Looking for that inner glow up? Congratulations! It’s always a good thing to be introspective and desire growth for yourself, whether mental or physical.
But do you wonder what are the healthiest ways to achieve self improvement?
We all know that many resolutions fail due to lack of motivation, or life gets in the way. So to help you create a better version of yourself, we’ve looked at what works when it comes to self improvement.
The healthiest approaches to self improvement
1. Self improvement works best at a gradual pace
It’s everyone’s dream to wake up in the morning with the perfect body and perfect mindset. However, just like fitness, self improvement is a slow process that takes time, effort and energy
To improve your physical fitness, you need to get active every day, and stick with it. Similarly, becoming a better person overall requires consistent small changes. So be prepared for a self-improvement journey that is longer than you expect. Most studies show it takes at least three months to develop a new habit, and six months to see benefits.
Gradual improvement is also why it works better to focus on one change at a time. For example, it’s hard enough to give up junk food, but if you try to give up junk food and give up smoking at the same time, you’re almost sure to fail. Stick with one self improvement project at a time. Focus on it intensely, for at least a month, so it develops into a habit. Once it’s on autopilot, you can move onto the next step of your self improvement plan.
2. Be goal-oriented, with a timeline
Having a goal in mind is as important as keeping a steady pace. Like a horse racing towards the finishing line, a goal keeps you on track when your motivation or energy flags. For example, instead of something vague like, “Get fit,” try giving yourself a goal and timeline. It can be, “I’ll improve my fitness so I can take part in a half marathon in six months”. Or, “I’ll lose five kilos so I can feel confident at my sister’s wedding in six months time.”
Try to visualise your goal as clearly as possible. Imagine yourself running over the marathon finishing line, or posing for photos at the wedding. Imagine how proud you’ll feel. Imagine how impressed your family will be. The more clearly you imagine your goal and your emotions, the more effective it is.
Visualising how you will feel and look when you attain your goal will help guide and direct your journey of self improvement.
3. Accountability is key to self improvement
Keeping yourself accountable is crucial when it comes to the long journey of self improvement. Whether you want to lose weight or improve your mental health, any form of self-growth requires long periods of consistency. You can (and should) get support from other people, but the bottom line is holding yourself accountable. You’re the only person who’s going to get you out the door for your run.
One of the ways to keep yourself accountable is by starting a planner or bullet journal. Record down your process every day. Set aside 15 minutes a day to write down what you did towards your goal. Note down what got in the way, or how you got around the problem. Even just sharing your emotions in your journal is a proven way to improve your sense of control and accountability.
If you’re someone who thrives on teamwork, you can also sign up for a self improvement buddy online, or rope a friend in so you can keep each other accountable.
4. Plan for obstacles in your self improvement path
Every journey has its own mountains to climb. And sooner or later there will be an obstacle in your path – such as a loss of motivation, or life plans that don’t work out. It’s good to identify potential roadblocks in advance so you can plan for potential ways to overcome them.
For example, if you struggle to find time and energy to exercise after work, how about doing it in the morning? Studies show that people who lay out their running gear the night before, and put their sneakers by the door, are more likely to do morning exercise.
5. Reward yourself for small successes on the way
Motivating yourself with a reward system can also prove extremely beneficial in your self improvement journey. Planning out small rewards for each milestone between you and your goal can keep you excited for your growth.
Also, reaching these small rewards will help to paint a picture of your progress. Maybe you’ve managed to lose some of the weight, or you’re eating more healthily? Treating yourself to new clothes can help you power on to the next step in your self improvement journey.
6. Research evidence-based self improvement tips
When selecting a self improvement approach or route, always remember to look out for evidence-based research before following any recommended approaches. It’s easy to fall into the trap of online self-help “coaches” who give out false information or social media influencers who convince you that you absolutely must have that skinny detox tea.
Do some research and follow advice from reliable and trustworthy sources.
7. Your plan should be personalized for you
Your self improvement journey should be tailored to you. As an individual, you have different goals, desires, and habits to other people. So you get the best results when you don’t copy someone else’s self improvement plans, exactly.
Your personalised plan should take into account your interests, desires, mental and physical state. All of which are unique to you. For example, you may be motivated to eat more healthily because you want to play sports. Someone else may just want to look great in tight jeans. Either goal is fine – as long as it motivates you!
So take the best parts of other self improvement programmes, then look at how you can personalise them to make a unique, fresh plan for yourself.
8. Self awareness is key to self improvement
When crafting a self improvement plan, you’ll get the most success when you are prepared to be self-aware and introspective. It’s because your emotions influence your physical self, and you need to examine more than one aspect of your motivations to work out what you truely need to change in your life.
Think about the different aspects of your life that you want to improve. What triggers them. For example, do you overeat due to stress? Do you snap angrily at people when you feel dismissed? What are some other ways you can deal with that?
Activities such as meditation and daily affirmations help to increase self-awareness. If stress is a trigger for you, maybe even try out some Reiki for Asian holistic healing?
9. Draw up your action plan
A plan of action is always necessary to ensure that your plan comes to fruition. How do you make an action plan? Sit down and decide your self improvement goal. What will you look like then? What will your life look like then? What will be different from now?
Then think about how you can get there. What steps do you need to take today, this week, and this month, to move your project forward?
If a self improvement goal seems too far away, just map out the first part of your action plan in detail – for example you can plan the next six months. For example “Live healthily” is a great goal. But what does it mean? A plan of action is more concrete: such as “Eat fresh fruit every day” and “Go for a 40 minute walk five times a week”
Take some time to come up with an estimated timeline and tangible steps that you can take to become a better you.
10. Be kind to yourself, to boost your optimism
A journey of self-improvement can be a taxing one, so remember to be kind to yourself. Allow some room for errors as you adjust to your new lifestyle. If you “fail,” just remember that you are human, and you’re trying your hardest.
When we’re striving to improve our mental and physical health, we often fail to realise that self-love is crucial for self-improvement. Bad habits develop as ways to cope with life. Now you’re developing a whole new set of habits, and that’s brave! Remembering this keeps your motivation and optimism up. And in turn, this helps you deal with the inevitable setbacks on your road to self improvement.
Some ways to boost your self-love are by practising gratitude, daily affirmations and meditation.
5 Proven Approaches to Lasting Self-Improvement
1. Write down your goals
Simply writing down ideas helps you organise your thoughts. You can spot gaps in your action plan and work out what to do next. Grab a fresh notebook or a planner, and write down small goals that you want to achieve that will lead to your big, end goal.
2. Small steps lead to big changes
Although your progress may feel slow, remember that every journey starts with a single step. in the same way, a series of small steps can lead to bigger changes. When progress feels too slow, remember that small changes are more likely to be sustainable. Focusing on small details like this can be especially helpful if you are also dealing with major life changes – like when you are moving country, or job uncertainties.
3. Use dopamine to your advantage
Completing tasks, no matter how big or small, gives your brain a spike of dopamine. This body chemical makes you feel content and satisfied.
to-do list helps you tap into dopamine’s benefits. A to-do list is not just a handy way to keep track of goals on your self-improvement journey, they can also help you keep up your motivation and optimism. Because every time you cross a task off your to-do lists, your brain gets a little hit of dopamine.
Use this to your advantage and break down your goals into a series of small and actionable steps that you can tick off your to-do list. It helps you boost your mood and stay focused on your journey.
4. How to turn goals into a healthy habit
Studies show that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit and an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. So it helps to break down your grand self improvement goals into two or four daily or weekly actions.
Say you want to look great on your next beach trip, so you’ve decided to eat healthily and take up exercise. Instead of having a vague plan like “Be healthy”, break it into actions that you can realistically develop into habits.
For example, “Drink alcohol only on weekends” and “Eat vegetables every day” and “Swap processed white rice, white noodles and white bread for wholegrain versions.”
When you turn a goal into a habit you improve your life for the long run, rather than for the summer.
5. Change your environment
If you’re a global citizen, you probably already know that sometimes a change of environment is good! It’s why students sometimes prefer to study at the library instead of at home – a fresh environment stimulates your mind and gives you a break. So keep your self-improvement plan fresh by building in stimulation. Maybe go to a new gym instead of frequenting the same one? Take a fitness bootcamp now and then, or meditate in your living room instead your bedroom.
By Arshi Iqbal