http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/781137/ten-changes-transform-life-self-improvement

10 tiny changes that can transform your life

When you’re trying to change your life it’s easy to take an all-or-nothing

People often believe a dramatic overhaul is the only option and then give up a few days later when willpower fades.

But the truth is that making small changes and sticking to them is a more realistic way of making a permanent difference.

Studies have shown that it only takes 21 days to change bad habits, because if you do something for three weeks it will become a routine.

Recent research from the University of California suggested that the brain is led by actions so repeating a routine makes it stick in the mind.

Reflect on the people or things you have to be grateful for in your life

Theresa Cheung

After 21 days the chances are you will continue because new neural pathways will have formed in your brain and you will already be seeing the benefits.

Whether you want to restore order to your home or be more positive, simple changes are all it takes.

Try adding these 10 small steps to your day and watch as they transform your life.

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Recent studies show that 21 days is enough to change your routines, start by waking up earlier

1. Wake up earlier

Recent studies by the University of Toronto show a correlation between rising early and achieving your goals.

So getting a head start can give you the quiet time you need to plan your day. If all you want to do is hit the snooze button when your alarm goes off, then take a deep breath, stretch and say out loud, “Wake up now”.

Then roll over and put both your feet on the ground. Remind yourself that getting up earlier sets the tone for your whole day.

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Spend some time away from your phone – it can make you anxious

2. Leave your phone alone

Research shows that more than 60 per cent of smartphone users charge their phone on their bedside table so they can reach for it first thing in the morning.

But doing this sends a signal to your brain that the needs of others, the messages on your phone, are more important than your own.

Instead of reaching for your phone, start your day with a big stretch. Not only will this feel good but stretching increases flexibility, relieves tension and improves circulation.

3. Visualise daily goals

Some studies have suggested mental preparation is nearly as effective as physical practice. So when you get up in the morning spend a few moments visualising the day ahead going well.

See what you want to happen in your mind’s eye as if it is happening right now and try to feel as if you are living in the picture. As you create this picture in your head try to engage your senses.

What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you taste? If anything negative enters your picture then delete it.

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Keep things tidy, it helps you destress and mentally declutter as well

4. Tidy one thing

You may not believe it but there is a direct relationship between decluttering and living the life you want. Research shows that the stress hormone cortisol is released when you are surrounded by mess and disorder.

So the first thing to benefit from a tidy-up is your health. What is more, according to neuroscientists at Princeton University, too much clutter in your environment can have a negative impact on how you focus.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or confused, simply taking a few moments to tidy your desk can have immediate results.

People find it difficult to say goodbye and it can be extremely hard to let go when we cling to negative feelings.

Yet these prevent us from growing and moving forward with our lives. A simple way to change this is to breathe in deeply, hold the breath for a few seconds and then exhale slowly until you have no air left in your lungs.

As you exhale, say goodbye to your past or whatever you need to let go of.

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Do something every day to make someone else happy

6. Make someone’s day

It is surprising how even a brief interaction with a stranger can influence your mood or behaviour during the day.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that doing nice things for people led to an increase in positivity and social confidence.

So at least once a day try to help, inspire or comfort someone. It could be a big act of generosity, such as helping a friend move house, or simply a warm smile to a stranger.

Most of us are so distracted by our own busy lives that we barely listen to what other people are saying. We aren’t fully engaged and interrupt or lose concentration far more than we realise.

But it is incredible what you can learn and how much people will share if you simply give them your attention.

Whenever you have a conversation with someone, give them your undivided attention.

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Spending time alone is important in helping us reset each day

8. Spend time alone

Just as exercise and healthy eating can make us feel better, so can regular time alone. It has been shown to make people more capable of empathy and better at social interaction as it gives them a break from constantly being available.

Try spending 10 minutes alone every day away from anyone else. Make sure your phone is switched off or in another room during this time.

9. Keep a journal

Writing a diary at the end of each day is an extremely powerful ritual. Writing things down can help you understand your day better and be an outlet for creative expression.

At the end of each day ask yourself: what did I learn about myself and others today? What can I do to make tomorrow even better than today? Write down your answers and see how it transforms the way you think.

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Writing a journal helps you to understand what you learned each day and how you can improve

10. Be grateful

Science has shown that being more grateful can make you healthier, happier and more positive. It improves relationships because when you appreciate others they tend to reciprocate. It can also help you solve problems because a grateful mindset looks for new possibilities and sees opportunity in every challenge.

The ideal time to write a gratitude list is as you are lying in bed and just about to go to sleep. Reflect on the people or things you have to be grateful for in your life.

Extracted by ELIZABETH ARCHER from 21 Rituals To Change Your Life by Theresa Cheung (£7.99, Watkins Publishing).

To order a copy call the Express Bookshop on 01872 562 310, send a cheque or postal order made payable to The Express Bookshop to Express Bookshop, PO Box 200, Falmouth TR11 4WJ, or order online at

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