When you hear the word quarantine, you may automatically think of the activities we’re unable to do these days. These range from dine in restaurants to working out at the gym to watching a movie in theaters. Rather than sitting around worrying about the pandemic or wondering when things will return to normal, you should take advantage of the opportunities this new lifestyle has to offer to self-improve.
With shelter-in-place still going on, it’s important to use your free time to learn new skills, practice self-care, and reconnect with yourself. However, don’t feel pressured to be productive every single moment of the day. Incorporating small improvements on a daily basis is actually more effective than making multiple big changes all at once. Small changes often turn into habits, while large changes tend to lead to failure due to feelings of frustration when results do not instantly occur. By simply embracing small practices for personal development, you will not only come out of quarantine feeling resilient, but you will also discover more about yourself that you’ve never known before. To help you get started on your self-improvement journey, here are 7 ideas for you to consider:
1. Maintain a Reading Habit
One of the biggest benefits of reading is improving our memory and concentration. As our world becomes more tech-centric, our ability to concentrate has gone downhill. New studies have shown that people dedicate over 11 hours per day watching, listening, reading, or consuming media from their technological devices. Technology has greatly decreased our attention span and memory retention. As a result, it’s important to maintain a reading habit to keep our brain in shape. Just like how running gives your heart and muscles exercise, reading improves your memory by giving your brain a proper workout.
Reading will not only help your brain grow, but it will also expose you to new ideas, mental models, and outlooks on life. You can apply these to understand more of your past and present experiences.
A simple way to kickstart your reading habit is to read just 25 pages per day, which is approximately 1 hour for the average reader. Not sure what to read? Some amazing self-help books that you should check out are You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life and Flow. Not only are these entertaining reads, but you will also surely learn something new to improve your current lifestyle.
Journaling daily is one of the most powerful habits you can form. Journaling can assist in managing your personal adversities and pinpointing important patterns of growth throughout your life. It’s not only one of the most effective ways to reduce stress, but it’s also a healthy form of expression that allows you to learn more about yourself and reflect. It’s one of the best ways to clear your mind and become more in tune with your thoughts and feelings. In fact, research has shown that expressive writing can help you develop more adaptive, structured, and integrated schemes about yourself and the world around you. So grab a notebook and spend 15-30 minutes to write down your thoughts! Writing by hand stimulates your brain in ways digital communication can never do.
3. Stay Active & Relax
Being a better you begins with being in better physical shape. Regular physical activity can improve your muscle endurance and strength overtime. Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And that gives you more energy to take on your daily chores. Integrating simple workouts into your daily routine will benefit your physical well being your mental health as well. Physical activity stimulates brain chemicals that gives you an emotional lift, leaving you feeling happier and less stressed — which is especially beneficial in alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety.
For further suggestions on how you can self-improve physically, check out one of our recent articles about ways you can stay active and relax at home!
4. Develop a Healthy Eating Habit
It’s really easy for us to cave into junk food cravings and wolf down chips when we’re feeling hungry. However, before you reach for that bag of potato chips, you should consider reaching for an apple or banana instead. In fact, the payoff of a healthier lifestyle has a larger impact than you might think.
“Over time, when you make healthy decisions about food, you are at a lower risk for cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even anxiety and depression. You will have more energy, feel better, and may even be in a better mood on a daily basis.” — Samantha Heller (Senior clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone Health)
An easy way for you to start improving your diet is to make smoothies. Throw in your favorite fruits — strawberries, bananas, blueberries — with some milk or juice for a delicious and healthy treat!
5. Sleep & Wake Up Early
More rest means more energy — plain and simple. If you get into the routine of waking up and sleeping early, you develop a better circadian rhythm. This leads to having more energy throughout the day. In fact, getting 8-9 hours of recommended sleep has significant impact on your productivity levels. It assists with improving your concentration, memory, and solving complex problems.
In addtion, research conducted by Christopher Randler — a biology professor at the University of Education in Heidelberg, Germany — has shown that people whose performance peaks in the morning are better positioned for career success, for they’re more proactive than those who are at their best in the evening. Being an early riser allows you to get a head start on the day and get more things done. By planning and laying out some goals to accomplish the previous evening, you can wake up feeling rejuvenated and motivated to tackle your day first thing in the morning.
6. Practice Positive Thinking
Are you a glass half-empty or glass half-full type of person? How you answer this age-old question may reflect your attitude on life and towards yourself. Positive thinking is much more than just being happy or displaying a cheerful attitude. It’s an approach to combat negativity in a more positive and productive way.
Positive thinking can not only bring meaningful value in your life, but it can also improve your health. Your skill lasts longer than a smile. Findings from Johns Hopkins expert Lisa R. Yanek, M.P.H shows that people with a family history of heart disease who had a positive outlook were one-third less likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular event within five to 25 years than those with a more negative outlook. When you tend to be optimistic, you’re more capable of handling everyday stress in a more constructive way.
How can you practice positive thinking and challenge any negative thoughts you may have? Try to practice reframing. For instance, if you’re frustrated that you’re stuck in a traffic jam, try to take on a different perspective of the situation. Rather than stress about being late for work, you can accept that there’s absolutely nothing you can do about the traffic. You can instead appreciate that you can afford a car and spend a few extra minutes to listen to music or the news — a little downtime for yourself.
7. Learn Something New
On a physiological level, learning new things is amazing for your brain development. According to CCSU Business & Development, learning a new skill stimulates neurons in your brain. This forms more neural pathways that allows electrical impulses to travel more quickly across them. Additionally, practicing something you’ve just learned increases the density of your myelin — the white matter in your brain — that helps improve your performance on numerous tasks.
Besides the physiological component, acquiring new knowledge or skills helps you gain greater confidence in yourself. When we succeed in learning something new, we feel a lot better about ourselves. That in turn causes us to feel more motivated to tackle all sorts of new challenges. When you have more knowledge, you have more power to achieve more things. So whether you’re learning a new recipe, a language — or even how to self-improve — taking initiative to learn something new is pivotal. It expands your mindset and is key to becoming the best person you can be.