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10 Habits That Changed My Life Forever

How many of these habits have YOU adopted?

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illustration of woman doing different habits
Hye Jin Chung
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Do you ever do something on purpose or by accident and think, “Wow! Why didn’t I do that sooner?” Has a small habit ever completely changed your outlook on life or how you see yourself? After nearly five decades, I realized that if I wanted my life to change, I had to take action.

I used to think that meant doing huge, gigantic things every day. Or that I had to give up things I loved, like chips and brownies, and do things I hated, like exercise for hours and count calories. I’d tell myself I didn’t have time to do this or the other when I was spending five hours each evening in front of the television. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I still do that now and again. But exchanging a few of those hours for something productive made me see I had more time than I realized, and surprise, my television shows would always wait for me.

Life-changing habits don’t have to leave us feeling like we’re climbing a mountain every day, but I think many of us are hard-wired to believe that’s how it’s supposed to feel. Since I turned 40, I’ve been sticking to these 10 things that have completely changed my life, and I’ll never go back.

1. Moving my body.

I used to exercise to stay fit and slim. When I was only doing it for those reasons, I hated it. I’d find every excuse to take a day or a week off, and I viewed every session as a huge chore.

Then, I found a few ways to move that I truly loved and looked forward to (for me, that’s lifting weights, running, and spinning). For my best friend, it’s ballet classes–-everyone is different. I fell in love with these exercises because of how strong and capable I felt during and afterward. I also noticed a huge difference in my sleep, how I dealt with stress and anxiety, and my energy level.

Moving became more about my mental health and less about my physical health. That change took exercise from a dreaded chore to something I will never give up.

2. Finding a creative outlet.

I love to paint, knit, and bake. These are fantastic outlets that give me the confidence to try new things, like tackling home improvements around my house.

Doing something creative feels like an escape and gives my brain a chance to reset and get lost in something. Finding something that relaxes you, whether it’s doodling or taking a ceramics class, can enhance your life in ways you never would have imagined.

3. Letting people do what they want to do.

Okay, this was a hard one, I admit. It took me a really long time (about 45 years, to be exact) to realize how hard it is to change people (nearly impossible, from my experience), and I didn’t have the energy for it anyway.

Letting people be who they are and letting situations be what they are — without trying to control them — has been the single most freeing thing in my life.

If someone tells me that they are going to do something and they don’t, great. Instead of trying to get them to follow through on their word, I take note of their behavior and proceed with caution the next time they say they will do something.

4. Being protective about my sleep.

I need a lot of sleep and turn into a bear after nine o'clock. I know this about myself, and I rarely commit to something that lasts later than this. I used to feel ashamed. I had an ex tell me I was boring because I needed to go to bed early.

But I’m not boring. My body and mind want to get up early and be productive. Then, I fizzle. I’m simply more productive in the morning and afternoon, and my body shuts down at a certain time. It’s the way I am. Finding out when your peak hours are, whether late or early, is huge. If you protect that time, you will always feel better.

5. Meditating.

I shut down the idea of meditation because I struggled to sit still and clear my mind. I’d hear about all the benefits, and my friends raved about how it changed their lives, and I’d still feel like I couldn’t do it.

After trying guided meditation, a form where you listen to someone guide you through it on an app like Calm, I saw what all the hype was about. Meditating is something I look forward to. It has grounded me and kept me laser-focused on my goals.

6. Honoring my commitments to myself.

We are so quick to break engagements or promises to ourselves, yet we rarely do it to other people. Isn’t that funny? Sometimes, I’d have a day scheduled to work on a goal or something I was really looking forward to, and I broke my plans because someone needed something.

Of course, there are always times when something might interrupt our day, but I was letting others dictate my day.

At first, putting myself first in this way felt foreign. Now, I turn my phone off when I don’t want to be interrupted. I’m not afraid to tell people when I’m not available. I’m much more productive when honoring myself and never feel like I’ve put myself last.

7. Unplugging.

I’m happier when I’m not on my phone or computer a lot. It took me a while to realize this and break the habit of constantly checking my phone. It took my son telling me he didn’t think I could make it through an entire lunch without checking my phone to get me to do it.

After that afternoon, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders, and I realized nothing would happen if I wasn’t available the second someone needed me.

8. Doing nothing.

I used to feel guilty if I sat on the sofa and stared out the window, doing nothing. I believed it was a luxury I couldn’t afford because I was too busy. Then, I got knocked down with the flu and was too sick to do anything. I was forced to lie there without being productive.

Yes, things piled up, and I got a little behind. But the world didn’t fall apart, and I realized if I had taken a little more time to rest and do nothing, I might not have gotten sick in the first place. Now, sitting and doing nothing for a few minutes a day has become extremely therapeutic.

9. Investing in myself.

I used to color my hair with box color because I didn’t believe I was worthy of dropping money at the salon. If there was a course I wanted to take to further my career, I’d tell myself I shouldn’t be spending the money. That all changed after I bought my dream car after my divorce. I’d read Jen Sincero's book, You Are a Badass, where she explained how investing in yourself raises your vibration and takes you from a place of lack to being someone who attracts abundance. It truly works. Every time I invest in myself, whether it’s a massage or an online class, it pays me back. Tenfold.

10. Cutting people out of my life.

Nothing can weigh us down like a relationship that fills us with dread, hurt, or confusion. We are allowed to protect our time from whomever we want, even if they are family members. Maybe that looks like cutting them out of your life completely. But it could also be having a heart-to-heart talk with them, setting strong boundaries, or just limiting your time with them.

No matter how you handle this when you stop spending time with people who don’t enhance your life, you are making room for better relationships to come along –- relationships you may not consider otherwise.

What one habit do you have that you believe has helped change your life? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Health