10 Self Improvement Habits to Start this year

Most of us start the new year off with all kinds of goals and resolutions in our heads but rarely do we actually implement the habits we need to meet those goals. Today we're going to look at 10 self-improvement habits that you can start this year to help you hit your goals and make more time for your own growth while you do it.

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01. Read More Books

I am a huge fan of reading and I wish the entire planet loved books. Unfortunately, many of you have yet to join the dark side, so I'll have to share some of my secrets. First of all, reading makes you smarter. This is science. It helps you better emphasize with others, reading expands your vocabulary and it's freaking fun.

I don't have a lot of time to read, so I "cheat" by listening to audiobooks at work. I swear by the Libby app. It gives you free access to local libraries where you can download audio and ebooks for 7-14 days. You can have no money and no time and still manage to read. 

02. Meditate / Pray

Prayer was one of my big goals last year. I rarely prayed aside from the occasional "Lord help me get through today" kind of prayers. Since I made this into a regular habit, I've been less stressed, more gracious to other people, more patient and I find myself being more grateful for the things I have.

If you're not religious, meditation can be great as well. I love the Headspace app and I use it daily to unwind and get myself in the right headspace (see what I did there) to dig into my Bible studies and pray.

03. Start a Consistent Sleep Schedule

How well we sleep has a huge effect on our mood in the morning, but the consistency of our sleep schedule has an even bigger effect. Falling asleep and waking up at the same time every day allows your body's circadian rhythm to balance out. This puts the rest of your body in a better place. Consistent sleep is linked to a lower BMI, happier lives and more productive days.

A couple years ago I started going to bed every night at 9 pm and waking up at 4 am. This habit has CHANGED MY LIFE. I rarely wake up feeling groggy and although everyone has their bad days - I feel generally happier now than I ever did before I started this schedule. 

I love this habit so much that I'll probably write an entire blog post about it at some point. Note: you don't have to go to bed crazy early or wake up before the sun to make this habit work. As long as you go to bed within the same hour every night and wakeup within the same hour every morning, this habit will start to transform your mind and body.

04. Set Goals for Yourself

Maybe it's my type-A personality but if you're not already setting goals for yourself... you crazy. People who set goals are generally more successful, make more money and live happier lives than people who never set goals. (This is science, again.) Goal setting isn't hard, but it can take awhile to get into the habit of setting and reaching your goals. If you need some help with this, we wrote a blog post about this last month.

05. Cut Out Excess Things

I know. Super vague. That's because simplifying your life can be extremely personal. For myself, this looked like decluttering my closet down by half. For my husband, it meant getting rid of the extra movies, games and CD's we had all around our apartment.

For you, this might be cleaning out a cluttered closet or breaking off some painful relationships. Take some time to think about the areas that are causing you stress and figure out if it's something you can cut out of your life. 

We'll talk more about physical clutter and organization on this blog through the year, but if you want some help today, check out our facebook community and newsletter. It's a great place to get started with simplifying your life.

06. Cut Out Excess Commitments

Just like clearing physical clutter, clearing mental and time clutter can leave you feeling refreshed and relaxed. There are always going to be seasons of life where you just have a lot of commitments. Maybe you're working three jobs to get out of debt (just like us!), or maybe you have three kids each in two sports.

Even during these busy seasons, finding white space is essential to keeping stress at bay. This can be hard to do, but once it's done, you'll feel much better. We had to make a list of all our commitments, work, volunteering, school, church, friends, family... it was a lot. So we decided on a couple tough things. While we're in this season of work, we're only giving one weekend per month to friends and family. The other weekends are reserved for rest or volunteering.

Find which commitments you can pass on for this season of life. Maybe it's a book club, a sport, volunteering, it might even be a job. Figure out what you'll cut and then do it.

07. Practice Patience

This one is tough because you have to really keep it at the front of your mind to improve. I decided one way I'll be more patient is in traffic. Whenever I'm stuck in a jam, even if I'm running late, I just accept it. Traffic, lines, and waiting are just a part of life. Resisting, stressing and getting angry about it won't make the other cars move faster and it certainly won't help you make safe choices on the road.

I've also found that picking the long checkout line at the grocery store is really good practice. Use the "wasted" time for something else. Listen to podcasts in the car, start a conversation with someone in line, or check some emails.

Meditation and prayer have also helped me a lot in this area. Rushing around and impatience is often a side-effect of pride. Feeling that lack of control can be infuriating, but with practice, you can be a more patient and happier person.

08. Single Task More Often

If you're anything like me, you might find yourself playing a game on your phone while watching tv. Or maybe cooking (burning) your food while you check your email "really quick". There are times when multi-tasking is great (listening to audiobooks at work or catching up on the phone while folding laundry), but there are a lot of times where we multitask out of boredom or habit.

This often relates to putting your phone down. I find myself reaching for social media when I feel the tiniest bit of boredom. Or I check my email 2 seconds after I just closed the app because it's just a habit.

Try scheduling a social media free weekend. Turn your Do Not Disturb mode on after 5 pm. Charge your phone in another room at night. Make a "no phones at dinner" rule. Pay attention to ways you are multi-tasking out of habit, and then change your environment to enjoy the moment without your phone in hand.

09. Create Routines

Creating a solid morning and evening routine last year has not only saved me a ton of time in the mornings, but it's allowed me to cultivate some really great habits (reading more, flossing every night, actually remembering to take my contacts out before bed).

Your routine should be simple to start. A 26 step morning ritual isn't going to be easy to memorize or follow. Start with the basics. Wake Up, Get Dressed, Do Your Hair, Eat Breakfast, Go to Work. Then throw in a simple habit you want to work on, maybe a morning prayer or journaling. Give yourself a week or two before adding more habits. Try to add habits that make sense together. You journal while drinking 2 cups of water. You make a healthy smoothie after your workout.

I'll be sharing more about routines on my YouTube channel in the coming weeks, but for now, here's a quick glance at my super simple beauty routine before bed:

10. Create a Space You Love

This can be a super simple or massive project depending on where you're at right now. For my husband and I, this was a big one. We got rid of 13 trash bags full of junk last year, plus three large furniture pieces. Decluttering and making room for only the things we loved was a large undertaking, but we did it little by little.

For you this might involve finally framing those photos from your wedding, or painting the wall you hate. Maybe it's buying a new couch or completely remodeling your home.

Our homes often reflect our personalities and what's going on in our minds. If your home is a cluttered mess, your mind can't exactly feel at ease. We'll talk about decluttering and simplifying a lot more in the coming months, but a great place to start is with our monthly newsletters.


What habits are you cultivating this year? What are some habits you added last year that have improved your life? Let me know in the comments!


Nora Conrad