Guest Post by Mike James
30-day challenges had a bit of a moment last year. Much like the ice bucket challenge, it caught the zeitgeist and hugely inspired everyone. But while it’s one thing to pour a bucket of freezing cold water over yourself in the name of charity, changing your long-held personal habits isn’t quite so easy. Or is it?
If you were swept along by the general enthusiasm, perhaps even watched the TED Talk ‘‘Try something new for 30 days’’ by Matt Cutts that seems to have lit the touchpaper, you may well have taken up a 30-day challenge yourself. But then again, maybe you were full of good intentions but never quite got around to it. Don’t worry; it’s not too late. It’s never too late to make a positive change in your life.
Here’s that inspirational Ted Talk again.
The Power of a 30-day Challenge
The theory behind the 30-day challenge is that this is the amount of time it takes to break a bad habit or form a new, good one. Armed with a structured plan, oodles of motivation and a manageable dollop of self-discipline, you can do anything you set your mind to if it’s only for 30 days.
This is in sharp contrast to more traditional self-improvement programs that recommend you overhaul all your bad habits at once. Making drastic changes to your routine is hard to sustain and, once motivation flags, even the best-laid plans are bound to fail. Committing to a 30-day challenge, however, will allow you to take baby steps towards your goal that may seem imperceptible at first but with patience and persistence, you’ll be building on your successes progressively, day after day.
Taking a challenge can make a massive difference in your life in so many different ways. Set aside just a little bit of time every day for a month and devote it to whatever personal challenge you’ve set yourself. The results will see you feel more confident and empowered, and happier in your own skin.
We’ve identified three major lifestyle issues that many people seem to be struggling with that could be perfect for a 30-day challenge.
More Time in Nature
A recent UK survey showed that the average person now spends 92% of their time indoors. Worse still, the better part of the day is spent sitting down or standing still, with 1 in 7 UK adults sitting for more than 8.5 hours every day.
If the vast majority of your day, either at home or at work, is spent inside, perhaps much of it in front of a monitor, then you’re part of the Indoor Generation. That’s not a good thing, as this video makes abundantly clear:
Fresh air and exercise can do wonders for your physical health and mental wellbeing. We know that exercise reduces the risk of serious conditions including obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer, while outdoor activities have mood enhancing benefits too.
Why not challenge yourself to go outside at least once a day? You could cycle to work, go for a lunchtime stroll or play football in the evening. How about weekend trips to the park with the kids or the dog? Or treat yourself to one of the many outdoor adventure activities available to get the adrenaline going and really feel alive.
Better Sleep Routine
Sleep is the magic ingredient that makes your body and mind function properly. A good 8 hours per night is recommended to recharge your batteries fully. Chronic insufficient sleep (less than 7 hours a night), interrupted nights and insomnia leaves you fuzzy-minded, unproductive and irritable during the day, while your physical reactions lose their sharp edge.
Left unaddressed, long-term lack of sleep has also been shown to contribute to all the usual baddies – obesity, heart disease and diabetes – and a shorter life expectancy. All this should provide plenty of motivation to address the problem as a matter of priority.
Taking a 30-day challenge may be just the right tool to get on top of your poor sleep habits once and for all. Start by creating the ideal sleep environment at home, perhaps investing in new bedding or bedroom accessories to make the room extra cozy. Next, investigate the wide selection of sleep apps available if you find them useful. Then take it one step at a time and follow a structured scheduled such as this one. Focus on the benefits that improved sleep brings rather than the pressure of achieving the task, and at the end of the month, it’s reward time!
More Happiness in Your Life
If you’re feeling disillusioned with your life because nothing much ever seems to happen, it’s time you changed your perspective to enable you to see the positive side. Keeping a gratitude journal is an excellent way to do this.
Sit down for a minute or two at the end of every day and write down at least one good thing that happened to you during that day. It doesn’t matter if this was a small thing (sun was shining) or a big deal (got a pay rise), the important bit is to help you refocus your mind’s awareness and appreciation towards all the good stuff that happens every day. Commit to doing this for 30 days and see how much more positive about your life you feel at the end of the process.
Another way to put more happiness into your life is by making other people feel good. Have you considered doing a good deed every day for 30 days? From giving someone you know a compliment to doing something crazy out of your comfort zone for charity; the happiness you give to others will also have an uplifting effect on your own mental state.
And here’s a long list of examples of the kinds of acts you could carry out to spread joy to others and make the world (including yours!) a happier place.
Mike James is an IT and business consultant based in Brighton, UK. An author for a number of online and print publications, Mike specializes in cybersecurity, business management and how best to fit the two together for organizations of different sizes.