It’s hard to start again. To pack up everything and move to a different place, far away from what you know. But what about starting again, without changing physical locations?

My 2019 New Year’s Resolution was that I would finally work on becoming a better and new person. ‘This is the day, the day that I will self-actualise my existence and finish sudoku puzzles’, I told my friends at the start of each attempt.

But like most New Year Resolutions, the adrenaline crashed after a few days, leaving me no different from before. It was frustrating to the people around me but even more frustrating for me, as I started to think that maybe I wasn’t cut out for self-improvement. Maybe I was incapable of moving forward.

Those false starts proved something though. I had been going about it wrong. You don’t turn over a new leaf in one day. You don’t wake up a new person either. Instead of dealing with my real issues, I let them fester. I thought that I could ignore everything wrong with sheer force of will, and macrame. Just like my badly knotted macrame projects, the state of denial that I lived in started to fall apart.

We all get stuck sometimes. Whether it’s writer’s block, barriers in our thinking, bad habits, or just being stuck in your head; they’re all difficult to find our way out of. We all have changes that we need to implement in our lives. Whether it’s drinking more water or waking up earlier, they’re all valuable decisions to make. But starting good habits is hard, and so is self-improvement.

Below are some ideas that could help.

Significant Days

People find it easier to make a significant change if it’s on a significant day. That’s why people are suddenly motivated to ditch bad habits, but only at the start of a new year. These resolutions have varying success rates, but being motivated to make them is a good start nevertheless.

Think about the significant days close to you right now. Is there a change you want to implement on your life? Maybe the upcoming World Productivity Day (June 20th) will inspire you to examine the efficiency of your current studying habits?

Cleaning

Often when life is messy, cleaning up can spark joy. There’s nothing like a tidy workspace to kick-start productivity, after all. Speaking of sparking joy, the KonMari method is also an option. Passing on or disposing of what no longer ‘sparks joy’, is a good way to surround yourself with things that make you happy.

In my personal experience, refolding half the clothes in your wardrobe gives you a lot of time for introspection and thought. (The other half didn’t spark joy anymore.)

Sleep

The optimal sleeping time is 9.2 hours. If you’re like most people, your sleep ends far quicker. Lack of sleep triggers the same mechanisms in our brain that make us sensitive to anxiety, and if it continues, it can develop into an anxiety disorder.

Other than the scientific side of things, sleeping the right amount of time can also help you concentrate better and therefore do better in class. Establishing good sleeping habits now will greatly benefit you long term, and short term.

Meditation

In the constantly moving world we live in, we’re encouraged to do things faster. Shopping is streamlined into one-click purchases. Microwaveable meals are done in a minute. When everything around us seems to get faster and faster, it can be hard to slow down.

That’s where meditation comes in. The key to building good habits is to persist with them. Making room for ten minutes of quiet meditation every day can gradually add up to a calmer and less stressed you. Many successful people meditate, and for good reason.

It’s not for everyone, but it can’t hurt to give it a try, right?

These ideas might seem pointless at first or not helpful enough. And you’re right.

Having one good day of sleep, will not undo a year of bad sleeping. Cleaning your room once does not mean that it will stay clean by tomorrow. There’s no shortcut to changing yourself for the better. It takes effort, time and hard work.

But the thing about improving yourself and picking up good habits is that it takes a long time, and when it happens, you’ll suddenly realise how much… happier you are. So why not start now? People are always looking for short term fixes, but what we really need is something long term. Persistence with developing good habits always gets rewarded—a life-changing reward.

Written by Elaine Cao. Edited by Nancy Qiang. Published on 17/06/2019. Header image courtesy Elena Koycheva

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