4 things you can do to change your life in one year

University of Leeds
4 min readDec 15, 2022

There are a few of things you can do to change your life. Firstly, you can change your environment. Secondly, you can change your brain or thirdly, you can go straight to changing your behaviour: you can exercise more, start meditating, read books and many more. But in this blog, we’re not going to discuss the third point. You already know that exercising, reading and so on will change your life, and you know how to do it (that’s not to say it’s always easy). Today, we’ll focus on changing the way you think.

1. Be in the moment one moment at a time

In a study from 2010, Killingsworth and Gilbert discovered that contrary to what you may think, people are happier when focusing on a task they’re doing, even if it’s something as mundane as doing the dishes, than when they think about positive events or enjoyable activities. In short: a focused mind is a happy mind. So, it just makes sense to practice being focused or mindful. One way to practice it is meditation, but if you don’t feel like doing that, or even if you already meditate, it could be beneficial to puncture your days with moments of mindfulness. It might sound like a high-effort activity, but in fact, it is one of the most low-effort things you can do: you don’t have to change anything you do, you just have to focus on your task. Pick one thing you already do, like taking a shower or brushing your teeth and engage your senses and try to reduce mind wandering. It sounds like something trivial and insignificant, but we have research to back up that mindfulness promotes happiness.

2. Determine your habit loops

You’ve probably already heard about the reward-based learning system. Put simply, a reward-based learning system consists of a trigger (for instance, feeling hungry), behaviour (eating food), and a reward (feeling satisfied). Yet, many habit loops are more negative, and interestingly, we’re much worse at noticing these. For example, you’re feeling bored, you open TikTok or Instagram, you get an instant dopamine hit and stop feeling bored. However, a log term result of this habit loop is not getting things done, having worse sleep, you name it. One of the most useful things you could do for yourself is to map out these negative habit loops and then update them with true awareness. It’s one thing to know that something makes you feel bad — like overeating — but it’s another thing to actually be aware in the moment of how bad you feel after overeating or after spending three hours straight on TikTok. Every time you pay attention to the result of your more negative habits, you update your brain’s reward value related to the initial behaviour. As a result, the behaviour becomes less tempting.

3. Gather your evidence

So, last year you tried exercising more, becoming a reader, meditating or any other new good habit. But you’re just not consistent enough, unable to focus and so on. This time, write down your goals if they’re the same or similar to ones you had in the past, write down why you haven’t achieved them and all the assumptions you have about why you didn’t succeed or the reasons why you think you won’t achieve them, like not being consistent. This isn’t about being negative. It sounds counterintuitive to do it, but there’s a point to it. Because the truth is you can be consistent or focused etc. For the next few months, start documenting the instances when you were consistent: did you brush your teeth today? Wow, again!? You’re so consistent. In a way, it is brainwashing yourself to believe statements that are not necessarily true but for a good cause. In a few months, you’ll have pages of evidence that something good about you might be true or possible. And your beliefs drive your behaviours, so you’re more likely to achieve your goals.

4. Focus on small wins

If you don’t believe you can’t achieve any big goals, focus on small wins instead. Set a bar low — any progress is progress. You can build confidence in your ability to achieve goals by continuously achieving small wins. If you want to become a meditator, your goal could be meditation for 5mins on Saturday. If you want to practice yoga regularly, let’s mere showing up on your mat be your win, even if you end up just lying on it for 1 minute. You’ll not only build consistency but also, by achieving this easy goal a few times in a row, you will build self-confidence and self-trust, help you progress towards your goals and boost your confidence in succeeding in your other endeavours.

Setting resolutions doesn’t have to be a failure. Changing how you think will allow you to make a long-lasting change in every area of your life.

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