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10 January 2016

How I Changed my Life for the Better

I have recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about being happy and how to do it. She asked me how I could be so balanced and not get angry about things in life that go wrong and focus on the good ones. I didn't have a prompt answer, but I tried to gather ideas and give her a general response. After our chat, I reflected a lot on the topic and decided to share what I have been doing in the past two years or so to improve my lifestyle and mindset. Perhaps this could be helpful to some of you who are going through a rough time or who are trying to make lifestyle changes. 

A little premise: I'm a very normal person, going through good and bad moments! 

My friend's words made me question whether I'm sending a perfect picture of my life through the blog, but that's not my intention. I prefer sharing positive content because it makes me, and perhaps a few other people, feel good. I have had some deeply sad moments in my life; for the moment though, I'd rather not focus on those, and just mention them to say that they made me realise how important positivity is in one's life. 

I remember that something that made me switch to think more positively was when I learnt to say "I'm fine, thanks". This is what the average English person replies to the fatidical question "how are you?". Where I came from, when people ask how you are, you actually tend to say quite the opposite. Standard answers would be "not too bad" and "life goes on", espressions that imply that life is, overall, negative. After a few months saying "fine, thanks", and going back home to repeat it, I would notice people getting all surprised and even a bit annoyed in some cases, because that's not what they expected me to say. That's when I started embracing positivity, and realising that my position was better than the one of the annoyed faces. 

So, what's the solution to switching to a better, happier life? Unfortunately, there is no magic button to press. You don't click your fingers and your life changes in the blink of an eye. My answer is: you have to work hard to achieve it

I know, you've heard this many times. But that's what improving your life is about. Consistency, patience, commitment. You have to commit to be happy. Make a promise to yourself that you're going to work hard on your body and mind is the first step you can take to make it happen. 

Here are some things I have done through the past two years to improve my life and feel better inside out.

Be Grateful
Gratefulness is the value that saved me! Every single time that I feel like complaining, I remind myself that instead, I should be grateful. If I don't like the food that I'm eating, I force myself to think that I am lucky to have food. If I feel like arguing with a family member, I bring myself to think that I am lucky to have them, and I should only spend quality time with them. While at the beginning this was not easy, with time my brain has started instinctively do this. If you train your brain to be positive, it will become so, just like when you train it to be set on negative-mode. I help myself by keeping a gratefulness journal.

Meditate
I have to admit that I've been neglecting meditation in the past few months. No, I'm not always as balanced as you might think. But before doing that, meditation has changed my life. I am not joking here. Meditation is the step you need to make if you want to overcome anger, anxiety and all those horrible emotions that you want to get rid of. Sit down in the morning and at night before sleep for four minutes every day. Cross your legs on the floor, close your eyes and just inhale and exhale, letting your mind get empty and free of all the rubbish from the day. In order to know when to stop I use an app called Insight Timer that counts down the minutes and seconds for you then rings a bell to let you know you're done. You can also listen to guided meditations which are easier when you're starting.
The reason why meditation is important for you is that it will help you think more clearly and stay more calm, and hence develop a healthier mind.
Some great positive affirmations in Italian here; in English: Insight Timer here; Nature sounds here

Do Yoga
In my opinion, yoga is the complementary physical activity to meditation that helps you get a strong, healthy body. I don't know if this idea is 'correct', but I've always felt this way. Yoga is a physical exercise that enables you to connect with the spiritual part of your mind and not just the rational one. It soothes your feelings and empowers you. It's not like playing a sport in a team or practicing with tools at the gym; it's movement for your body and mind, for YOU. 

Eat Healthy (Without Stressing)
Everyone is saying this today. We're getting sick from hearing people telling us that we have to drink loads of water, eat vegetables and fruit and avoid dairy. Has eating healthy become an Instagram trend, rather than an actual thing? I'm afraid that most people still get more excited from their dairy coffee at Starbucks rather than their lunchtime salad.
The way I eat is staying healthy without stressing myself about it. If one day I feel like having cookies, I do. Why should I deprive myself of rich chocolate cookies, excuse me? I tend to avoid what I know is actually bad for me, that won't make me feel good, like crisps, peanuts and fizzy drinks. I cook healthy meals for lunch and dinner, and avoid dessert. But I have a sweet tooth and you can't ask me to avoid biscuits, cakes or anything of the sort as an afternoon snack. So I try and keep my balance, but without feeling guilty or stressed.

Love Your Body
Linking to the previous point, body shaming has become another very popular topic. When images of social media picture people with perfect bodies, we have to remind ourselves that in most cases those people do not exist; they are the creations of experts who can use Photoshop and other programs as such. It’s important not to fall in their trap and remember that your body is beautiful, and it doesn't have to stick to those fake and unrealistic stereotypes. Remember that your body and you are unique!

Create Rituals
As I mentioned in a previous post, creating a routine is key for me. Some of my rituals include switching off technology before bed, following a simple workout routine, having one to two days completely make up free and taking deep breaths during the day. You can play around and see what rituals you like best, then stick to the ones you find more fun and helpful.

Keep a Tidy Room
I'm not a naturally tidy person. I force myself to tidy up every day, because I know it will make me feel better once I've done it. My main rule is to make my bed after having woken up, which I hate, but it's so nice to find once you're back home. I am a firm believer that a tidy environment can help having a clear, tidy mind.

Sleep Well
Sleeping is super important in order to have a productive, positive and pleasant day ahead of you. One rule that I used not to follow is going to bed happy. In the past few months I have tried to practice this every day and I realised that it makes an incredible difference. Going to bed with some unsolved issue, like having argued with a person, will make you get a bad night sleep with nightmares and you won't wake up in a good mood. If something is troubling you but you don’t have power to change it, you can do a bit of meditation to feel a bit of relief.

Nurture Passions and Interests
Every one of us has some interests and nurturing them can only do you good. I love blogging, reading, dancing and lots of other things. Doing more of those makes me feel alive and happy, and that goes with everyone.

These are some things I've been doing to improve my life and until now they made a great impact on me. I feel a lot better inside than what I used to before following these habits in daily life. I still have a lot to learn… I'm not done with this! But if you are at the initial stage when you are trying to understand what can help you feel better (I went through this too!), why not trying one of these steps? I'm sure you won't regret it. I hope to have been helpful to you, wherever you are in the world. Don't stress and be happy today!

What is one thing you are grateful for right now? (Do this for yourself and not for my blog comments ;) 

14 comments:

  1. What a lovely article :) I'll adopt part of it for my 2016 journey.

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    1. Thank you cousin <3 You live in an environment where keeping a positive attitude can be very hard. But I'm sure that it's possible to spot the good things even in such a situation, especially in the private sphere. And YOU are clever enough to do it!:P Good luck for your 2016 resolutions! Asso :)

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  2. I loved reading this, Assia! Just reading it made me feel happier and lighter. Good for you for getting to a great place in your life!
    A lot of what you mentioned, I do as well to stay happier: feeling grateful, yoga, switching off technology, exercising, eat well and a good night's rest. Of course, it can be easy to fall off course a bit and have your days but overall, these all seem to work for me too :)
    -Lor @ acozyspace.wordpress.com

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    1. I'm so glad about this Lor! I knew we had many similar habits. You too look like someone who puts effort in little things to create a healthy and balanced lifestyle <3 And sure, there are rougher days! That's when what you learnt through these steps should kick in and help. Hope you have a great day! :)

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  3. Dear Assia, this morning when I was just surfing through blogs, I felt this was another new year new me kind of post! Honestly! but as I went through the post, I started reading word by word and I agree with you. I have read a lot of inspirational books but when you see a short example casually written somewhere with experience, you get moved. Thank you so much for such a post. Keep sharing more.
    Love, Sia | www.winternsuggle.com

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    1. Dear Sia, you are welcome on my blog any time! I also want to start reading inspirational books, even if for the moment I only have a few on my bookshelf. I will keep sharing! Thanks a lot for your kind words and have a good day! :)

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  4. What an article! I started out reading this cause I am one of your best friends so I kinda have to, BUT (as always when I go through your blog) once I read the first paragraph I was all hyped up and started reading faster and faster, this was so GOOD!
    Knowing your past, and most of your presence I know you could have written about so many things that went wrong, yet you didn't, proves once more what great person you are. Just WOW!

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    1. Nico! I'm so happy you liked the post :) Yes you know me well and me too, it feels great to know that this is an honest comment :) Thanks so much for your amazing words. Miss you!

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  5. I really love the messages that you share about gratitude, mindfulness, and making healthy choices without stressing! It's so true that we live in a society that pressures us to be "perfect," but when we recognize that so much of what we see in the media isn't realistic and allow ourselves to relax and live more intuitively, we feel a lot better. And gratitude and mindfulness are such important parts of relaxing. I also love your points about yoga, tidiness, and meditation. I've recently discovered I really like yoga, too, and I'd like to try meditating more on what I'm grateful for. You are a beautiful writer! Thank you!
    <3 Frances | http://moth-bird.blogspot.com/

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    1. Hi Frances, thanks for reaching out! Your comment means so much to me, I really appreciate it <3 Heading to your blog straight away!

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    3. Thank you so much for your lovely comment and for visiting my blog! I love history and romance stories, too! :)

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