Any time of year is a great time to work on self-improvement, but something about starting a New Year makes people really commit to their goals. Are you looking for self-improvement skills that provide both an immediate impact and have potential for lifelong benefits? Do you want a New Year’s resolution that’s SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound)? Here are seven fantastic self-improvement skills you can work on in 2018, and how to get started:
1. Address your technology addiction. You might not qualify to be an in-patient at one of the increasingly common technology addiction rehabilitation centers around the world (or maybe you do!), but most people could benefit from lessening their screen time and love affair with their phones. Set a timeframe every day that’s “tech free,” ideally before and during bedtime. Even blue lights from tech devices can disturb your sleep. Start with going screen-free at least two hours before bedtime and keeping your phone in a room you don’t sleep in. Invest in an old-fashioned battery-controlled alarm clock.
2. Improve overall sleep hygiene. Reducing your technology dependency is just one aspect of sleep hygiene. The National Sleep Foundation reports that Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. Sleep hygiene consists of best practices that help you fall asleep and stay asleep. They include creating a sleep routine that cues your body and brain that it’s almost bed-time. A bath, some sleepy-time tea, reading instead of watching television, and striving towards however many hours of sleep you need to wake up naturally (it varies, eight is just an average) is a great start.
3. Practice positive cognitive reconditioning. Cognitive reconditioning is a technical term for practicing positive self-talk. Most of us are guilty of speaking worse to ourselves than we would to a stranger. It’s tough in a culture where self-deprecation is so widely appreciated. However, if you’re not going to be your biggest cheerleader, who will? This doesn’t have to include practice like daily affirmations, but it can. Start paying attention to how you internally speak to yourself, and choose to do so kindly.
4. Active listening. It’s not easy or innate to actively listen. Most people are simply waiting for the other person to stop talking so they can start. Active listening involves paying attention to what the person is saying, giving non-verbal cues that you’re listening when applicable (such as nodding), and asking genuine questions. You can also pair up with a loved one and swap active listening where one person does nothing but listen while the other talks as much or as little as they’d like for ten minutes. Laying down side by side so eye contact isn’t a requirement can help.
5. Learn how to read nutritional labels. In an ideal world, we would all have our own veggie plots and get our grains, meat (for the carnivores) and beverages from local farmers. However, that’s simply not realistic. Understanding what’s in our food is absolutely vital to our well-being. Understanding healthy amounts of sodium, sugars, simple carbs, and calories in what we consume keeps us informed.
6. See key health experts at least once per year. You may need to see health providers more often depending on your needs, but once a year minimum is a must for a general physician, dermatologist, and dentist. Oral hygiene is linked to wellness throughout the body, and an annual mole check with your dermatologist is the best way to catch skin cancer (the most common type of cancer in the US) as soon as possible. Ask your general physician for an annual deficiency screening so you know if it’s a vitamin or mineral issue that’s making you feel sleepy, light-headed, or another symptom you don’t have to live with.
7. Keep the golden rule in mind. Treating others how you’d like to be treated requires both observation and empathy. There’s an issue with this rule, because how we’d like to be treated isn’t always how others would like to be treated—but it’s a good starting point. Empathy, however, informs us of how others would like to be treated. Both the golden rule and empathy will demand that you foster relationships with everyone you encounter, from your spouse or children to the dry cleaning clerk. Kindness goes a long way!
These seven life skills have the power to change your life, permanently, for the better. However, they can’t be mastered. Instead, they’re practiced on a daily basis and, bit by bit, we’ll get better at it.