A great way to starting the year right is looking back at what happened in the past – like last year.
How was your life last year? Was it near that which you hoped it would be? Or was it a busy time where you were always rushing and trying to do a lot with the little time that you have?
The first month of the year is always a good time to evaluate your life and see how you can make it less complicated than last year.
What better way is there than simplifying?
Simplifying your life leads to more time, less stress, more health and a greater chance at happiness.
So without further ado, here is a rundown of how you can simplify your life this year, experience better health and become happier.
1. Smile more often.
It’s natural to smile (even laugh) in happy situations.
The challenge here is carrying that smile even to the unpleasant circumstances.
Life is not a bed of roses. It can be tough. Not everything you want happens. Things go unexpectedly.
Smiling may not change your situation. But it releases endorphins which lowers stress and improves your overall mood. Besides, if you smile only when the situation is good, what challenge is there to that?
The challenge comes on smiling even if the situation is not at all ‘happy’.
It can be disappointing. But if you smile, it lightens how you feel and eventually, you will feel that it’s not so bad after all.
Another is that smile is contagious. Have you noticed that most of the time (if not always), when you smile to someone, that person smiles back to you?
When you are smiling, you are actually showing people that life is good and fun, and they are welcome to join you and have an amazing life too!
2. Take deep breaths more often.
According to the American Institute of Stress, deep breathing or abdominal breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.
I am not a doctor or a nurse and it’s hard for me to memorize certain parts of the brain, but I understand that what they’re trying to say is that deep breathing helps us to relax and be calm. It reduces anxiety and stress.
When was the last time you took a deep breath?
Take deep breaths regularly. Each day, give yourself at least 20 minutes of mindful deep breathing and a few years from now, your body will thank you for doing so.
3. Make over your mornings.
Do you feel stressed every morning? Maybe you’re thinking, how can I enjoy those precious hours and start my day with success?
Answer: Get your mornings a little makeover.
One simple step that I learned from Make Over Your Mornings is to take a real look at how you spend your mornings. Which of the things you do in the morning can be done the night before?
For me, one of it was washing the dishes and keeping the kitchen clean. Instead of doing it in the morning, I started doing it the night before. Now I can wake up at peace because I don’t have to clean anything when I wake up. I can use that time instead to pray, read the Bible and blend a morning smoothie.
How about you?
Perhaps it’s also washing the dishes and keeping the kitchen counters clean. Or maybe it’s preparing your kids’ things for school. Or choosing your outfit for the next day.
Start by identifying at least one task and do that the night before.
This tweak may be small and simple, but if you apply it, you’re going to notice the difference that it makes in your mornings. Sooner, you’ll be waking up with a smile in your face, without the feeling of having to rush things.
4. Buy only what you need.
When you have met your basic needs, acquiring more things will not make you any happier.
It won’t make your life any simpler either. Because the more things you buy, the more you have to keep, clean and organize.
On the other hand, buying only the things that you need will even leave extra cash in your pocket.
You can do many things with that remaining money.
If you have no emergency fund yet, start building it now. This is your buffer just in case something unexpected happens like when a family member gets sick and needs to be hospitalized.
You can also invest it so that a few years from now, you will not be working for money anymore, but your money will be the one working for you. (I like the sound of that, don’t you?)
If there’s a project that you have been wanting to start, but you haven’t because you don’t have the money for it, well, this can be another good thing to spend that extra money on.
I can go on and on with what you can do with your extra cash. But the point here is, you have this extra because you have decided to buy only what you need.
5. Create a budget and stick to it.
Make a monthly budget. Write down how much you are expecting to earn and list down all the expenses and bills that you have to pay.
Then stick to it.
A lot of people do not have trouble writing a budget. Sticking to it… that’s where they lose it.
When I was still working an 8-5 job, I created budgets every month to ensure that I could make ends meet and save some of the money I was earning.
Through it all, I learned that if I wanted to successfully stick to my budget, there is ONE thing that I must never forget.
And that is…
Don’t buy anything that is not on the list.
No buts, no ifs, if it’s not on the list, it’s a NO.
So if you have trouble sticking to your budget, I urge you to do this very simple trick and be really strict with yourself.
It will eventually pay off. You’ll realize soon that you have enough money for what you need and still have lots of extra to save or invest!
Which of your belongings do you really use?
Oftentimes, even if we know that we don’t need some of our things anymore, we still choose to keep them. Never mind if you only have a few of these around. But if you have loads that it already occupies your entire closet, or causes you to trip in your room, it’s time to say goodbye to these things.
Another, if you think that clutter only messes with your space, you got it all wrong.
According to a study conducted by Princeton University Neuroscience Institute, clutter affects your ability to focus and process information. So if you are working in a room with lots of clutter floating around, your concentration is depleted because of these things competing for your attention.
Clutter messes up with your head too, without you being even aware of it.
So if it is simplifying life you care about, the importance of decluttering cannot be overstated.
Not only does it help clear your space, it also brings you peace of mind.
7. Be grateful everyday.
How often do you say Thank You?
We normally look for the things that we don’t have. Sadly, we look too longingly on these things that we fail to appreciate those that we already have.
If this is you, this is a very tragic way to live.
While it’s alright to pursue the better things in life, let this not hinder you to feel grateful for what you already have.
Because when you are grateful, it makes you happier. It also lowers your levels of stress, anxiety and depression. It also helps in developing a positive attitude towards life.
And what I love about this attitude of gratitude is that the more you practice it, the more you acquire it. So the more you express gratitude, the more you become a grateful person. The more you become a grateful person, the happier you become!
So whatever it is that you want to have right now, don’t wait for it before you start being grateful.
Don’t say I’ll really be thankful and happy when I finally get this…
Count your blessings TODAY and be thankful for them.
Start being happy now. You owe it to yourself.
8. Take little breaks each day.
Many people feel guilty taking breaks because they think that when they do, they are diminishing their productivity.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
According to productivity experts, it works the other way around. Taking regular timeouts refreshes your focus and helps you to be even more productive.
So take mini breaks throughout the day. This is not only good for your mind and body, but also for the work that you do.
If you constantly feel guilty when you take a break, perhaps the Pomodoro technique can help you.
It’s a time management system that requires you to focus on your work for 25 minutes, then after that take a 5-minute break. You are REQUIRED to take a break. It’s part of the system.
I’ve used this system time and time again and it has yet to fail me.
9. Take a day off every week.
Take a real day off.
Not only from the office (outside or in the home) physically, but also from your paper works, emails and devices.
You may be out of your office, but if you still bring your work with you wherever you are, you only relocated. It’s not a real break at all.
Seriously, if you continuously work for seven days without taking a break, your body will give up on you.
You are also not as productive as you think. If you push yourself too hard, not taking any day off, your mind has no time to refresh and refocus, and that makes you a qualified candidate for anxiety and depression.
If you want to be successful, by all means do everything you can, but not at the expense of your own health.
Success doesn’t mean you have to show up 24/7.
It is knowing what you should do to deliver the best results. And that certainly includes taking a day off to catch up on some sleep, refocus, socialize, and enjoy some “me” time.
10. Spend more time with your loved ones.
Why do you work all day? Isn’t it so that you can provide for the needs of your family?
Yet, there is something they crave that they can not get from material things. Only you can give it to them.
Spending quality time with your family strengthens your bond with each other. It’s also a perfect stress reliever and a necessary ingredient if you’re looking for more happiness.
And you are not the only one benefiting from this – it’s your entire family.
For example, your spouse, just like a plant that needs to be watered everyday, your relationship with each other needs to be cared for and nurtured. If you regularly spend some quality time together, that makes your relationship stronger.
Another is your kids, if you take time to play with them, talk to them, and do many activities together, it helps build your children’s confidence, and they are more likely to build stronger relationships when they grow up.
And should I forget your own parents? As they grow old, they will crave for more of your presence. Just seeing you will be enough to make their day. What a joy it is to see your parents carve a smile because you came to visit them!
I can go on and on with this. The message is the same.
Spend more time with your family, because it’s happy to build relationships and create long lasting memories.
11. Stay away from negative people.
Negative people like… those who are always angry, complaining, putting you down and demanding.
A.k.a. Your boss. (just kidding)
Though I really hear a lot of people rant about how they hate their boss. (I understand. I was there too.)
Stay away from negative people because they’re going to drain the energy out of you. And that’s not healthy.
Another is if you are constantly receiving negativity, you may get used to it. But it’s like drinking toxin everyday. It can make you become a negative person, yourself.
So if you are always dealing with negative people, like for example, it’s part of your job, make sure that you always spend your free time with positive people and be proactive to have positive experiences outside of your workplace.
Or… you may consider looking for another job, or create a blog and work from home.
Just don’t let yourself become a negative person because of your environment.
A little precaution here, though. Many times it is other people whom we see as complainers, easily angered and very demanding. We often look at them too much that we fail to see our own selves in the mirror. But sometimes we are like that too.
So today, take this time to think… What about me? Am I always complaining? Maybe I am also very demanding and can really be unreasonably angry?
If it’s a yes, then, it’s time to change. Don’t let yourself become a negative person.
There’s always a better way to live.
12. Ditch junk food.
Why would you always eat something that makes you sick and kills your body little by little? Doesn’t make any sense, right?
Yet a lot of people love eating burgers, french fries, donuts, etc.
Yes they taste great! But these food items do not contain the nutrients that your body needs. Worse, these contain saturated fats and trans fats that increase your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes and even cancer.
If you really want to be healthier, you should avoid junk food like the plague.
Instead, replace them with fruits and vegetables.
The moment you crave for junk food, grab a banana or an apple.
If it has been your custom to buy burgers and french fries for lunch, take time to prepare your meal beforehand, so you are not at the mercy of fast food chains.
13. Spend time with nature.
How do you feel when you go for a little stroll in a nature park?
Feels refreshing, right?
Spending time with nature lowers stress. It also boosts your immune system. So take time to go out and enjoy the greens around you.
Look out your window regularly and drink on the greenery.
Take your lunch outside, on a bench under the tree. Make it even more fun by inviting your friends and coworkers to have a picnic with a mat on the grass. Then relax and touch the grass with your feet for a few minutes.
If you have a space in your home, cultivate a garden and go out there often. You can also consider going on a hike or hitting the beach with your family during vacations.
There are many other ways you can spend time with nature everyday. But even if you only have a few minutes to spare, you cannot go wrong if you choose to spend that time with nature.
You will feel relaxed, refreshed, and ready to take on the world again.
14. Start and end your day with a prayer.
I always pray after I wake up and before I go to sleep.
In the morning, I thank God for another day and ask for his help to carry out my tasks on that day.
At night, I thank him for the day that passed and ask him to protect us and give us a sound sleep.
In general, those are my prayers everyday. It just gets bulkier when I have too many concerns or when there are many events to be thankful for.
If you are a Christian, praying is a very simple way of connecting with God and you will not want to leave home without it. It is the means by which you can raise your concerns to Him and ask for help, for strength, and for peace of mind.
When you pray, it seems like your problems fade. While they may not fade at all, and your situation doesn’t change immediately, you will find that you have what it takes to face any challenge that may come your way. And that’s because you know that when you need help, it will come.
15. Read an inspiring book.
I love reading. Not only does it enhance my knowledge, but it also inspires me and opens my mind into a world of possibilities.
Reading reduces stress and improves your memory and imagination. It builds your vocabulary and even enhances your writing and communication skills. (These are great skills to have.)
So why not make reading one of your habits this year? I assure you, you will not regret it.
Create a list of the books that you are interested into. Challenge yourself into finishing one book every month. If you stay consistent, you will finish 12 books this year.
Imagine the amount of knowledge you would have received by then!
And depending on the type of books you read, it can change your life.
So on your next free time, before you turn on the TV, or open Facebook for the latest gossip, get a book first, and start reading.
16. Unplug from the digital world every once in a while.
How often do you check your phone? Do you reach for it immediately when you wake up?
It is true that technology is a great help to us. But excessive use of it is not help at all.
For example, at work, if you are constantly connected to your devices, it competes for your attention. Your concentration is then depleted and you become distracted from completing your to-do list.
You end up not completing your tasks for the day.
Another is in your relationships.
While it is very easy now for us to message our family and friends because of our phones and the internet, building a lasting relationship takes a face-to-face encounter.
When you are constantly glued to your phone, you’re not really building a relationship. Put down the phone. Then talk and do activities with your family and friends.
Nothing bad will happen to you if you disconnect once in a while. You won’t be missing anything if you don’t know the latest news and photos of your friends on Facebook.
Technology is very beneficial, but don’t let your connection to the digital world take over your life.
Doing so will improve your concentration, productivity and most importantly, your relationships.
Commit to taking action.
These are just a few of the many things you can do to simplify your life this year. There are many more you can do.
But all these are only information which will have no real effect if you don’t take action.
Even if you only commit to doing just one of these tips, you will feel the benefit of simplifying your life.