wrong or right if they are informed,” says cfinoz60, recommending that a person should do the research and then decide what’s best for him or her.
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RESPECT WHAT YOUR BODY LOVES
“Follow your own preference about when you eat your smallest and largest meals. Some folks like big breakfasts; some prefer big dinners. Either works fine. Don’t worry about what X or Y study says. Your personal preference should dictate the choice,” says Alan Aragon, nutritionist and author of Alan Aragon’s Research Review. “Make a list of your absolute favorite foods in each group: meats, vegetables, fruits, carbs. Try to come up with at least 10 foods for each. Ignore the stuff that you’ve heard everyone ‘should’ eat and instead focus on foods that you love the taste of. Make that your grocery shopping list.”
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MAKE YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE
When it comes to making healthier choices, ensuring accountability is a worthwhile investment. “I needed a trainer to keep me going to the gym, not to mention getting proper instruction. It’s not cheap, but I decided the investment in my health was well worth it,” says LIVESTRONG Community member cmocre. Tracking your calories and working with a nutritionist could provide the same type of accountability for healthy eating. Even talking about your goals with friends and setting deadlines or reminders in your calendar can help you stay accountable to lifestyle changes you want to make.
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ORGANIZE YOUR TIME IN 30-MINUTE INTERVALS
“To manage tasks at home or at the office, you can get a lot more done if you work in 30-minute intervals,” says Jim Smith. “Use a simple timer on your phone or computer to track the time you spend on a particular task. When you reach 30 minutes, stop and move on to the next thing. This approach forces you to be productive because you only have a very limited window to work on a task before moving on to the next one.” Although you may have to come back around to the same task a few times in a day, you’ll always be making progress.
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START SMALL AND BUILD
“Motivation follows action, so make your first step easy. But follow that step immediately with another, bigger step,” recommends Valerie Waters, celebrity fitness trainer and inventor of the Valslide. “The idea is to get the proverbial snowball rolling downhill so you can pick up momentum toward your goals. For example: Purge your kitchen of no-no foods, restock with healthy options and then cook a big, nutritious meal -- one that’ll leave leftovers so you’ll have more fulfilling food the following day.”
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BEGIN THE DAY RIGHT
“I have found the earlier I get moving, the more I can accomplish in a day,” says LIVESTRONG.COM Community member liseage. There are a number of ways to set a positive tone for the day, from practicing mindfulness to feel centered or drinking a large glass of water to rehydrate. Says liseage, “Singing to my favorite music, talking to encouraging friends and eating protein really help me.” An Ayurvedic practice called dinacharya is a daily routine of self-care that is meant to start your day off feeling cleansed and refreshed, but you can come up with your own personalized set of rituals to kick off your day.
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PERFORM A DAILY POSITIVE CONDITIONING RITUAL
“Start each day with something positive -- read something that inspires you, listen to uplifting music or download a fitness podcast,” says Brad Pilon, author of “Eat Stop Eat.” He believes that the key is to consume something that empowers you toward your fitness and nutrition goals. “That way you’ll put your best foot forward and won’t be leaving your outlook to chance.”
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TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR HEALTH
“Take responsibility for your health. This includes your knowledge about nutrition and fitness, your beliefs and even your medical care,” says LIVESTRONG.COM Community member AWonderWoman2. This action item is really all about optimizing your lifestyle so that you can be the best version of yourself. “Eat plenty of food as close to its natural state as possible, get plenty of rest and quality sleep, drink fresh water and move and appreciate the body you were given,” suggests AWonderWoman2. Taking responsibility could also mean anything from making sure that you get a yearly physical and all of the recommended health checks (depending on your age and gender) to arranging treatment for health conditions you are already aware of, such as physical therapy for an injury.
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ENJOY YOUR FOOD
When you savor your food, you’re less likely to unconsciously overeat, so try eating in a distraction-free area, without the television, newspaper, computer or phone. “By simply cutting out the extra noise that often accompanies eating, you will automatically become more mindful of what you are putting in your mouth -- and therefore more likely to make better food choices or eat less,” says Alyse Levine M.S., RD, founder of Nutritionbite LLC. While it may sound counterintuitive, her other tip is eating what you really want first. “Too often, people force themselves to consume all the healthy foods on their plate before they eat the more indulgent foods they’ve been eyeing all along,” she says. “They wind up eating more out of obligation and end up walking away from the meal more stuffed than if they’d just had what they really wanted.”
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MAKE FITNESS A JOURNEY
“Too many people torture themselves with unnecessarily restrictive diets and unrealistic workout routines. This is counterproductive,” says Emma-Leigh Synnott, certified nutritionist, M.B.B.S. “Instead, set goals and train hard, but don’t sacrifice your sanity to achieve them. Try to see your pursuit of fitness as a journey to be enjoyed, rather than something that just needs to be endured to reach your destination.”
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“Get a juicer. Just do it. You’ll be amazed at how many delicious and nutritionally potent cocktails you can make,” says Tara Stiles, yoga instructor and host of “The Yoga Solution.” She suggests trying a mix of kale, apple and ginger for long and vibrant energy; carrots and ginger for great skin; and spinach, cucumber and celery to boost your energy. Or, she says, “whip up some fresh pineapple juice to welcome people into your home with happiness.”
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Chris Hughes/iStock/Leonardo Patrizi
“Sometimes we need to stop and think and soak in what a beautiful world we have. Even if you’re stuck in some ordinary place, it is still unique, amazing and beautiful,” says LIVESTRONG.COM Community member bockywil. “How amazing is it that we have beautiful food, drinks and so many friends? In short, life depends on how you look at it sometimes.” Indeed, many studies have reinforced the idea that practicing gratitude can vastly increase happiness, reduce stress and lead to healthier habits. There are various research-backed methods to feeling more grateful, from listing the positive things that happen to you each day to reframing your inner dialogue, being more appreciative and complimentary toward yourself.
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Were you surprised by any of these tips? Have you tried any of them in the past, or will you be trying them moving forward? Do you have any other tips tyou've used to improve YOUR life that weren’t listed here? Let us know.
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