What have you tried for 30 days that changed everything? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Mental happiness in ninety days with 30 habits everyone should practice
This is what you are fighting to create change in your life--the Newtonian three laws of motion. The whole universe wants to keep you traveling in the way you have been.
First law: Inertia
Something will continue to stay the same unless it's pushed, and when it is, it will keep going that way unless something else changes it again. Therefore an object at rest will remain sitting there until influenced by a destabilizing force. Then it will keep going in that new direction, traveling at the same speed in that particular direction unless it is acted upon by a new and unbalancing force. So if you are set in your ways, you'll keep doing the same thing unless something influences you enough to the point where you can't keep the same mindset.
Second Law: Impact
When something is pushed, it depends on how powerful that push is and then it will go in the direction it was pushed. Where it goes is related to which direction and how hard it was hit. So when someone tells you something powerful, the tendency is to go in that direction.
Third law: Reaction
For every action that's made, there is an equal action that pushes in the opposite direction and with the same amount of force. So when someone pushes you, you want to push back. When someone pulls you, you want to pull back. We naturally fight destabilizing forces, even if they are good for us.
It takes time to turn your life in a new direction. I used to have a toy gyroscope in my office. I'd spin it, hand it to a patient, and then have them try to change the direction. They could feel the resistance. The whole universe is fighting that change. That momentum is going in one direction. But if you stay with it, it resets in the new position and then will resist any further new changes. You have to impact it with enough energy that the momentum overcomes the resistance. It's the same with you. If you do a new behavior, you'll pick up some inertia and it will eventually normalize into a habit, which then takes minimal energy.
30 days of consistent behavior is known to have an impact. Now the truth is, I'm more in favor of ninety days rather than thirty. It generally takes six weeks to effectively learn a new habit. I've had much more long-term success with the extra two weeks. All of these changes imply some sort of risk, especially if you aren't already doing them. They will threaten your status quo inside and out. The laws of motion will be experienced as you experiment. Here is a list of ones I have, and/or I've had patients do over the years, in no particular order:
1. I Choose.
To bring home how every motion you do is your choice, start saying it. "I choose to get up", "I choose to go to the door", "I choose to open it", "I choose to walk out", "I choose to close it". Etc. As stupid as that sounds, it brings it home how much we truly are deciding everything we do.
Benefit: No one makes you do anything. They especially cannot make you miserable nor happy but they sure can influence you. You choose what you do, what you emote and what you believe. You can choose to be happy where your at instead of waiting for it to someday, maybe show up.
2. Stop being negative/start being positive.
You are what you think. This is a projective test. Is the glass half full or empty? Your choice. Look for the positive payoff in every situation. Somebody is getting a positive payoff in every event. You can choose to get one too. Task yourself with it. Many people use the simple rubber band on wrist to snap as a reminder- "I can change my mind!" Then you start seeing gratitude rather than defeat.
Benefit: It's a huge thing to realize you control your own attitude and it isn't really linked to other people's beliefs. Positive thinking gives you more energy and clear-headedness to do things.
3. Project happy.
People read you. Your face tells them your energy level and your relationship with life. Just smiling helps your attitude show through. Say hello to everyone. Ask how other people lives are going. Meet people, especially strangers. Show them you are curious about their journey so far and how it impacts on them. What has made a difference in their life? What have they discovered through their suffering and decisions? People like to be around others who are interested in them. It makes people feel you like them and they belong.
Benefit: Other people react positively to you and give you back positive too. They are more likely willing to help you. When you listen intently to their story, people feel safe. They'll risk taking you down to the protected emotions of level three deep inside themselves. That creates intimacy and a bond of trust. It's empowering.
4. Eat right / bless the food.
All diets work for somebody. Just pick one and follow it. Quit eating "junk" food. It's formulated to trigger cravings. They aren't in it to provide health; it's a business designed to use people for profit. Don't eat until full, you don't need it. You only need enough energy to get to the next service station, which is typically four to six hours away. Carrying security-fuel around in case you might run out is a distortion - a false belief. It's hard on every system in your body but especially suspension and plumbing.
In addition, if you become aware that a plant or animal gave its life so you could experience yours tomorrow, be grateful. Say a prayer/meditation/slogan of gratefulness every meal. Everything you eat becomes you.
Benefit: Without health, there is nothing. Eating properly allows your body to tune itself naturally. All those years of evolution work with the tools you give them. It boosts energy, allows a better attitude, gives more motivation, combats disease, and basically you get to live longer. By blessing your ingestion of other life forms, you will feel much more aware of your own body and appreciate the circle of life.
This is your physical health. These bodies are on loan; they all get factory recalls. Everything in life either grows or deteriorates. You take care of it and it can last a hundred years. That means you need to move the energy through it regularly to keep it tuned up. Stagnating energy becomes putrid. Do some load-bearing exercise. Learning to move energy through your system aerobically supercharges and fine tunes all the body's systems. My friend, a federal judge who was sharp as a tack, worked on the bench when he was over a hundred and still took the stairs.
Benefit: Long and active life with the health to do things. You will feel better and think more clearly. For many people it's a moving meditation so they can integrate mentally while their body is in a routine dynamic. You get to feel alive by touching it.
I have so many patients with sleep issues. Not sleeping enough exacerbates their life issues. They can't seem to turn off the critical harangue or the anxious problem solver in their mind. So many are consuming large quantities of drugs or alcohol in order to poison themselves enough so that they don't hear it and can pass out. That doesn't produce REM sleep.
Benefit: Learning how to shift your mind out of work mode and choosing to get off the clock is crucial for good health. Emotions then are not hypersensitive to any slight during your daytime shift where they are corrupting your life. You get to be relaxed and feel clear-headed and in control of yourself. Also your body repairs itself mentally and physically when REM sleep is functioning.
Clean your teeth and your body, and wear deodorant, flush the toilet, and wash your hands. It is amazing how many people didn't learn proper hygienic habits. Even more how many don't wash after using the toilet. But there are people who have run others out of places with their BO or bad breath.
Benefit: Your hygiene doesn't become a matter of conversation, especially behind your back. But also, your body will thank you. You don't create an environment where bacteria are setting up housekeeping on you.
8. Electronic blackout.
Get bored. Choose a set number of hours for electronics. TV / videos / games / cell phones all consume our lives. We all have a limited amount of time on earth. Are you getting your life's worth? Those things are made by other people, not you. Entertainment junkies are just hedonistic consumers. There is no pride that comes from them.
Benefit: Being bored is seemingly crucial for coming up with new ideas. Most people then figure out some other typically creative way to spend their time. They also have something to show for it and convert it into pride. That then links to one's life having value.
9. Write or journal.
Reflecting on what I have experienced allows me to better understand camera two (the other's perspective) and camera three (the objective perspective). The words on paper hold still and say the same thing over and over unless changed. Seeing them in print often helps sort what happened and can help the person get a wisdom credit.
Writing for just five minutes will make a difference. The 5 Minute Journal.
Benefit: Gives better feedback to make improvements in future decisions. It leaves a legacy of one's life and allows you to see the changes that have taken place. I often have women patients write a journal as they go through the self-help book 'Women as Winners." That way when they finish and we go over it together, they themselves can see their own growth. They can wise up faster by doubling the perspectives for the same event.
10. Read and educate yourself.
Books condense time, give us information, and plant the seeds of wisdom. We learn things we never would have known. We can have vicarious experiences, which allow us to have more experiences than we would have in our own restricted lives.
Benefit: Books can change you ... I was working at Boeing in CNC maintenance when I started reading Will Durant's Story of Philosophy. It influenced my life and set me on a whole different trajectory.
11. Enjoy your job.
Liking your job and having a good attitude will generally mean it will go well. Say out loud I am a [job descriptor] and I [feeling] it! I've had patients go out in the country and pretend they are a lion on the Serengeti and roar until they ran out of breath.
Benefit: You get stronger. Time goes by quicker. By being happier, you'll be both more productive and successful. Believing in who you are will help you identify if the job is fulfilling or not. It will give you confidence and self-esteem.
12. Have a compelling future.
If you don't know where you're going, how will you know if you get there?
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where-" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6).
Benefit: Imagining a future that is bright (visualized) drives a passion to create. It gives focus and direction to ones life. It provides a sense of purpose and meaning for staying alive.
13. Delay gratification.
Resist the temptation for immediate rewards and wait for a later, better one. It's one of the most effective personal traits of successful people. Understanding how delaying quick payoffs allows for awareness and maturation.
Benefit: Better health, finances, education, and success in general. Being better educated tends to earn people higher incomes. Delayers are less likely to have a drug or alcohol addiction or to be incarcerated.
Clean your house. Take out the trash and empty it. Organize your storage and make your bed. Your surroundings typically reflect your inner self. Sloppy house equals sloppy life. The number of patients I see whose day goes poorly when they don't make their beds has been an eye-opener. Something about sloughing off that decision did something to them. I've lived in group homes where not taking out the trash was reflected in their approach to life.
Benefit: A smooth and hassle-free environment. Discipline starts at the crack of dawn with the first choice of the day and sets the style and attitude for the rest of it. Clean and organized lifestyle translates into a clean and organized mind.
15. Record keeping.
Files of your life. Pay stubs, receipts, warranties, birth certificates, medical records, insurance forms, marriage license, and a blizzard of papers. Have a place for them so you touch them once when they come home and once to get them to their holding area. Then only once more when you deal with it and then file it in a known marked storage area.
Benefit: No wasted time and certainly no frustration when trying to locate it later; it's right where you put it. You get to be aware of what your life is really doing by keeping track of it. Paper trails allow for course corrections before calamities.
Discipline is a personal orientation toward a way of life where one tries to be on time and live in a systematic way. It's one of the factors people judge you by. The beginning of discipline is always scheduling. Listing out what is expected will be done each day as a guide. I've had people start in the morning by making their beds.
Benefit: Earn the virtues of being focused, staying healthy, and basically avoiding problems. These people have self-control, get things done, and are likely to be happy.
17. Paying bills.
Everybody owes. Everybody pays bills. Set yours up so you pay your bills off and on time. All those debts keep you from being honest about what it takes. The banks are in it for THEIR profit, not yours. And pay your taxes without griping. It's the privilege of living where you do. They are not a surprise unless you were not on top of your spending habits. Whining keeps you stuck in fairyland. I have known so many people who, when they got a break or windfall, instead of paying off their debts, used it to buy things they had their eye on, which many times created even more debt.
Benefit: Not compounding debt. It's freeing up money to have it work for you instead of you working for others. Feelings of control instead of anxiety. Actually owning rather than just paying someone else.
18. Save money.
Learn finances. Educate yourself on how money makes money. You can't have it work for you if you keep giving it away. Learn what amortization scales are, how stocks work, why you are charged percentages. How debt accumulates. Watch Oprah on how to get rich on a poor man's salary. How to become Rich!!! on Oprah.
Benefit: Debt-free and savings for a worry-free future. Produces the freedom to choose what you want in your life.
19. Have a hobby.
Be creative; make things that didn't exist before. Figure out the puzzles and bring them to life. Music, art, cooking, writing, gardening, dancing, sewing, woodworking, electronics, and on and on with wonderful things.
Benefit: It creates pride (I did it myself). Hobbies allow you to get off the clock and clear your mind. They can provide a sense of purpose and focus. They also allow you to connect with like-minded people.
20. Help a charity.
Give back to society. None of us got here by ourselves. It's appreciating those who are less fortunate by alleviating or reducing someone else's misery.
Benefit: Giving evokes gratitude. It creates compassion, humility, and joy. Research found that providing money to someone else lifted the giver's happiness more than spending it on themselves, and the giving itself has been shown to increase health benefits in people with chronic illness. In addition, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line. And it can spur a ripple effect of generosity throughout a community by being contagious.
21. Immerse yourself in society.
Meet people. Belong to the society in which you find yourself. Affiliation as a primary emotion is critical for both our mental and physical health. The pain of social rejection follows us like a cloud for years if not lifetimes. Most all of the public mass shootings seem to be from people who did not feel accepted by society.
Benefit: Promotes cooperation and social connection. A cohesive society in which people help each other is healthier than ones that are fragmented. Researchers provided evidence that social ties and increased contact with family and friends are associated with a lower risk of disease and even death.
22. Cultivate friends.
Find friends. Go out to lunch with them. Call up people you haven't talked with for years and visit. Investigate a club or join a church. Friends are essential for your health. According to scientific research, loneliness and isolation can reduce your life span more than obesity. Many of us need friends to validate our attributes. We need to know we are desirable.
Benefit: Spending time with friends adds years to your life. Research has shown it boosts your immune system while lowering blood pressure, which in turn decreases the probability of stroke. Having interactions with people we care about can even reduce pain, especially if they kiss our boo-boos.
23. Create Intimacy.
This is our desire to be loved unconditionally. To risk sharing your deepest darkest secrets and dreams with another person can feel therapeutic, especially when you finally find someone you trust enough to do it with. We all need to feel desirable, that somebody else wants us.
Benefit: People with partners feel accepted and appreciated with a sense of belonging and being cared about. They get more done while experiencing less stress and strain than those who must go it alone. This promotes a kind of honesty for the self and others. People get a spring in their step, have a zest for life, and are happy.
We talk of committing to another person. That's important but not the real commitment. The real commitment is to our own integrity. Commit to honesty and quit deceiving. Say the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So many of us were taught to fudge what really happened. It creates isolation. People live in their heads.
Benefit: Your integrity strengthens every dynamic you face as a human. Purpose, relationships, success, accomplishments, spirituality, integration, and character grows dramatically.
25. Be thoughtful.
Do one small thing for someone. Help the existence of someone else. As Thoreau said, "Most people live lives of quiet desperation." Be especially kind to those less fortunate. We all need to be seen by others to experience belonging. That's part of the grief of homelessness; they turn into invisible people. They don't belong anymore and so the loss can take them quickly to despair.
Benefit: You get to experience joy, the spiritual side of happiness. Giving positive energy away so another person can be happy feeds yours. Thoughtfulness changes our mindset and creates new neuro-pathways. We belong by helping them belong.
26. Count your blessings.
Just write down three things from the past 24 hours that you're grateful for -- friends, family, events, the fact that you're alive, anything. Gratitude generally comes from turning a loss into a benefit. It's looking at it and realizing that to grow, we have to let go of something. Getting stuck in our losses feeds misery and prevents maturation and growth.
Benefit: We see gratitude as a virtue. Real spirituality tends to give rise to grateful behavior. Gratitude is strongly correlated with optimism, which makes us nicer, more trusting, more social, and more appreciative.
27. Attend some kind of challenging growth group.
AA, EA, OA, grief group, consciousness raising, or some kind of support group that provides a time where you get to tell your story and you listen to others. People can unburden themselves in a supportive and generally loving atmosphere. Isolation is one of the big problems in society, especially with social media now. People hide behind a blizzard of words.
Benefit: Debriefing has a stunningly positive affect on people. All that isolation in one's head suddenly disappears when people truly are able to be honest and allow others to see them. They discover they are less alone and they can inspire other group members. The others can offer a different perspective on your problems. It releases some of the pent-up stress by clarifying and getting under what the true issues are. Sponsors can help you to not keep fooling yourself.
28. Spiritual guide.
Find a Shaman, Priest, Mullah, Cleric, Rabbi, Sage, or spiritual mentor. Someone who gives guidance in life's puzzles of being. A person who uses compassion, not rules; joy, not anger; kindness, not criticism; and faith, not certainty. They consider personal growth and fulfillment as a central goal. They help you discover your place in the universe. Spirituality can be considered to be a path toward self-actualization.
Benefit: They teach you how to center and savor life experiences. They encourage people to be optimistic and positive. They tend to demonstrate graciousness and compassion. They allow positive relationships, creating high self-esteem.
29. Safe house.
It's the sanctuary of the heart. Imagine a place that is peaceful and secure with nature's beauty and your dream house on it. Put yourself there and explore it. Then go fetch your ghost child, take them there, and make sure they're safe. Have a room set up where the child can explore and play and be a kid with no criticism. Go visit and make sure they're never alone or scared again. You can tell at what age people are emotionally stuck by the level of ridiculousness, whether it's anger or sneaking around.
Benefit: Produces a sanctum for the inner child where it is safe and secure. Then it doesn't act out in your adult life.
30. Meditate or practice mindfulness.
Pay attention; Buddha consciousness is about waking up and paying attention to what's real. Evaluate each day. Make it interactive. Instead of blanking out or praying to a deity, interact with one. Visualize it happening. Do this for five minutes when you first get up and five minutes just before you drop off to sleep.
Benefit: You will start changing your own mental dynamics, feeling more integrated and empowered. Blood pressure goes down. Some people alter their physical dynamics by using imagination. Whatever we imagine is true, our bodies act as if it's true.
. . .
So all these are aspects of people who got their lives together. You don't do them all at once. In my forty years of being a professional therapist, especially in addictions, I've never had a success with making a change and quitting nicotine at the same time. It's too hard. I've gotten people off heroin, cocaine, meth, marijuana, alcohol, and overeating but not if they've tried to quit smoking at the same time. Pick your battles.
Pick one to commit to and start. Get your routine established and practice every day. Post them so you can see your progress. You don't have to complete each one before starting on another, but don't overload yourself.
Each of these have nuances that get discovered along the way. Every person has to customize the particular events to their specific learning style and willingness to work the program. Some will be more powerful than others, but all have caused relief for certain aspects of dysfunctional life styles. One thing is for sure: if you start doing them, you'll be a happier person. And from there your life will have depth and meaning.
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