Thursday 20 July 2017

A 30-day challenge - establish healthier habits for your mind

Social media is currently awash with the 30-day challenge. The 30-day plank challenge; the 30-day abs challenge; the 30-day booty challenge. The month-long shake-up, spearheaded by Matt Cutts in his TED talk Try Something New for 30 Days (and inspired by Morgan Spurlock), gains momentum every January as people try to give up bad habits and take up healthier ones.

As Cutts says: "30 days is just about the right amount of time to add a new habit or subtract a habit - like watching the news - from your life."

The one-day-at-a-time approach definitely yields results, but most of the 30-day challenges promoted on social media focus on sculpting the body rather than sharpening the mind.

If you're looking for an alternative, here are 30 30-day challenges with a difference.

1. "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day," wrote Mark Twain. These words resonated with self-development author Brian Tracy, who advises readers to make the thing they are least looking forward to the first task of each day.

2. Get up half-an-hour earlier and start a 'morning ritual' that involves exercise, meditation, journaling, or even just an extra-long shower.

3. Tidy house, tidy mind - but where do you start? Consider cleaning out a drawer or a cupboard each day. In 30 days, you'll have overhauled your living space with a Marie Kondo-worthy spring clean.

4. Turn your shower setting to cold for a minute every morning. Fantastic for immunity, circulation and building resilience.

5. Write out your to-do list for the following day before you go to bed each evening and notice how much calmer your work day becomes.

6. Change your daily pattern in one small way each day - get off the bus a stop earlier, go somewhere new for lunch, drink tea instead of coffee - and see what happens.

7. Only listen to upbeat music (Adele and the other maudling, melancholy stuff can wait until next month).

8. Spend 30 minutes a day in nature, ideally in silence.

9. Establish a new professional contact every day. As the saying goes, "your network is your net worth".

10. Prioritise your hobbies and social life by carving out at least an hour each day for the people, places and things that bring you joy.

11. Start to listen, really listen, to other people. Active, or mindful listening, means staying in the moment and wholly hearing what the other person is saying rather than thinking about what you're going to say next.

12. Start a gratitude diary by writing out five things that you are grateful for when you wake up each morning.

13. Do something creative every day, even if it's just a doodle, a Haiku or a new recipe.

14. Stop people-pleasing. Say 'no' to every request and invitation that you are only entertaining out of obligation.

15. Send a 'thinking of you' text every time an old friend comes to mind.

16. Listen to a guided meditation as you fall asleep each night. 'The Secret Universal Mind Meditation' by Kelly Howell on YouTube is particularly good.

17. Do a digital detox for a couple of hours every evening, turning off your TV, smartphone and laptop.

18. Practice a random act of kindness every day. The 'helper's high', as it is known, helps produce endorphins in the brain.

19. Catch yourself every time you say 'I wish' and say 'I will' instead.

20. Look for the positive in every negative situation you encounter.

21. Eat something that you've never tried before. This one is especially helpful for those who have an unhealthy relationship with food.

22. Face a fear a day... complain if the food isn't to your liking in a restaurant, call your bank manager, ask someone out.

23. Choose a motivational mantra and recite it daily. The affirmations of Florence Scovel Shinn, one of the first self-development authors, have stood the test of time.

24. Keep a notebook beside your bed and write down your dreams when you wake up each morning.

25. Instead of 'not bad', 'grand', or 'can't complain', start saying 'great' when people ask how you're doing.

26. Practise Ho'oponopono - the Hawaiian practice of reconciliation - on someone you want to forgive... a former friend, an ex-lover, yourself. Think of them before reciting the mantra: "I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you."

27. Sit down for every meal and eat slowly and mindfully.

28. Write down one thing you love about your partner every day and, after 30 days, give them the list.

29. Turn off the TV and watch a documentary instead.

30. Spend money on experiences rather than tangible 'things'. Think meals, activities, trips away. According to research out of San Francisco State University, experiental purchases make us happier than material ones.

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