What better way to work on yourself than to do it during the month dedicated to self improvement! Take this month as an excuse, a motivation, a target to grow and transform yourself. If you have no idea where to start, we have 4 things you easily do to start your journey of change!
1. Start a reading habit
In today’s world, multitasking has become a really bad habit that many of us are guilty of – watching the TV while eating, responding to text messages while talking, attending to a Zoom call while working. This simultaneous action actually diverts your attention and it affects your productivity. Many scientific research have proved that multitasking does not help you to get work done faster, in fact it slows you down. So to those who are unaware that multitasking is not beneficial to you in any way, now you know!
In order to break the bad habit, we have an antidote for you, which is to cultivate a reading habit. Reading helps you to concentrate better because it requires your attention and focus in order to understand what you are reading. It keeps you focussed on that one task, especially when you are engrossed in the book.
Simply take 15 - 30minutes before you sleep to read, and when we say read, it means to put away any distractions (we are talking about your phone) and direct your focus onto reading. By cultivating this habit, you can improve your ability to concentrate on one task at a time, and ultimately increase your productivity.
Furthermore, reading can help to increase your brain power. Similar to going on a jog to exercise your muscles, reading helps to train your memory and brain function. As we age, we are all susceptible to declining memory, but with regular reading, it keeps the brain active for longer. Studies have found that frequent brain exercise can lower mental decline by 32%. We recommend reading a variety of books as different genres stimulate different parts of your brain. Fictional stories touch on your imagination and creativity, while self help and personal development books help you to regulate your thinking and inspire you to make better choices.
Here are a few book recommendations for you:
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey (Self Help)
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle (Self Help)
Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven (Self Help)
Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Fiction)
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Fiction)
2. Regulate your sleep schedule
We are no stranger to the phrase “Sleep is for the weak”, but guess what? Having quality sleep is important!! The average adult needs around 8 hours of sleep in order to function and perform properly. I know, there are just too many things to be done at night! Finishing up last minute work, catching up on your latest shows, bonding with family and friends and more. However, the lack of sleep can cause mood shifts, weight gain, attention lapses, and medical conditions.
Based on a Harvard University study, it shows that getting 5 hours of sleep can also “adversely affect your brain’s ability to remember important information”. You tend to forget dinner dates or where you last placed your phone. While you brushed these behaviours off as carelessness, the constant lack of sleep puts you in a risk of cognitive decline. You will start to feel less motivated, less focussed, and more stressed out and these factors bring negative effects on your mental health as well.
Hence, if you are working on improving yourself this month, your sleep cycle is the best place to start. Keep track of your sleeping hour - are you having at least 7 - 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep? If you are not, adjust your sleep routine and set realistic bedtime. Stay away from electronic devices before your sleep, you do not need to watch a corgi video before you sleep (guilty as charged). We suggest incorporating the reading habit mentioned above into your night routine, you will find yourself falling asleep more easily.
It is definitely not easy to have a “screen time” ban before your sleep, or going to sleep at a fixed timing, but stick to that routine for a month and you are able to feel the difference. The first step to improving yourself is having the commitment and discipline to make positive change to your life.
3. Set priorities
As a working adult or busy student, we have to juggle with multiple responsibilities and choices - meeting deadlines, making time for families and friends, enjoying your personal time and more. Are you struggling to meet all of the tasks and events you have in a day because you find everything important? Are you having difficulties making decisions or saying no to distractions? If the answer is ‘Yes’, you need to learn how to plan your priorities.
Without a clear set of priorities, it is going to be difficult to manage your time properly. You will find yourself overwhelmed with too many responsibilities or tasks waiting to be completed. It is important to identify what your life priorities are, so that you are able to plan your day to day tasks and activities to cater to those priorities.
If you are unsure what should be included into your priorities, set aside some time, take a seat and ask yourself: What is most important to you? What makes you feel achieved, happy, and satisfied?
Here are a list of priorities you might have:
Once you have identified what your priorities are, work on your daily tasks and schedule so that your focus is aligned with your priorities. If one of your priorities is to be financially stable, you should be making financially conscious choices, planning your finances, or saving. With that in mind, you are able to break free from the endless cycle of overwhelming responsibilities and decisions to handle. You are able to take charge of your life better, move closer towards your goals, and most importantly, feel more motivated to take on each day.
4. Learn to understand your emotions
You might be thinking, “PSH, what do you mean by understanding my emotions? I definitely know what and how I feel”. That’s the thing! You know that you are angry, but being angry is a ‘bad’ emotion and you should not be displaying such emotion out for everyone to see, therefore you resort to suppressing it. According to Jenna Mamorsky, a psychotherapist, this leaves you “clueless about how to regulate and understand your own emotional experience”.
To constantly ignore such emotional cues, it can eventually lead to negative consequences such as emotional buildup, unhealthy behaviours, and physical and mental health problems. Based on a study done by Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rochester, it shows that bottling up of emotions increases the chance of premature death by more than 30%. It also can lead to an increased risk of diabetes and heart diseases.
Not only do you feel physical pain when you repress your feelings, you are bringing psychological distress to your brain because you are forcing it to disrupt the flow of emotions and this action puts stress on the mind, which can cause depression, anxiety and more mental health conditions.
One important step to personal growth and self improvement is to build a better mental state. Dr. Glen Xiong from Doctor On Demand mentioned that being healthy emotionally promotes productivity and effectiveness in the things you do and it also plays an important role in achieving healthy relationships.
Therefore, rather than suppressing your emotions, learn to understand and regulate them instead. Acknowledge what you are feeling at the moment like “I am feeling angry now” BUT do not talk yourself out of this emotion. Give yourself time alone, take a deep breath, feel that emotion, and allow that anger to tide away like a wave. Learning to embrace these emotions, especially negative ones, allows you to feel comfortable with what you are feeling and this helps with your mental well being over time.
Self improvement takes time but taking that first step to make the change will bring you closer to the best version of yourself.