We use the word busy way too much. We say it when friends ask us how we are doing, as if being busy is an emotion. We use it as an excuse to procrastinate on unpleasant tasks. We use it to sound important at work, because being busy somehow equates to being successful.
But you’re never too busy for 10 minutes, which is all it takes to improve yourself just a little each day. You can de-stress using meditation, yoga or reading. Track your unhealthy spending habits. Learn a new language. The possibilities are endless. Stop prioritizing the busy parts of your life and make time for the important things, such as the constant development of your mental, physical and emotional well-being.
We’ve compiled this list of 43 easy ways you can improve yourself in 10 minutes or less.
For Your Body
1. Get moving.
Committing to an hourlong daily gym routine or workout class can be overwhelming. It doesn’t work with our schedule; there are more important things that can’t be skipped. Try one of the most popular workout apps with more than 2 million downloads, 7 Minute Workout. It offers 72 exercises and 22 additional workouts that can be customized and modified to create more than 1,000 variations.
2. Try yoga.
Yoga has long been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, and to improve overall well-being, but a survey conducted last year found that people who do yoga are 20 percent more likely to have a positive self-image. Give a quick daily routine a try using a free app such as Daily Yoga for guided positions.
3. Try a walking mindfulness meditation.
Quiet time for yourself can be powerful in helping reduce stress and invigorate your mind, but you might be hard-pressed to find a dark, calm, quiet room where you can get away. Get outside and combine nature with breathing exercises to rejuvenate your body and mind. Not sure how to walk and meditate at the same time? Follow these simple steps:
- As you begin to move, notice how your body feels. Does it feel heavy or light, stiff or relaxed? It’s common to feel a little self-conscious at first, but the sensation will pass quickly.
- Next, start looking at what you see going on around you: the people, the trees, the billboards, the shop windows.
- Now, turn your attention to sounds. Don’t get caught up in thinking about objects, just be aware of them as you pass by.
- Smell comes next. Note how the mind wants to create a story out of each smell.
- Notice any physical sensations. Perhaps it’s the feeling of warm sunshine, the soles of your feet touching the ground, or your bad knee flaring up again.
- Pay attention to feelings that come up. For instance, what happens when your rhythm is broken by a red light? And when the light turns green, do you speed up to pass that man on your left? Don’t judge yourself—just notice your thoughts and let them go.
- Finally, shift your attention to your pace. Use the rhythm of your walking as a kind of home base—to come back to when you realize your mind has wandered. You’ll find over time that something as routine as walking can transform into a tool you can use to relax, even as you go about your daily business.
4. Relieve back pain.
If you sit at a desk all day, perform a standing cat/camel stretch.
No filters, no hashtags, just a selfie for you to enjoy and appreciate the things that make you uniquely you. After you take the selfie, write down three things you appreciate about yourself. Put them on your mirror to boost your confidence on days when you struggle with a negative self-image.
Created for a Northwestern University study, IntelliCare is a collection of apps designed to combat daily emotional stressors, including worrying, anxiety and depression. Daily reminders include things like taking a photo of something that reminds you of your mantra.
Dragging in the afternoon? Skip the cup of coffee or burst of sugar. Just 10 minutes of shut-eye can dramatically improve your clarity, alertness and accuracy.
A study published in the Journal of the International Association for Relationship Research found that participants who surrounded themselves with people who were exposed to positive messages about their bodies were more likely to stabilize or lose weight. Enlist an uplifting friend to take a daily 10-minute walk with you.
9. Sip on a red.
Red wine might help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. So go ahead and pop the cork.
For Your Wallet
In a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, only 9 percent of participants knew that you can have more than three different credit scores. Your credit score is tabulated based on nearly 100 different sources and can be affected by your daily financial habits. Keep tabs on your credit score using free online resources such as CreditKarma.com.
After a long weekend with friends, there is always an element of guilt when you look at your bank account to see the damage. On Monday morning, we promise ourselves that we’ll spend less money on frivolous things. We start tracking every purchase to try to stay accountable. But that can be overwhelming. Start by tracking your three biggest problem areas, and zero in on those.
Having a budget is smart and staying accountable is a necessary aspect of smart financial strategies. But don’t get so caught up in tracking finances that you forget to live a little. Take a break from the budget and splurge on your favorite snack or dessert. Find a quiet spot outside and cherish the moment of treating yourself.
Read one financial blog post per day and learn from people who have already made the money mistakes you’re making right now. Popular blogs such as Get Rich Slowly and Money Crashers offer advice on everything from investing to car insurance discounts.
For Your Emotional Well-Being
14. Seek support.
Life can be difficult. When money is tight, friends are unsupportive and work is draining, it’s hard to stay positive and working toward goals. The problems aren’t always major, but they can inhibit your ability to keep moving forward. Find support through online therapy programs such as 7 Cups of Tea, which allows you to anonymously chat online with therapists and other users facing similar issues.
15. Know yourself.
Knowledge precedes change. Start with understanding yourself. Free online personality tests such as 16 Personalities cover the five personality aspects: mind, energy, nature, tactics and identity.
16. Wake up for the sunrise.
And don’t Instagram it! Sometimes it feels like we take pictures only to tally the number of likes, hearts and shares they will garner. Revel in a beautiful moment by yourself.
17. Listen to music.
According to research conducted by U.K.-based researcher David Lewis-Hodgson, listening to “Weightless” by Marconi Union can decrease your overall anxiety by 65 percent. So grab a comfy spot and spend 8 minutes and 8 seconds getting your chill vibes on.
Indulge in a mini-marathon of hilarious animal videos. Much like a quick meditation, laughing lowers stress and blood pressure and gives some sparkle to your frame of mind. Start by searching “Funny Cat Videos” and fall down the YouTube rabbit hole.
When was the last time you asked yourself, How am I doing? And really listened? Ask yourself what’s going right and wrong in your day. Too often, we exaggerate daily annoyances in our minds. By saying them aloud, we take away some of the power they hold over our mood.
Touted to be more important than IQ, emotional intelligence is said to significantly affect our career success, relationships, communication skills and more. Discover your emotional strength at ARealMe.com, inspired by Daniel Goleman, psychologist and former science journalist for The New York Times as well as author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
We’re subjected to thousands of distractions throughout the day. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that you can be distracted simply by hearing or feeling your phone vibrate, even if you don’t pick it up. Try putting your phone out of sight (and touch) for 10 minutes of uninterrupted productivity.
Reminding yourself of the positive things in your life has staying power. Multiple studies point not only to sustained feelings of happiness but also a decreased number of physical ailments. Write down three positive things every single day and take note of your increased mood.
23. Spread the love.
Giving to others releases an increased level of oxytocin—the feel-good chemical—in our brains, which subsequently makes us feel more generous and happy. Don’t have time to make it to a soup kitchen or charity drive? Try playing games on your lunch break. FreeRice.com, an online quiz game, donates 10 grains of rice for every word correctly defined to people in need. According to the site, Free Rice has donated more than 96 billion grains of rice through the United Nations World Food Program.
Losing sleep over a fight you had with your spouse? Type it into PixelThought.co and literally watch your problems disappear.
For Your Mind
25. Listen to the classics.
As your mom always said, They just don’t make things like they used to. Take a step back through history by listening to classical audiobooks recorded by volunteers through LibriVox.org. Prefer reading over listening? Check out Project Gutenberg for a list of free classic e-books.
26. Take a break.
Sometimes the best learning happens when we aren’t learning at all. Give your brain a break (and a dose of nostalgia) by playing some of the most-loved games from the dawn of the internet. Download Nesbox’s Universal Emulator on your desktop to play classic favorites such as Diver and Bio Worm. To play and learn at the same time, try the addictively simple web-based game Little Alchemy, which allows you to progressively mix and create complex elements.
Not a rule book, a to-do list or an action plan, but a book that forces you to reflect on where you were and envision where you want to go. It can be as simple as collecting your favorite quotes, inspirational photos and big dreams list. Grab a blank notebook and you’re all set.
Just one. How hard can that be? Pause your Netflix binge session and commit to bettering yourself. Join an online book community such as LitLovers.com and get recommendations from WhatShouldIReadNext.com.
29. Learn a new word.
Expanding our vocabulary skills is a task we left in our third-grade classroom. We know enough, and who wants to sound pretentious by throwing out words like eleemosynary instead of just saying charitable. But an extensive vocabulary does more than just make you sound smart. It allows you to better communicate your new idea to a group of investors or sell yourself in the interview of your dreams. Try using the Merriam-Webster dictionary app for a word of the day and use it 10 times in conversation.
Problem-solving, decision making, leadership, time management—some of the things we wish we learned in college. MindTools.com offers hundreds of free online resources including quizzes to test your existing skills. For more intense learning, check out SUCCESSAcademy.com.
Not every book requires you to read every word to reap the benefits. Train yourself to read faster and more efficiently using apps such as Spreeder that train you to read quickly without losing comprehension. Set a goal between 50 and 5,000 words per minute and earn points as you progress.
32. Get cultural.
Don’t have time to visit that new art exhibit? Don’t have the resources to visit The National Gallery in London? Expand your knowledge of art with free apps such as Daily Art. Even if you already know the piece, you’ll have access to the backstory, the artist’s life, where the painting is on display and more.
33. Learn a new language.
Duolingo offers daily lessons in 21 languages in five- 10- or 20-minute increments.
34. Rediscover your childhood wonder.
First, buy The Book of Questions by Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda. Second, place it on your coffee table. Third, have a house party and unceremoniously ask questions such as, “Tell me, is the rose naked or is that her only dress?”
For Your Career
Most of the problems in our current life have already been experienced by people before us. Save yourself time and energy by asking a friend, colleague or mentor to take a quick coffee break. Ask them questions and really listen to what they have to say.
Did you know Yale University offers free access to hundreds of courses recorded directly from real classrooms? Learn about capitalism from Douglas Rae, a political scientist and Yale University faculty member since 1974. Find the complete list of available courses from more than 10 universities on AcademicEarth.org.
37. Use the 60/10 rule.
Work for 60 minutes and then do something for yourself for 10 minutes. Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe says, “The mind needs to be cared for, too. If it isn’t given time to ‘just be,’ the consequences could decrease one’s quality of life.”
38. Scroll smarter.
Looking for new clients, a better product or simply some #inspiration? Check out Tagboard.com, a free resource that allows you to search by hashtag and combines results from the top social media platforms.
Stay accountable by monitoring your good and bad habits. User-friendly apps such as HabitBull offer daily, weekly and monthly progress reports that remind you to stay on track.
40. Get bored.
Turns out being bored actually boosts your creative juices. Take 10 minutes and do absolutely nothing. Let your mind wander and see where it takes you.
41. Write a letter to your future self.
42. Say no.
Your time is your most valuable asset. Learn to say no and give yourself more time to do the things that make you smarter, better and happier.
Sometimes we’re so distracted by stresses that we never take time to settle down and listen to what our bodies and minds are telling us. Try this: Sit in a comfortable position, settle your breath, close your eyes, and as you breathe, mentally repeat the words I am for five minutes. Next, four times in a row, ask yourself What do I want? Don’t feel like you have to answer it; let your mind settle down and see what bubbles up.
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.