Happy birthday to me! Another year of life means another year of wisdom gained.
Out of all the years I’ve been alive, this past year has taken the cake for not only the best year ever, but the year I’ve grown the most.
These are the things that dramatically altered my life for the better:
#1- Switched My Music Out for Audiobooks/Podcasts
I’ve always been a book worm, but I never had time.. or so I thought.
Discovering [Audible] was a game changer for me cuz it allowed me to “read books” while I did chores, worked out, and especially on my commutes to/from work.
If you do the math:
(if it) takes 20 min for you to get to work, 20 back home = 40 minutes a day *laughs in Bay Area*– that’s almost 3.5 hours of commute per week. The average audio book is between 8-13 hours.
So if you replaced your music with an audiobook: you can read one book a month.
“If you want to be more powerful in life, educate yourself.”
#2 – Changed My Morning Routine
Okay this picture I used is irrelevant but I love pugs so we’re gonna pretend it’s relevant, ok? But on a serious note- add making your bed to your morning routine.
Charles Duhigg (author of one of the best books I’ve ever read) [The Power of Habit] says:
“Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget.
It’s not that a family meal or a tidy bed causes better grades or less frivolous spending. But somehow those initial shifts start chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.”
I actually just started this a month ago, but I promise you this (seemingly insignificant) gesture really sets the tone for the day. Try it out & it’ll change your life!
#3 – I Changed the Way I Talked to Myself
Just like making my bed every morning, I added affirmations to my morning ritual.
Affirmations are short, powerful statements you recite to yourself outloud everyday.
When I first read about them I thought the idea was silly. But after reading (success/personal growth) book after book, I noticed there was a recurring theme in all of them: affirmations.
I have an affirmation for every aspect of my life, and I recite them every single morning before I head into work.
This is an example of different ones:
I wrote more about affirmations in my [Ways to Improve Self-Esteem: How I Learned to Love My Body] post.
#4 – I Changed the Way I Viewed My Life
I saw a “No-Complaining Challenge” on someone’s Insta-story one day and wow. This was easily one of the most influential things I’ve ever done in my life.
This challenge single-handedly rewired my brain to turn negative thoughts around so often that I started to do it unconsciously.
For example: When I got a flat tire, instead of drowning myself in complaints about it I automatically thought “I’m glad I’m having a car problem that’s easily fixable!”
And also- since it was on a weekend, I thought “I’m glad it wasn’t during the workweek or at a super inconvenient time”– the old me would have never!! lol
Here’s the 7-day guidelines if you wanna try it out (feel free to save the picture since it’s a lengthy photo and screenshotting it would take multiple attempts):
“The struggle ends when the gratitude begins”
#5 – I Changed My Living Space
When Marie Kondo asks “Does it spark joy?”- ask that about your living space. When you walk into your home- do you feel stressed or relaxed?
Despite everyone assuming I’ve always been a neat-freak, I promise it wasn’t always this way. I’m an only girl to 3 brothers, so “neat” wasn’t a word used to describe anything in our household growing up.
I found that the more organized I made my living space, the more calming it was when I got home. Less clutter equalled less headache when I was trying to destress after a long day at work.
I also found that if everything “has a home” (labeled or has a rightful place), you’re naturally always gonna put it back to where it belongs.
i.e. A drawer of socks split into categories “work socks” & “work-out socks”. Or a drawer dedicated to skirts only and one specifically for jeans. The more specific the better- it also cut my “finding where the hell things are” time in half.
I made a [7-Day Declutter Challenge] if you need help de-stressing your space!
#6 – I Changed My De-Stressor
I replaced alcohol with things that actually made me feel good.
I’ll explain what I mean by this. You know how some people unwind after a stressful day or long week via glass of wine or their favorite cocktails? I used to do that too.
But by finding different ways to unwind that didn’t include alcohol, I not only saved a ton of money (the average person spends $700 a year on alcohol, and this is only if you spend an average of $11 a week on it.. a number I know is exceeded by people my age)- but I also got a lot more sleep.
Although some people swear alcohol gives them better sleep, it actually does the complete opposite.
According to Stephen Joseph Ph.D (Kings College London Institute of Psychiatry), most people drink because alcohol’s “numbing” effect causes them to temporarily forget their conflicts and stress- but because it is temporary, and because alcohol is literally poison to your body, health experts strongly suggest to have a different way of winding down.
I replaced alcohol with things that actually felt good (and not numbing).
For me, anything competitive brings me that natural “feel-good” feeling.
I started re-visiting old sports I used to play like tennis. And I actually joined a corporate dodgeball league! I also love board games like chess, or one of my favorite workouts OrangeTheory which allows me to compete with myself.
Really try to dig deep and find out what truly brings you joy- and do THAT when you’re stressed and your days will seem that much brighter.
I have probably drank alcohol a number of 4 times this year total, and plan to drop it completely in the near future because of the wonders dropping it has done for my body, mental health, and overall well-being.
#7 – I Changed My Nightly Routine
(I’m really hitting the Pug-Pic lottery while writing this because I found this while browsing for bed photos)
We all know how crucial sleep is for irritability, productivity, memory, health– etc etc, so why don’t we take it more seriously than we should?
My excuse was that there’s absolutely no way that I can: 1) sleep through the entire night without waking up & 2) Fall asleep quick enough to get the hours I needed. Because that’s “just the way my body is”– False. I was just too lazy to try every trick in the book to get better sleep.
After trying almost everything in the book, I came up with a perfect nightly routine for me that goes as follows:
- No screens (tv & phone) an hour before bed
- Read for 30 min before shutting my eyes while drinking chamomile tea
- Set up my diffuser & essential oils
- Turn my white noise on (rain)
I have been sleeping like a BABY since I adopted a routine which is truly remarkable coming from someone who used to wake up every 2-3 hours a night.
If you want a more detailed explanation of my nightly routine, read my [Better Quality Sleep: 7 Secrets to Sleeping Soundly] post.
#8 – I changed my selflessness
I’ve always been a giver. But I somehow always forgot to give to myself first.
I started to change a ton of things in my life to make my happiness and personal growth a priority. It’s not selfish of me to do so, either.
I’ll give you a specific example of putting yourself first. Say, a friend of yours that has been wanting to hang out asks you for a day date, and you agree so you set a date for Saturday (you agree on Monday).
The week goes by and it was more draining than you expected it to be and you realize that Saturday would be the only time you can take a breather/de-stress.
It’s OK to cancel on that friend to recharge.
I’ve been asked by so many friends “hey what should I say to get out of these plans?” —isn’t that an odd way to live? That you have to ask permission for a day to relax?
You don’t owe anyone an explanation for something that’s good for your health. And if they give you crap about wanting to rest then guess what? That’s not a true friend.
True friends look out for your well-being, and if they’re upset you wanna relax after a long week, you may wanna rethink your friendship.
Always always put yourself first.
The more you take care of yourself, the more you can take care of others– you can’t pour from an empty cup.
After all, you owe yourself the love that you so freely give to other people.
#9 – I Changed the Energy I Allowed Into My Life
This ties in with #8. I did myself a favor and cut people off (even if it meant hurting feelings) because I made myself a priority.
I’m a true empath at heart. No matter how toxic someone is, I always try to feel for them because I know unfortunate events life has thrown at them have given them their “toxic ways”.
The way that I am allows me to feel for them– but in return, it also gives me the abilitity to soak in their energy at a deeper extent than others can.
If someone has an “always complaining”, unappreciative, draining personality- it literally sucks the positivity out of me and drains my energy.
At first, I didn’t realize how sensitive my empathy was. But after cutting some people out of my life, I noticed a literal weight lifted from my shoulders.
I learned that there’s a certain extent where you can help others who aren’t so optimistic about life, but keeping them at a close proximity (especially when they show no signs of changing and taking the help you’re offering) is dangerous to your mental health.
This can be for friends, coworkers, family members. If they are energy-leaches, you have to distance yourself from them or they will suck you dry.
“Everything is about energy. The way you feel around certain people will tell you if this connection needs to be stopped or not.”
#10 – I Changed My Vision
Just like every teenager about to head off to college, I had the pressure of choosing a major ASAP that would lead me into a career to hold for the rest of my life.
Although some teens had a clear vision of what they wanted to do with their lives, I really needed to not only mature, but find myself before really committing to a job I’d spend 90,000 hours of my life at (You guys, that’s really the average number of hours a person spends at work in a lifetime).
Coming from an immigrated Asian family, I also had more pressure to go into a field that I wasn’t really interested in.
This past year I really came to terms with the fact that it’s OKAY to walk out of a life you don’t feel like you belong in anymore.
It’s OKAY to say “this no longer serves my happiness” and opt for a different path.
It’s never too late to change course.
In one of my favorite books, [The Top Five Regrets of the Dying] (where a nurse interviews patients on their deathbeds and asks them what they could have changed in their lives), one of the five regrets were:
“I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, and not the life others expected of me.”
In other words: DO YOU BOO!
Who else is putting those 90,000 hours of their life? No one but yourself. Do what makes you happy and do it for you.
Ever since I made the switch to a new set of career goals, I have not been happier. I am currently on a path to a career that I don’t have to “wish for the weekend” in, and I’m loving every minute of it.
Thank you guys for reading! I hope you found these 10 things insightful.