We use the word busy far too often. We say it when friends ask us how we are doing, as if being busy is an emotion. It’s an excuse we use 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.
Destress using meditation, yoga or reading. Track your unhealthy spending habits. Learn a new language. The possibilities to better yourself 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.
To help you get started, we’ve compiled this list of 41 easy ways you can improve yourself in 10 minutes or less.
How to improve yourself through your body
1. Get moving.
Committing to an hour-long daily gym routine or workout class can be overwhelming. For many of us, it doesn’t work with our schedule; there are more important things that can’t be skipped. For a short, low-stress workout, try 7 Minute Workout, a popular workout app with more than 3 million downloads. According to the website, it offers “72 exercises and 22 additional workouts that can be customized and modified to create more than 1,000 variations to help keep you motivated and moving.”
2. Try yoga.
Yoga has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety, improve quality of life and increase people’s positive perceptions of their body. Give a quick daily routine a try using any one of the variety of free and paid yoga apps.
3. Try a walking mindfulness meditation to improve yourself.
Quiet time for yourself can be powerful, 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 scent.
- 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 and camel” stretch.
5. Take a selfie to keep, not share.
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 you find yourself struggling with negative self-image.
6. Combat emotional enemies to improve yourself.
Created for a Northwestern University study, IntelliCare is designed to help you combat common emotional stressors, including anxiety and depression. Activities available on the app include improving gratitude, overcoming harmful thinking patterns and learning to manage stress.
7. Take a guilt-free nap.
8. Find a cheerleader.
A review published in Current Cardiovascular Risk Reports found that peer support and online peer groups may help “facilitate long-term adherence” to weight loss regimens. Enlist an uplifting friend to act as your accountability partner and take a 10-minute walk with you each day.
How to improve yourself through your wallet
1. Check your credit score.
According to Discovery’s annual credit health survey from 2020, younger generations are being proactive in learning and improving their credit score. Results found that 57% of Generation Z and 82% of millennial respondents were aware of their credit score, and “77% of Gen Z and 82% of millennials [were] actively trying to build or improve their credit score. Comparatively, 60% of [Generation] X and only 27% of boomers [were] actively trying to build or improve their credit score.” Your credit score is tabulated based on five primary factors, with payment history accounting for 35% of your score, according to Investopedia. Keep tabs on your credit score using free online resources such as CreditKarma.com.
2. Track your spending.
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.
3. Improve yourself by indulging a little.
Having a budget is smart, and staying accountable is a necessary aspect of a good financial strategy. But don’t get so caught up in tracking finances that you forget to live a little. Take a break from your budget and splurge on your favorite snack or dessert. Find a quiet spot outside and cherish the moment of treating yourself.
4. Learn from others.
Read one financial blog post per day and learn from people who have already made the money mistakes you’re making right now. Sites such as Get Rich Slowly and Money Crashers offer advice on everything from investing to car insurance.
How to improve yourself through your emotional well-being
1. Seek support.
Life can be difficult. When money is tight, friends are unsupportive and work is draining, it’s hard to stay positive and work toward goals. The problems aren’t always major, but they can inhibit your ability to keep moving forward. Find support through virtual therapy platforms such as Talkspace, Pride Counseling and Calmerry.
2. To improve, you must know yourself.
Knowledge precedes change. Start with understanding yourself. Free online personality tests such as 16 Personalities look at personality traits including the big five personality traits: “openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.”
3. 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.
4. Listen to music.
According to research published in PLOS ONE, “combined and music-alone conditions led to significant reductions in somatic anxiety” in participants with moderate trait anxiety. So grab a comfy spot and spend some time getting your chill vibes on.
5. Have a giggle fest.
Indulge in a mini-marathon of hilarious animal videos. Much like a quick meditation, laughing may help lower stress by reducing the effect of stressful events. Start by searching “funny cat videos” and fall down the YouTube rabbit hole.
6. Check in with yourself to improve your well-being.
When was the last time you asked yourself, “How am I doing?” and really listened to your response? 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.
7. Test your emotional intelligence.
Often touted as more important than IQ, emotional intelligence is said to affect factors including our career success and relationship satisfaction. Discover your emotional strength at ARealMe.com, inspired by Daniel Goleman, psychologist and former science journalist for The New York Times who popularized the theory of emotional intelligence with his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
8. Put down your phone.
We’re subjected to thousands of distractions throughout the day, an issue particularly exacerbated by technology. According to Screen Education’s 2020 “Digital Distraction & Workplace Safety” survey, participating employees spent an average of 2.5 hours each day “accessing digital content that is unrelated to their jobs.” Try putting your phone out of sight (and touch) for 10 minutes of uninterrupted productivity.
9. Practice gratitude to improve yourself.
Reminding yourself of the positive things in your life has staying power. Multiple studies point to the myriad effects of gratitude, including an increased appreciation for others, decreased blood pressure and heart rate and improved sleep. Try writing down three positive things every single day and take note of your increased sense of well-being.
10. Spread the love.
Giving to others releases an increased level of oxytocin—the feel-good chemical—in our brains. According to a 2022 study published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, this release of oxytocin in response to emotional stimuli increased in older participants, boosting their “satisfaction with life… empathic concern… dispositional gratitude… and religious commitment.”
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 trivia game, donates 10 grains of rice for every word correctly defined to the World Food Programme. According to the site, Freerice has raised over 214 billion grains of rice since 2010.
11. Dispel worrisome thoughts.
Losing sleep over a fight you had with your spouse? Type it into Pixel Thoughts and literally watch your problems disappear.
How to improve yourself through your mind
1. 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.
2. Improve yourself by taking 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 much-loved games from the dawn of the Internet. Try Nesbox on your desktop to replay 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.
3. Start a life handbook.
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 to start journaling.
4. Read one chapter.
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 or Litsy and find recommendations at WhatShouldIReadNext.com.
5. Learn a new word to improve yourself.
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.
6. Learn skills they didn’t teach you in school.
Problem-solving, decision-making, leadership, time management—some of the things we wish we learned in college. MindTools.com offers thousands of free online resources including quizzes to test your existing skills.
7. Become a speed reader.
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 your speed-reading goal and watch yourself progress.
8. 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 DailyArt. Even if you already know the piece, you’ll have access to the artist’s biography, facts about the painting and more.
9. Improve yourself by learning a new language.
10. 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?”
How to improve yourself through your career
1. Find a coffee buddy.
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.
2. Improve yourself by taking Ivy League courses.
Did you know Yale University offers free access to several courses recorded directly from real classrooms? Learn about capitalism from Douglas Rae, a political scientist and Yale University faculty member since 1967. Find the complete list of available courses from more than 20 universities on AcademicEarth.org.
3. Use the 60/10 rule.
That is, work for 60 minutes and then do something for yourself for 10 minutes.
4. Stick to your goals to improve yourself.
Stay accountable by monitoring your good and bad habits. User-friendly apps such as HabitBull offer the ability to set reminders in order to stay on track and allow you to see your success streak.
5. Get bored.
Take 10 minutes and do absolutely nothing. Let your mind wander and see where it takes you.
6. Write a letter to your future self.
7. 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.
8. To improve yourself, remember what you want.
Sometimes we’re so distracted and stressed that we don’t 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; just let your mind settle down and see what bubbles up.
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine and has been updated. Photo by Kinga/Shutterstock