You can improve yourself and your life by focusing on things that are good for you, including challenging negative self-talk, practicing self-respect, managing stress, and resolving conflict in your relationships.
Whether you want to boost your mood, get better at time management, develop healthy personal habits, or focus on self-growth, self-improvement is key to enhancing your quality of life.
Even if it feels challenging at the moment, or you feel you’ve tried and couldn’t before, it is possible to feel better about yourself and fulfill your dreams and goals.
And you don’t need a complete overhaul to improve your life quality. Just a few steps can help to boost your well-being and make your days more meaningful.
1. Writing your story every day
You’re the owner of your life. How do you want that to look today?
“For life improvement, I suggest considering what you’d like to accomplish today, and the vibe you want to carry,” says John Duffy, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of the book “The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens.”
Like any author, you may have a few story plots to choose from. Duffy suggests you try to identify which is the better story for you and go for it.
“The better story might be getting up earlier rather than sleeping in [or] reaching out to help someone instead of passively ignoring their need,” he adds.
2. Identifying what’s keeping you stuck
How to improve your life may be a matter of identifying those things that get in the way of said improvement. Are there certain events or people in your life that you feel have become roadblocks to your development?
Feeling stuck might look different for everyone. You may feel like it regardless of the circumstances in your life, or you might have specific relationships or tasks that take energy and focus from you.
You might want to start exploring what “feeling stuck” means to you, if anything at all. Maybe you feel empty or lonely, or perhaps you engage in procrastination.
“This approach gets you to be both reflective and active, [which are] two steps necessary for change,” says Deborah Serani, PsyD, a clinical psychologist.
Serani also recommends considering these three steps:
- Stop. “Oftentimes it’s a blind spot you can’t see, so taking time to mull things over helps you see more clearly,” says Serani. “Is it a decision you’re afraid to make? Are certain people bringing you down? Are you in a cycle of negative thinking?”
- Look around. Serani recommends you consider how this blind spot is touching your life. “Is it only at home? Or just at work [or] school?” she adds.
- Listen to yourself. What are your heart and mind telling you about what you need to do? “Learning to reflect on your inner thoughts and feelings will help you trust putting them into action,” says Serani.
Consider exploring these areas of your life:
- interpersonal conflict and friction
- career goals and job opportunities
- emotional regulation and how it impacts your mood
- physical health and lifestyle habits that impact it
3. Focusing on right now
Are you overly concerned about past mistakes or what will happen tomorrow? Focusing on self-growth and life improvement may require you to live in the present moment.
According to Alison Thayer, LCPC, a psychotherapist in Chicago, focusing on right now can be challenging, especially in today’s world.
“Today’s technology and expectation to be connected or available to work at all times is one of the most prominent challenges people face when trying to be present in the here and now,” she says.
So, how can you focus more on the present? Consider these:
- a mindfulness practice
- accepting the things you can’t control
- living more intentionally
- reaching peace of mind
- letting go of unhealthy attachments
- forgiving yourself
- engaging in grounding exercises
4. Getting better at time management
Among the things you can do to improve your life right now, managing time efficiently may be key.
Time management helps you achieve more, improve focus, stay motivated, and avoid feeling like you’re wasting time.
The feeling itself of being productive may improve your mood and your mental well-being.
You can get better at time management by:
- blocking time on your calendar for must-dos and honoring those time blocks
- stacking habits or doing a few things at the same time. For example, reviewing your calendar while you get breakfast.
- starting with the most challenging tasks early in the morning or when you feel you have the most energy
- finding an organizational or tracking system that works for you and gives you a glance of what you’ve accomplished throughout the day
- scheduling periodic pauses during the day to reset your mind and body
- rewarding yourself when you complete a task
5. Setting realistic and attainable goals
The best things for self-improvement aren’t necessarily the most complex and difficult to obtain. Often, improving your life is taking care of the details.
“Setting goals is a key step in accomplishments,” says Thayer. “However, […] lofty goals […] may not even be realistic.”
If you’re setting sky-high goals from the start, you may end up feeling like you’re not improving at all.
“Holding ourselves to goals that we cannot reach can damage our self-esteem and inhibit our interest in trying to reach these goals again,” says Thayer. “When setting your mind to reach a goal, ask yourself ‘Is this realistic and can I actually attain this goal?’ If the answer is no, consider breaking the goal down into intermediate steps or modifying it all together.”
6. Challenging negative thoughts
Everyone uses common cognitive distortions to explain everyday situations. These are filters you inadvertently put on your thoughts that may make you see your world more negatively than it actually is. Cognitive distortions are the foundation for negative thinking.
One way of challenging these negative thoughts is to focus on the evidence rather than the thought itself.
For example, if you tend to think that nobody likes you at work, you can stop yourself for a minute and ask yourself, “what evidence do I really have that this is a fact?” Then, try to start gathering information. You might find out that your thought isn’t accurate or that it doesn’t apply to all scenarios.
Often, your mood may be a result of the things you think. If you change the way you think, you may see a change in the way you feel. The more you challenge negative thinking, the more you can improve your life.
Thayer also suggests taking a different and more positive stance whenever you’re saying negative things to yourself.
“When things aren’t going right, ask yourself ‘Could things be worse?’ or ‘Is there anything I can take out of this that can be a benefit to me?'” adds Thayer. “More often than not, there’s a positive aspect to things that happen, even those that feel negative.”
7. Getting your 8 to 9 hours of sleep
If you’re thinking about how to improve your life right now, sleep hygiene should be top on your list of things to do.
Sleeping well has a direct effect on your mood, ability to think, and your energy levels, which are essential to doing the things you want to do.
“It’s easy to steal time from sleep by staying up ‘just a little longer,’ whether it’s to finish the laundry or a TV show,” says clinical psychologist Ari Tuckman, PsyD. “The problem is that the reward is immediate, which makes it hard to resist. But the price is paid tomorrow.”
Tuckman says that neglecting your sleep time, even if for one night, may hamper your ability to:
- solve problems
- focus on tasks
- gather information to make decisions
It can also make you feel more irritable and short tempered. “This gets even worse when several short nights stack up,” he adds.
Try to establish a bedtime routine so you fall asleep around the same time every night. Try to resist the impulse to scroll social media before bedtime, and instead engage in relaxing activities before bed. After a night of adequate sleep, you may notice an improvement in your mood and thinking process right away.
Practicing relaxation techniques can also help you sleep better and feel mentally alert.
8. Participating in physical activity
Moving your body can improve your life, mentally and physically, in a matter of days.
“Regular exercise is an important part of not just physical health, but also mental health,” explains Tuckman. “It’s also one of the first things to go when we get busy.”
Try to incorporate exercise or moving into your daily routine, so no matter how busy you are, you’ll always find a time and space to do it.
Moving can look like:
- dancing around your house
- doing some pool laps
- going to the gym
- using the stairs instead of the elevator
- walking around your neighborhood or preferred area
- doing yoga
- following a YouTube workout video
- walking around your office or home for 5 minutes every hour
Try to have at least 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity every day. You may find that you feel more energetic, clear-minded, and optimistic after you exercise.
9. Practicing gratitude
You can become more grateful every day by:
- mentally or physically listing all the things that are positive and healthy in your life
- recognizing the skills and qualities you’ve developed in yourself
- verbally expressing thanks to important people in your life
- ending your day by thinking about the positive things that you experienced today
- starting your day by focusing on the opportunities ahead
Practicing mental subtraction can also boost gratitude in your life. This means realizing the impact events and people have on your life by thinking about what life could be right now if you didn’t have them.
10. Setting an intention
One of the best things for self-improvement is to set an intention for your life, your day, your hour, and everything you do.
One way of setting an intention is to practice visualization and see yourself accomplishing those things you want.
“Positive visualization increases the likelihood of success,” says Joyce Marter, LCPC, a licensed counselor in Chicago. “We largely create our own realities through our thoughts and intentions, so clarify them by writing out your goals and objectives.”
Thayer suggests carving out time to set intentions for every day. “Make it a ritual and part of your daily routine, like in the shower, when driving to work, or drinking your morning coffee,” she said.
Sometimes, it’s possible that despite your best intentions and efforts, you still feel you haven’t improved the way you want or need. This is natural and common.
Consider reaching out to a mental health professional to explore possible reasons you feel this way and how to cope. They can help you develop a self-improvement plan that works for your specific needs.
You can improve your life and yourself starting today. Self-improvement may look different for everyone, so the first step might be to figure out what “improvement” means to you. Is it a different job? A new relationship? A sense of satisfaction?
Other things you can do to improve your life right now include sleeping well, practicing gratitude, moving more, and focusing on the evidence rather than what negative thoughts tell you.