People say that change is difficult but I’ve found it really doesn’t have to be. Most of us can comfortably walk a mile, but did you know that a mile takes, on average, two thousand steps to complete… As Lao Tzu famously said “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” and so we can, in our every day lives, break lengthy processes, such as change, into smaller more manageable stages. These small steps, each and every day, build to a huge journey of change and self-realisation. I’ve found that all I have to do is spend just a few minutes each day, devoting a small amount of motivation and energy, to gently and gradually change my life-long habits. These are just a few of the things I’ve been trying and the rewards are enormous…
I spend two minutes every day on something that I’ve always wanted to do.
Whether it’s writing a book, starting a small business, learning a new sport or exercise routine, meditating, learning a new language, making clothes, planning a trip around the world or supporting a local charity… I’ve started making a very small commitment to my dreams each and every day. Sometimes it’s time spent just on the initial stages of research, other times I’m actually doing my chosen activity. The important thing is that I’m making a start on my life-long dreams and these two minutes a day add up to fourteen minutes a week, which add up to seven hundred and twenty-eight minutes a year which add up to… okay, you get the point. And of course, once I’ve completed the two minutes (the first step is always the hardest part, right?) I usually feel motivated to continue and do much more. The important thing is making that start: the rewards are huge and I no longer have that little voice in my head telling me that I’ve always wanted to do something but I never even tried.
I spend two minutes every day saying thank you.
I take the time every day to survey my life exactly as it is right now, my surroundings and the world in general, and I look for things for which I am grateful. It’s easy to go through each day seeing the negative and finding things to grumble about, but I find that if I spend just two minutes a day looking at the sunnier side of life and feeling true gratitude for even the smallest good fortune, the optimism spreads. The more I nurture something, the more it flourishes, and gratitude is a wonderful form of nurture for everything good in our lives.
I take one good, deep breath each day.
This is a really small thing that has had a huge impact on my life. I stop what I’m doing once a day and take one conscious breath. When I say conscious, I mean I really notice how it feels to breathe. I relax my body. I let my shoulders drop. As I breathe in, I feel the cool air on my nostrils as it enters my body. I breathe slowly and feel the breath descending all the way down to deep into my chest. I feel my abdomen gently expand as I appreciate every drop of life-giving air. I pause for a moment. Then I slowly and meditatively allow the breath to gently release. I feel it slowly rising from my abdomen to my head, feeling the warmth of the breath on my nostrils as it is expelled. And that’s it. It takes just a few moments out of my day but I feel more relaxed, more clear-headed and certainly refreshed.
I release expectations.
When I wake up in the morning, I release all expectations for the day. Each day is a miracle in itself, it’s a marvel that I am alive; I make an effort to realise this and accept that it is enough. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have ambition, it just means that I don’t have to expect complete happiness, success and satisfaction each and every day. It takes the pressure off myself, allowing me to take it one day at a time, and allow what will be to simply be.
I spend two minutes being mindful each day.
Either sitting, standing or lying down, it really doesn’t matter, I simply allow myself to fully come in to the present moment. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is by engaging with the sensations of my body, noticing my breath, noticing the ground beneath my feet, the chair under my buttocks or the bed or ground under my body and the air on my skin. I try to notice any smells I can perceive, listen for the smallest sounds, open my eyes and really look at the detail of what is in front of me. Concentrating on what my senses are telling me, I forget the past and the future and stay firmly planted in the “now”.
I try to change judgement to understanding.
We go through life judging others by our own narrow standards. We get annoyed with the impatient person who pushes at the back of the queue, or the slow person who is holding everyone up at the front. When I feel such frustration and irritation growing in judgement of someone else’s behaviour, I try to notice my reaction and take a moment to imagine how their life may be. Perhaps the impatient person has a sick relative that they need to get back to. Perhaps the slow person has a migraine, a learning difficulty or some other issues that means that the simple things in life are more of a struggle for them. In short, I really try to cut them some slack and to understand that there is always a different point of view from my own. We all have different crosses to bear and most of them are invisible to the onlooker, so I just try to understand rather than to judge.
I make an effort to make someone else’s day a little better.
Most of us spend our day trying to make things better…. for ourselves. We think of ways to fulfil our ambitions, to be happier, healthier and fitter. So I try to take a moment each day to improve someone else’s life other than my own. Just a small amount of thought can make all the difference. I buy someone a cup of coffee, help them with their shopping bags or hold the door open, pay them a genuine compliment or simply just give them a warm smile and really listen to them when they speak. A small effort can go a long way and I am, in fact, helping myself because good deeds improve my own happiness and well-being in many ways.
I try to do something new every week.
We are mostly creatures of habit, eating and drinking the same things at the same times of day, going to the same shop on the same day of the week for our shopping and hanging out with the same friends or family members year in year out. I try to take some time to mix it up. I change my routine and do some new activities with new people. I walk or cycle rather than taking the car. I go to a new café and strike up a conversation with a stranger. I try out a new recipe or a new restaurant. Even a small change like taking the stairs instead of the elevator (which will also help keep me fitter and more active) can give us all a fresh perspective on mundane, everyday activities.
These ideas are just a starting point of course. These activities have the potential to be expanded on indefinitely, investing more time into those that I find rewarding as and when I can, but I find that these are a minimum to help me to commit to change in my life. It is said that a habit is formed after doing something just seven times, so I tried it for a week to see how I felt. I found that I was more relaxed, more alert and clear-headed and more motivated, and I really haven’t looked back.