By Mary Wong, president, Office Depot Foundation
Whether it’s a career goal like moving into the C suite or something more personal like losing weight, most people are always looking for a way to better themselves in some way. In fact, if you go into any bookstore or look at the titles on Amazon.com, the self-help section can be overwhelming.
No matter what you are trying to accomplish or how you are trying to improve yourself, in the end it always starts with you. Are you ready to start feeling good, making healthy choices, eliminating stress and living a more enriching life? One of the best ways to better yourself is to set a positive routine and stick to it.
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Of course, that’s easier said than done, so here are seven tips to help you on the journey:
- Be open to experiment. Finding out what works best for you is not a one and done thing. You will need to practice through trial and error to find what techniques can best integrate into your life. These variables are different for everyone and sometimes what works for you at one point, won’t in the future. Keep an open mind and be willing to change when it is needed. A “go with the flow” mentality is often the best approach.
- Make mornings more manageable. Many of us need to wake up early. Unfortunately, not everyone is a morning person and can rise and shine at their leisure. If this is the case and you don’t have the flexibility to sleep in, start with an alarm at first, and each week, if it is going well, move the time up 15 minutes. Before long, your circadian rhythm will adjust and it will be easier for you to awake, sometimes without an alarm at all. If waking early is a struggle for you, try to limit caffeine and screen time close to bed.
- Have morning and evening rituals. When you wake up, establish a routine you love. Maybe you like sitting in the sun with your coffee, or grabbing a tea and taking the dog for a walk. Make it something that clears your mind and allows you to calibrate for the day ahead. In the evening before bed, take a bath or meditate. Try to stay away from the television, computer and phone because the blue light tricks your brain into thinking it should be awake. You want your night routine to prepare you for a peaceful, fulfilling rest. Grab a book and read a few pages before you get your shuteye.
- Create something every day. As humans, it is in our nature to create. Creation can expand to an infinite number of things. You can create a painting, drawing, meal, love notes, flower arrangements, or even a pleasing furniture arrangement. Whatever you can do that utilizes your creative energy will be beneficial to your attitude. Take on a project and work a little each day on it. When you conclude your work in progress, it will feel wonderful to have completed a creative achievement.
- Slow it down. I am not saying you need to stop and smell the flowers, but stop and smell the flowers. At least don’t always be rushing everywhere you go. It isn’t healthy to live with that self-imposed stress. Make time for the things you want most. You will prioritize what is most important, and practice saying ‘no’ to the rest. It is difficult for many in the beginning to say no to things they don’t want to do, but with practice it will save you a lot of hassle and unnecessary social engagements.
- Take breaks, without electronics. Fully indulge in moments of ‘me time.’ If you work in an office, take periodic breaks to clear your mind. You will be a much more productive worker because of it. Approaching any task with a clean and relaxed state, gets better results. Make sure you are not just taking a break to scroll through your social media. That reinforcement, and not to mention poor posture, only makes things worse.
- Keep a schedule. The best way to make your routine beneficial is to plan it out. This is best when you are trying different methods out. If you have children and a family, keeping a schedule is necessary. Be sure to make permanent slots for your well-deserved ‘me time.’ That is where your morning and night rituals can be so replenishing. There are different tools, like apps on smart phones, to take your schedule with you wherever you go. The digital ones can even be shared with multiple people. Try a few different things, and narrow it down to what best works for you.
No matter what is going on in your life right now, and regardless of what part of your life you want to make better, start paying attention to your body, your needs and desires. Start by taking care of yourself and creating habits that encourage real positive change in your life. There are no downsides, only the chance to get better.
Mary Wong is the president of the Office Depot Foundation. She serves on the boards of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center. She is a former member of the White House Disaster Assistance Recovery and Volunteerism Committee and served on the board of directors of Feed the Children. Mary was one of America’s Top 20 Women in Philanthropy and Social Innovation. She is a dedicated supporter of animal rescue organizations and a devoted dog owner.