+40 Small Habits That Can Dramatically Change Your Life (in 2021)
It’s easy to overestimate the importance of one big action and underestimate the value of making small improvements consistently.
We are convinced that success requires massive action, and we dismiss small changes because they don’t seem to matter in the moment.
If you save a little money today, you’re still not a millionaire. If you go to the gym now, you’re still overweight. The results don’t seem to come quickly so we give up and stop trying.
On the other hand, you could be a millionaire, but if you spend more than you earn each month, then you’re walking the wrong path.
This is to say that it isn’t about the results as much as it is about whether your habits are putting you on the right path to success.
Even though small improvements aren’t noticeable, they can be far more meaningful in the long term.
This Article contains 42 small habits that will change your life.
Ready? Let’s get started!
The Power of Small Habits
Small habits don’t require much effort or time, yet they have a powerful compounding effect when repeated often enough.
For example, the simple habit of writing a loving text to your partner won’t take more than 2 minutes, but it can improve your relationship tremendously. In contrast, imagine mocking or belittling your partner every single day, what effect would that has on your relationship?
The same principle applies to every other area of your life. Every small action repeated day in and day out, is going to have a positive or negative effect on the quality your life.
So if small habits are easy to complete and yet have such an effect on our lives, why don’t people do more of them?
The answer is because of its level of ease.
Because the task doesn’t require much effort or time, most people never feel the need to schedule it into their day and convince themselves that they’ll get around to it.
Unfortunately, they never get around to it.
That’s because every action requires a reminder to complete it. But that doesn’t mean that you need to fill your life with dozens of Post-it notes, alerts, and alarms.
Instead, try stacking these small habits. All you need to do is:
1. Identify the list of small actions you want to complete.
2. Group them together into a routine.
3. Schedule a specific time every day to complete this routine.
4. Use a trigger as a reminder to complete this stack.
5. Make it super easy to get started and keep doing it.
Why Habit Stacking Works?
Adding too many things in your life, even if they were small and each action won’t take more than 5 minutes, can increase your stress levels and make you feel overwhelmed.
This is where habit stacking comes in. It not only helps you remember to complete each small action, but it also makes these actions seem like one action to complete.
How Long Does Change Really Take?
You may have heard that it takes 21 or 28 days for a change to become permanent. But really, the amount of time required to make lasting change depends on the person, the change, and the circumstances.
Why Goals Are Important?
It’s important that each new small habit you include in your routine to be aligned with your goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, drinking more water can be a small habit that will help you reach your goal.
How to Choose Your Small Habits?
After identifying your goals, ask yourself “What small habits I can start today that will support my major goals?”
Your small habits are going to be unique to you. Below is a list of habits to inspire from:
1. Physical Health Habits
#1. Replace One Food Item with a Healthy Alternative
The best way to start eating healthy food is to make a single food substitution each day. Doing this will help you become more healthy and lose weight.
Below are a few examples. You can substitute:
- Soda with tea
- White bread with whole grain bread
- Mayonnaise with mustard or avocado
- Ketchup with salsa
- Sour cream with Greek yogurt
- Milk with almond milk
- Vegetable oil with coconut oil or olive oil
- Iceberg lettuce with arugula, romaine, spinach, or kale
#2. Fill a 32-Ounce Water Bottle
Dehydration can cause headaches and fatigue, affect your concentration and short-term memory. Drinking enough water also helps with losing weight.
Fill a 32-ounce bottle twice a day and drink it throughout your day. If you find plain water unpalatable, try adding a squeeze of lemon or a slice of cucumber.
#3. Complete a 7-Minute Workout
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests that you get between 150 and 250 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every week to lose weight. That’s roughly 22 to 35 minutes of exercise per day. A 30-minute walk can be a great option. You can do it with a loved one, while walking your pet, etc.
#4. Increase Your Flexibility
Increasing your flexibility is one of the best ways to improve your overall health and it doesn’t take much of your time.
There are many ways you can increase your flexibility. You can do a full-body stretch, or a quick session of yoga.
#5. Sleep 6 to 8 hours per night.
Studies show that deep sleep (REM) helps your body to repair muscles, organs, and many other cell types and keep your stem cells younger.
During deep sleep, your body regulates some of your hormones, such as lowering cortisol (tied to stress), and makes more of some hormones, such as growth hormones.
9 Healthy Sleeping Habits
- Keep Regular Hours Go To Bed And Wake Up At The Same Time Every Day
- Cut Back On Blue Light Emitted From Electronic Devices
- Know Your Chronotype (Are You an AMer or a PMer?)
- Limit caffeine after lunch and alcohol at night.
- Keep Your Bedroom Cool Rather Than Warm
- Dim The Lights At Night
- Put Everything in Its Right Place For Morning
- Write Down Your Thoughts
- Have a Light Exercise
#6. Apply Sunscreen Year Round
Sunscreen protects your skin from UV rays that can harm you year round. It helps you reduce your chances of sunburn, photo aging, and skin cancer.
Find a high-SPF sunscreen. Apply it before leaving the house and reapply it every two hours if you’re going to spend a long time outside.
2. Mental Health Habits
You might not have someone always available to listen to you, and you might have things you don’t want share with others. Journaling is a great way to release your emotions and process your thoughts.
Check out these journaling prompts to help you self-reflect.
#8. Reduce Stress
Stress wreaks havoc on the mind and body.
The shorter, darker days of winter also add stress to people who suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder).
Studies found that people with high-stress levels suffered more severe respiratory symptoms, and higher levels of interleukin-6, a protein that stimulates inflammatory and autoimmune processes.
Learn how to manage stress using techniques like mindfulness and meditation.
Be optimistic. It can go a long way.
10 Ways to Reduce Your Stress
- Practice deep breathing
- Spend some time in nature
- Write your worries down
- Listen to soothing music
- Spend time with people you love
- Play with your pet
- Quit or reduce coffee, alcohol, and sugar
- Avoid news overload
Laughter is healing. One study shows that Laughter acts as a stress buffer regardless of the intensity of the laughter. In fact, people who laughed frequently, or even smiled, may be better equipped to deal with stressful events.
Watch or listen to something that makes laugh and embrace any physical sensations that come with laughter like shaking from the giggles, or laughing out loud.
#10. Adopt a Positive Outlook
Positivity is a wonderful quality and a true asset in creating a richer and more fulfilling life. People, who choose to adopt a positive outlook, come off as happy and confident, and are fun to be around.
Countless studies have shown that an optimistic outlook can help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure.
Positivity can even help in recovery after surgery. In one study, researchers found that individuals who were optimistic were only half as likely as pessimists to require rehospitalization within six months after surgery.
The Change: Adopt an optimistic outlook.
Here are some tips to shift your mindset to be more positive and productive:
Pay attention to your internal monologues. When you find yourself blaming yourself for things that go wrong, catastrophizing, anticipating the worst, magnifying the negative and diluting the positive, stop yourself. Instead practice self-acceptance and compassion.
Treat yourself as you would treat a dear friend who’s blaming himself and talking negatively about himself. Would you agree with him and tell him that yes it was his fault and he’s stupid? I guess not. Well do the same with yourself.
Affirmation can be useful in cultivating a positive outlook. As you repeat positive statements about yourself and your life, your mind will begin to believe these statements and start thinking more positively.
Make sure your affirmations are positive, present, personal, corrective, brief, and concise.
#11. Enjoy Some Time Alone
Life can be hectic at times. We have little to no time for ourselves to hit the reset button and decompress.
Setting aside regular “me time” can help you manage your stress, frustration, fatigue and provide numerous other benefits.
Alone time allows you to reflect on the things that make you who you are and enjoy you hobbies and passions. It forces you to take a break from everyday responsibilities and focus on your own personal needs, explore your personal aspirations and move forward with your goals.
The Change: Set a regular “me time” for yourself.
Here are some suggestions to build time in for yourself, plan it; and more importantly, prioritize it:
Build It In
Get up half an hour earlier or go to bed half an hour later and make that time “me time”. You want to have your seven or eight hours of sleep every night, so try not to sacrifice your sleep time. The point is to find opportunities throughout the day and schedule time for you.
What to Do
Below are some ideas of thing you can do in your time alone but what matters really, is that you do something you enjoy.
Exercise: Go for a walk, go to the gym, or doing some exercises at home.
Read: Whether you needed to catch up on the news before you start your day, or unwind with a good novel, or even learning more about yourself and life from a self-help book.
Bond with Nature: Spending time in nature can help you relax, clear your mind and find inspiration.
Take on a Project: If have been planning on decluttering a closet or starting a DIY project, this could be a good opportunity to do it.
Get Pampered: Do some skin care, get a manicure and pedicure.
#12. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
When you compare yourself to others, you either feel discouraged when you see that others are way ahead of you, or you become proud when you perceive yourself to be better than someone else. And neither will help you to grow.
The only one you should compare yourself to is you. Your goal is to become better than you were yesterday. And that you do it by focusing on yourself and what you can do today to improve.
Comparing yourself to your old self should be your motivation to keep going.
3. Personal Development Habits
#13. Make Your Bed
The small actions of making your bed can have a powerful impact on your daily success.
In a commencement speech at the University of Texas, US Navy Admiral William H. McCraven said the following to the graduating class:
“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”
#14.Read Self-Development Books
Learning is the most important part to grow as a person. Make it a habit to read one chapter from a self-help book on a topic of your choosing of your choosing.
#15. Change Your Limiting Beliefs
You can’t add value to yourself unless you believe in yourself and see the possibilities you have in yourself. It doesn’t help to be surrounded by people who don’t believe in you.
But you shouldn’t become too concerned about what others think of you. You should be more concerned about what you think of yourself.
One of the best ways to improve your self-esteem and start thinking highly of yourself is to practice positive self-talk.
Watch the way you speak to yourself and stop yourself when a negative thought comes to your mind, change it with a positive one, even if you don’t quite believe it. Repeating positive thoughts will make you believe it and if you can believe it, then it’ll become your reality.
You need to become your own cheerleader. Instead of counting your flaws, start counting your strengths.
Choose some positive affirmations and recite them every day, right when you wake up in the morning and just before you head to sleep.
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#16. Do Something That Makes You Happy
Make yourself a priority and make sure you practice self-care every day. It doesn’t have to be hours-long activity. A dew minute of “me” time can be enough to reduce your stress and boost your mood
There are a lot of habits you can do in five minutes or less. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- Write in a journal
- Enjoy a cup of tea
- Step outside and feel the sunshine on your face
- Cuddle/play with a pet
- Read a few jokes and laugh a little
- Eat a bite of dark chocolate
- Dance around the room like no one is watching
- Read a few pages of fiction
#17. Control Your Clutter
Removing clutter and purging the excess can be therapeutic. Decluttering can make you feel lighter and more in control of your life and bring a sense of accomplishment.
Living in a space free of clutter can help you relax and refocus which will improve your productivity and creativity and lower your stress levels.
The following are some techniques to help make your home clutter-free:
1. Start with the Big Items:
Decide which large items you want to dispose of or give away and get these out of the way before moving on to the smaller things.
If the item is too large for normal disposal, check with local authorities to find out the right way to dispose of it.
2. Go Over Your Clothes:
Clothes that you didn’t wear in a year or that don’t fit anymore, or are outdated, you’re probably never going to wear them. Instead of leaving them hanging, give them away to charities, and for the worn out items repurpose them as cleaning rags or recycle them.
3. Decluttering Rituals:
Create daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal decluttering rituals to help you maintain a clutter-free environment.
Daily rituals might include, washing dishes right after meals, going through mail, put clothes away, etc.
On a weekly basis, clean the house and take out the recyclables.
Monthly, go through things in your office, organize tax documents and bills.
Seasonally, you might declutter your closets and do a once-over on all appliances and electronics.
#18. Live With Purpose
Living a life with purpose gives us reason to live and gives our life a meaning. When you live with purpose, you are proactively creating the life you want – a life that has meaning. You take responsibility for your actions and decisions.
A purpose isn’t about tangible things or a job, it’s about who you are as an individual and the legacy you want to leave behind.
A purpose gives you a great clarity in what is important to you and reinforces your core values.
When you find your purpose, you unstuck yourself and find the motivation to live a life without regrets or fear. When things get tough, a purpose help you navigate life’s challenges and stay on course.
The Change: Find your purpose in life and live it every day.
The following are some ways to help you find and living your life purpose:
Before finding a life purpose, it’s important to discover yourself – who you are, what your values are, and what is important to you.
Do not answer this question by considering your need for approval or your need to prove yourself to the world.
Instead, reach deep within and think about what you want out of life and the person that you want to be. Ask yourself what would bring you most pleasure, fulfillment and make you most content and satisfied?
When you’re seventy or eighty, or ninety and you look back on your life, what will you want to have accomplished?
2. Make a Plan
Develop a plan that will help you live your purpose and mission.
Think about what you want to accomplish and set goals for yourself.
Think through the steps you need to take to achieve these goals.
Your goals or the steps you take to reach your goals might change over time, but setting goals around your purpose will help you navigate life in a clearer way.
4. Relationship Habits
#19. Contact One Person on a Dating Site
Dating site can be a great way to meet new people and find your significant other sooner.
To help you meet the right one sooner, try the following:
- Make a list of traits you don’t want in a partner, such as smoking or excessive drinking.
- Make sure their religious beliefs and lifestyles are aligned with yours.
#20. Give a Compliment
Giving genuine compliments is a great way to strengthen your relationships with other people.
Look for things to compliment people on, like someone’s outfit or a recent accomplishment.
#21. Text an Encouraging Message
Taking the time to text someone lets them know that you’re thinking about them. It strengthens your bond and increases your intimacy, especially in a romantic relationship.
Make it a habit to set aside two minutes every day to send a heartfelt text message to your spouse, child, sibling, parent, friend, or even coworker.
#22. Practice Active Listening
Nothing makes someone more loved than being listened to and understood. This is why practicing active listening is an important skill to build for your relationships.
Start giving others your undivided attention. Make eye contact and be empathetic. Try to understand the way they feel and don’t jump to fix their problem unless they ask you for your insight.
5. Career Habits
#23. Schedule Your Day
This is especially for you if you have many tasks you need to complete.
Make a list of these tasks. Be realistic and make sure your list of tasks isn’t going to be impossible to complete.
Try to focus on the activities that bring the most value to your job or business. Assign a specific time for each task, and be sure to include breaks.
#24. Identify Your Three Most Important Tasks
This helps you reduce the length of your to-do list but also improve your productivity.
You could think of this in terms of the 80-20 rule; 20% of your tasks are brining 80% of your results. Don’t work on anything else until you have completed your high values tasks.
#25. Start With the Hardest Task
When you start with the hardest tasks first thing in the morning, you’ll go through your day more relaxed and focused knowing that you’ve crossed off the hardest item. Moreover, usually the toughest task adds value to your work/business the most.
#26. Remove Distractions before Working
Checking your phone every few minutes for alerts, text messages, social media notification, etc. is going to significantly reduce your productivity. You’ll find yourself unable to focus on the task at hand and more likely to procrastinate.
Remove distractions before working. Close your email tab and unable social media notifications during work. If you still find it hard to resist the temptation of checking your phone and email, here are a few apps and websites that you can use:
- Rescue Time: Understand how you spend your time so you can focus and increase your productivity.
- StayFocusd: Limit the amount of time you spend on distracting websites by installing StayFocusd on your computer.
- Cold Turkey: Similar to StayFocusd, Cold Turkey temporarily blocks distracting websites so you can focus on work.
- Freedom: Schedule blocking social websites, apps, and even the Internet on all your devices.
- Focus Booster: Uses the Pomodoro Technique so you can focus on single tasks for twenty-five minutes apiece.
#27. Declutter Your Desktop
A cluttered desk can be distracting, constantly reminding you of all the things you’re yet to complete. Clear your desk from any physical distraction. Only leave the task at hand on your desk.
If your computer is also cluttered and you find yourself wasting so much time looking for the files you need, organize it and file everything in the appropriate folders.
#28. Track Time for Your Activities
Tracking time for your activities gives you perspective on what you’re accomplishing, what activities you’re spending most of your time on, and what activities are wasting your time.
The simplest way to track your time is to use software or an app like RescueTime. It runs in the background and tracks time spent on specific programs and websites.
6. Finance Habits
#29. Track Your Expenses
Tracking your expenses is the first step to take control of your finances, but can also be hard because it means you need to be 100% honest with yourself about your spending.
At the end of the day, write down everything you (and your family) purchased. Over time, you’ll notice some unnecessary expenses that could be eliminated. You can use a notebook for this purpose or spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel or an app like Mint.
#30. Review Your Budget
Sticking to a budget is another necessary habit. It’ll allow you to understand the difference between what you need and want. It also reduces your stress and gives you control over your finances.
You can either review your budget at the end of each day, or do it weekly. You can use programs like Excel or Mint to monitor your spending.
#31. Conserve Your Utilities
Saving money on utilities is a habit that you need to practice. It saves you money, but it also helps the environment. Make it a routine to make a quick tour in your home turning off lights and appliances that aren’t being used before leaving to work.
You can add other small actions to conserve utilities like:
- Turn off the light whenever you leave a room.
- Open windows and use fans for cooling during hot days.
- Open the blinds and shades in the winter to let the sun shine warm your home.
#32. Pack a Meal, Snack, and Coffee
Preparing and packing food is a healthy choice but it’s also a wise financial decision. Prepare your lunch or pack your dinner leftovers and make coffee at home and use a travel mug to take it with you.
#33. Plan Your Meals and Prepare a Food Shopping List (and Stick to It!)
Lack of proper planning is one reason people consume fast food. They think about what they’ll eat at the last minute and buy whatever is immediately accessible. Building a weekly habit where you plan your meals for the next seven days will help you eat more healthy food, reduce your shopping trips and save you money.
5 Dollar Dinners is one way to find meal plans. It offers a combination of meal plans, coupons, and recipes for quality dinners that will save you money.
Furthermore, try shopping on a full stomach. It’s easier to resist junk food temptation when you’re not hungry.
#34. Read a Personal Finance Article
Reading about personal finance is your shortcut to building wealth and becoming financially independent. Make it a habit to read books, listen to podcasts, and scan personal finance articles every day.
Below are a few personal finance blogs to get you started:
You can use Feedly app to add these blogs to your feed, and look through it.
7. Leisure Habits
#35. Read a Book Chapter
Reading is a great way to reduce your stress and unwind after a long day. Set aside 10 to 15 minute every day to read a chapter of a book you like.
If you’re struggling to find a good book, try the following:
- Ask for recommendations from friends and family members.
- Google: best [genre] book.
- Google: best [genre] book [current year].
- Browse Amazon’s Top 100 List in your preferred category.
#36. Get Outside
Spending at least 20 minutes outdoors every day is a great way to get a regular dose of vitamin D and reduce your stress levels.
#37. Watch an Inspiring Video
Watching inspiring videos helps you renew your motivation and boost your creativity. TED Talks are a great option to get inspired. They are inspiring lectures from the most visionary leaders of our time.
#38. Try Something New
Familiarity can become draining over time. It’s important to try something new and break routine every now and then. To do that, try the following:
- Change up your daily routine order.
- Try new food.
- Take a different route to work or home.
- Reduce Internet usage and try something else (reading a book, biking, going for a walk, etc)
8. Spiritual Habit
#39. Speak Words of Prayer
If you’re a religious person, then building a daily prayer habit is a great way to become more spiritual.
Depending on your religion, pick prayers that are relevant to my current priorities. It’s easy to find prayers online. Just Google “prayer for [intention]” and edit the prayer if you want.
#40. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude has many benefits on your mental health. Keep a gratitude journal where you write down 5 things you feel grateful for.
Be specific and describe what you’re grateful for in more details. Also try to find the good in the unfortunate situations you’re having, like becoming a stronger person or learning a valuable lesson.
#41. Practice Random Acts of Kindness
When you perform an act of kindness, you benefit from it as much as the receiver of the act. You start feeling better about yourself and you become more optimistic.
Start looking for opportunities to help people. This can include:
- Helping an elderly person with their groceries
- Paying for a person’s coffee who is behind you in line
- Holding doors/elevator open for others
- Adding a couple of coins to a parking meter about to expire
- Keeping your hotel room relatively clean so the maid’s job is easier
- Picking up trash and recyclables that you see on the street
- Leaving big tips for a waiter or waitress
- Make (or bring) coffee/snack for someone at work or at home
- Drive a friend to work
If you need more inspiration, check out Kindness.org, which is a social media site for people interested in helping others.
#42. Give Back
Giving without expecting anything in return has a tremendous impact on our well being. Numerous studies show that providing help to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers can mitigate the impact of daily stressors on our emotions and our mental health.
In fact, individuals battling with disease who volunteer tend to have lower rates of depression and a more positive outlook compared to those who don’t.
Helping others takes your minds off your own problems and helps you gain a healthier perspective.
It also allows you to focus more on the good things in life and less on what seems to be missing, which increases your own level of satisfaction.
The Change: Give back by donating your time, money, or energy to someone in need or to a cause you care about.
The following are some ways to give back:
1. Move to Give:
Many marathons and sporting events take place all over the world that benefit charities, causes and nonprofit organizations.
Participate in walks, runs, bike races, or other events that benefit a cause you care about.
2. Volunteer in School:
Many public schools are asking professionals to get involved in after-school programs, or to come into guest lecture.
Call local schools in your area and ask how you can help.
3. Volunteer with Passion:
Volunteering in something you enjoy. If you love animals, for example, volunteer with an organization that works with animals, or local shelters.
Motivation Gets You Going, Discipline Keeps You Growing
Everyone wants to feel inspired and encouraged. But when it comes to personal growth, motivation can only get you going, discipline, however, is what will keep you going. Consistency is key.
When starting your personal growth journey, you shouldn’t attempt to take on too much. Start small. This way you’ll feel more encouraged to keep going and doing more.
More importantly, be patient. People miss out on the opportunity to achieve significant things because they give up too soon. Everything worthwhile in life takes time and dedication.
Did I miss anything?
Now I’d like to hear from you.
Which habits from today’s post are you going to try first?
Or maybe I didn’t mention one of your favorite habits.
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now!
Wondering what to read next?
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- The Only 6 Habits You Need to Develop to Be Successful
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- 6 New Skills to Learn to Advance in Your Career
- How To Get More Done While Avoiding Burnout?
- 10 Ways to Boost Your Productivity: How to Accomplish More & Have More Time?
- Top 15 Productivity Tips to Achieve More and Create Peace of Mind
- Morning Routines: The Definitive Guide to Design Your Perfect Morning Routine
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Portions of this article were adapted from the book Habit Stacking, © April 10, 2017, by S. J. Scott. All rights reserved.