Starting a journey of self-discovery and personal development can be a daunting experience and also an expensive one. Thankfully, we have internet which allows us to access and share valuable information for free. My recent path to self acceptance and unconditional love made me discover 10 free life changing habits that have made a great deal of difference. As I am documenting my journey, I hope they will affect you positively as well.
1) Audit your life on a regular basis
Out of all the life changing habits, this is one the most important one as it is foundational. Do you spend time evaluating your life? Do you audit yourself and your environment?
You cannot fix what you don’t acknowledge is either broken or no longer working for you. In order to change your life you must take this foundational step. This is critical. It will take deep introspection, time, honesty and a lot of courage too. Indeed, you might make some scary discoveries and open doors you wished you left closed. You might be realizing that important parts of your life are making you unhappy. It can be your job. It can be your relationships. But you owe it to yourself to check back regularly so that you do not let a situation rot too long. As painful as it can seem, you are 100% responsible of your life.
2) Become your own best friend
Let me ask you a couple of questions: how would you do rate your degree of self love on a scale of 1 to 10? Have you ever paid attention to the way you speak to yourself?
I am going to take a wild guess here and say that you are not very kind to yourself. Worse, you are probably talking down to yourself on a daily basis. You are probably the one person you are the meanest to and the least compassionate with. Do not worry, you are not alone. Like many of us I have been there and am still struggling with this; making it my most difficult life changing habits to enforce. But let’s be logical and let’s take a look at this rationally. Why take this self destructive path? Why on earth would you sabotage the only person you are 100% sure to spend the rest of your life with?
The short answer is ego. We are constantly trying to satisfy our ego and are being enslaved by it. Please know that the ego is never satisfied. Nothing is never enough for the ego. Ever. Thankfully, I have developed tricks that have helped tremendously with my ego.
Here is my favorite.
Everything single time you are talking to yourself, ask who is talking. If the tone is judgmental or condescending this is not you. This is your ego. In that case tell your ego to f*ck off and ask your authentic self to come forth. Be mindful of your thoughts. Be mindful of the tone you use when you speak to yourself. When you speak to yourself do it so like you are three years old. You are worthy of your deepest compassion. No matter what. From all the life changing habits this is THE crucial one to attain some sense of serenity. Self love is the best love.
3) Stop watching the news
Have you found yourself aggravated or sick while watching the news? When was the last time you felt positive or uplifted about the news?
I live in the United States. I had a particularly hard time dealing with the election of #SCROTUS as the new president. To make things worse, this man-child got elected the night of my 33rd birthday. I spent the end of 2016 being upset, depressed, binge watching news, getting at it with ignorant trolls on Twitter, eating emotionally. I ended 2016 like a train wreck and realized that one of the main reason was my news conception and more generally what I was putting in from of my eyes. While being CEO of an emerging media company, made me very mindful of my news sources for a long time: it was no longer enough. Since the beginning of 2017, I went on a complete digital detox including shutting off TV entirely and cutting off 90% of my internet usage. Boy, did that make a difference.
I remember seeing an interview of Denzel Washington and he was saying. “If you don’t watch the news you are uninformed, if you watch the news you are misinformed.” It really hit home. Ask yourself, what are news anyway? Who benefits from putting up a program that lines up a list of catastrophic events that keep you in a constant state of fear? I will not go all conspiracy theory on you (at least not on this post ?) but I will tell you this: news are not real life. They are a condensed version of all the misery of the world. An illusion to keep you in control. Cut down your news consumption significantly and consume them from sources that are free of corporate influence. Your mental health will improve significantly.
4) Unclutter your personal space
Does your life feel “crowded”? How does your closet look like?
Before getting into the uncluttering part, let’s first define personal space. My definition of personal space is whatever is the closest to me whether it is physically, mentally or emotionally. Through my journey of self discovery I became very aware of my surroundings and began to embrace a more minimalistic approach of life. I started to audit what was in direct contact with my senses and what was making me happy or not. I started with my closet and quickly realized that most of the material things that I owned were not making me happy. Worse, seeing a closet full of clothes was creating more anxiety than comfort. When we remodeled our room, and decided to have less closet space to welcome our toddler, I got rid of 90% of my clothes and it felt fantastic.
I applied the same principle to my phone, namely with my apps and my social media feed. I turned off all social media notifications and got rid of all the things that were not giving me joy. I did the same thing with some of my relationships. This is one of the most powerful life changing habits: do let go of all the things that no longer serve you. Think of it as an ongoing spring cleaning for the soul.
5) Have a morning ritual
What do you when you wake up in the morning? Are you checking your phone as you open your eyes? Are you rushing and storming out your house to go to work?
This was me most of my corporate years and even after; it felt absolutely horrible. I understood how mornings are crucial as they set the foundation of your day. Slowly but surely I began to implement a morning ritual that was working in my favor instead overwhelm me with anxiety. Unfortunately everything comes at a price, and waking up an hour (or two) earlier than usual will be necessary to establish a new ritual.
Here is what has been working for me.
As I wake up, I usually meditate for 45 min while still in bed. I then go for a 10-15 min walk that I use to practice gratitude for all the positive things in my life. I then come back to my house to clean up what is still to be cleaned in the kitchen and make breakfast for me and my family. During that time I tried to not check my emails and social media accounts. I also try to write a little bit if the time allows it. While I have not been able to keep up this morning ritual since my little girl has been born a couple of months ago (I have a six year old too) I am slowly going back to it and am planning to be fully operational as she gets more independent.
Have you ever meditated? Do you have preconceived notions about mediation that turn you off?
This is my personal favorite time of the day and therefore my favorite of all life changing habits.
Meditation has changed my life for the better. I was (and still am at times) one of those of people stuck in their head, literally prisoner from my own thoughts. Most of my life I spent countless nights “ruminating” which basically means thinking and rethinking situations and events over and over without finding reliefs. I was not aware that rumination was a classic symptom of depression. Thankfully, I never went down the medication hole.
Meditation truly thought me to distance myself from my thoughts and to quiet my mind. It also allowed me to make one significant breakthrough which is why I consider it my favorite of all life changing habits: once I realized that I could witness my own thoughts come and go as a spectator, without judgement, I understood that I was not my mind. This liberating epiphany helped me grasp the concept of consciousness and opened the door for a bigger understanding of the universe. I realize that to understand myself, I had to look inward. Not outward.
You do not need to sit in a lotus position under a tree for hours to meditate. Meditation, comes from the latin meditatum which means to ponder, or to murmur. I like to think of it as being present. We very often fall into the trap of our mind. We think of ourselves as human doings instead of human beings. Meditation will teach you how to be. It will teach you how to breathe. It will also teach you total body awareness. I use a number of meditations. Most of them are guided meditations and they are free and accessible on youtube. I highly recommend you check out the channel of Michael Sealey who is truly mind-blowing. One last thing to keep in mind about meditation: it takes time and practice. Do not get discouraged: it is well worth it.
7) Practice gratitude
Are you truly grateful for what you have in your life?
This is by far the most important of all life changing habits and one that you should practice daily. We tend to forget that if we have health, a roof over our head, access to food on a daily basis and are surrounded by our loved ones we are better off than the large majority of people. Make it a habit to remind yourself everyday that you are blessed. Write it down if you have to. I started to make lists everyday for things that I am grateful for: from my children, to my house or my good health. When I am writing the list, I am putting myself in a position of conscious feeling what I am writing; feeling the genuine emotion of gratitude in my heart space. This ritual had an immense impact on my day and on my mood. It naturally created a natural state of joy which is an amazing way to start the day.
But do not take my words for it. Science is now proving the benefits of gratitude. You will find below scientifically proven benefits of practicing gratitude.
- Widens relationships.
- Improves physical health.
- Improves mental health.
- Enhances empathy and reduces aggression
- Improves sleep
- Improves self-esteem
- Improves metal strength.
8) Spend time alone
How do you enjoy your own company? Do you spend time with yourself?
Along my early journey, silence and solitude created a lot of anxiety. While alone in my house for example, I literally could not function without noise around me whether from the television or people. I also had a lot of difficulty enjoying my own company especially if it was not tied to a specific activity. I later understood that those signs were subconscious attempts to quiet my soul. In silence and solitude you will be forced to face yourself and your inner voice. Loneliness will benefit you in many ways. From simple meditation to deep introspection, you will ultimately discover your true nature. If you manage to have nice conversations with yourself (your authentic self, not your ego) you will start honoring yourself and your vision, which are major keys to happiness.
“If you are never alone, you cannot know yourself.
And if you do not know yourself, you will begin to fear the void.” –Paulo Coelho
9) Journal regularly
When was the last time you wrote things down just because?
I understand that writing is not a cup of tea for everyone and that you might not considered it in your top life changing habits. However, I have to say that I found journaling being extremely liberating. Whether it be a gratitude journal, a list of goals, a personal diary or a blog, there’s a cathartic feeling in putting things outside of yourself. While meditation definitely helps for introspection and self discovery, writing allows you to get things out of your system. It is a great tool to release your anger instead of lashing it on to your entourage. Journaling has been proven to be extremely beneficial for mental health. I personally found writing easier than just talking to someone. Your computer, your phone or your piece of paper will not judge you for what you have to say. Journaling will force you to create and cause it to visualize it. You will always be able to go back to your writings to remind yourself great moments, see how far you have come, or how you overcame your darkest moments.
10) Practice kindness
How kind are you to others? Most importantly how kind are you to yourself?
Of all life changing habits, I could have started with this one. I actually chose to end with it so that it stays fresh in your memory. Earlier in my life’s journey, one of my biggest realizations was facing the fact that I was not kind with the most important people in my life. I was not kind to myself (which is why you should become your own best friend ?) and I was not kind to the most important people in my life. I left it all to my boss, my clients, some friends: I had barely enough to offer at home. Kindness is the most powerful tool of humanity along with compassion. I challenge you to be kind to everybody you meet and you will find yourself in a constant elevated mood. Indeed, if you want to feel good about yourself, you will discover that Kindness is actually the straightest road to instant gratification. Offer flowers to your mother in law, just because. Pay coffee to the person right after you on Starbucks, buy groceries to a homeless person: you will feel genuinely happy and experience a warm fuzzy feeling in your hearth space; the one feeling that connects us all. Love.
“Kindness is the straightest road to instant gratification.” –Ludo Gabriele