A great way to get started on a better life takes nothing more than a piece of paper and a pen or a word processing program. Write at the top, “Ways to Improve” and start brainstorming. Consider every aspect of your life and don’t leave anything out. There are no wrong answers.

Your body and health, finances, relationships, house and home environment, and career are all fair game. Write down all the things that would make your life better, no matter how crazy they may seem. This isn’t the time to judge the value of an idea. Just record it and move on to the next one.

Give yourself the time you need. Work on your list off and on over several days if you need to. You’ll probably find that the first 5-10 come quickly, since these are the things you already know you should be doing, but aren’t. The others may take some time. While there’s no maximum, shoot for a minimum of 50. Often, the best ideas come later in the process.

Remember, you’re just brainstorming at this point. You would never want a to-do list that long, so follow these three steps to pare it down and get the absolute best results:

1. Pick the 10 best ideas on your list. Several items on your list will probably be unusable. That’s normal. Many others will be possible, but not as important to you.

• Focus on the things that would have the biggest impact on your life if you were to accomplish them. Take some time to really consider your options. Sometimes simple and easy changes can create significant effects. Get the ten best but be sure to save the rest of the list for another day.

2. Rank those ten. Rank them from easiest to accomplish to most difficult. You might as well start with the easier items and get some momentum before you tackle the big stuff. You’ll have more faith in your ability to accomplish things if you have some recent successes under your belt.

• Before you start, though, imagine getting them all done. How much would your life improve?

3. Begin with the first item. Implement the first idea and make your way down your list. Now, your list only has 10 items on it. If you’re not familiar with Pareto’s Principle, it basically states that 20% of the actions available to you will give you 80% of your results. So, accomplishing these 10 things is likely to have a huge impact on your life.

If you know that a specific area of your life really needs improvement, your list could be focused on just that topic. For example, you might want to make a list specific to getting healthy or becoming wealthy. After all, it’s your life and you can apply your focus as you choose.

If you need help choosing a specific area of your life, try this: Rate all aspects of your life on a 1-10 scale, with the areas that are most important to you at the top of the scale. Then, fill your list with ways you can make these most important areas more fulfilling. Set reasonable, but challenging, goals.

Focusing on the most important items is one of the fastest ways to make real progress in your life. No matter how well you’re doing, making this list is a worthwhile exercise. You can take control of your life each day by keeping your ideas for improvement in mind. Before you know it, you’ll have your best life ever!

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Meditation is life-changing and affirming for the millions of people who practice it. Recently, there’s been some fascinating research into how practicing meditation can actually make positive changes to your brain’s structure.

The academic journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging recently published a study about meditation. This study, completed by Massachusetts General Hospital clinicians, looked at a small number of subjects and used brain imaging equipment to look at their brains before and after an 8-week meditation class.

The results were astonishing: for meditators, the areas of the brain that focus on being compassionate toward others and being self-aware got larger and the brain areas devoted to stress actually got smaller. Experts are so sure of the positive mind-altering benefits of meditation that it’s beginning to be taught in some grade schools.

For vibrant health, it seems that meditation should rank up there with your diet and exercise goals!

Follow these tips to get started with meditation so you, too, can enjoy its positive benefits:

1. Find 1 or 2 times a day you can meditate. Before breakfast is great. Just before dinner also works.

2. Initially, plan to spend 10 minutes for each meditation session. You’ll gradually increase your time by 5 minutes every other week or so, until you reach 30 minutes.

3. Find a quiet space. If you have your own den or study, that’s probably a good place to meditate. Your bedroom might be another. If you have a quiet space in nature, that would be a fabulous meditation site. There must be silence or as little noise as possible in your surroundings.

4. Ensure you’ll have no interruptions. Meditating before your kids or spouse arise might work for you. If that’s not possible, ask family members not to disturb you during meditation.

5. Cover or move clocks. Ensure you can’t see them from where you’re sitting. You want to de-focus from everything around you, particularly from watching the clock.

6. Wear comfortable clothing. Stretchy or baggy clothing like athletic wear often works fine. Shoes or socks are not necessary. However, if you think your feet are going to get cool, go ahead and wear socks.

7. Get into a comfortable position. Most people find that sitting on carpeting, a soft rug, or a yoga mat works best. If you feel you need to lean against something, try sitting on the floor while leaning against your bed or sofa.

• Cross your legs Indian-style if it’s comfortable for you. Either clasp your hands loosely in your lap or extend your arms to balance the top of your wrists on your knees, with your hands gently cupped upward.

8. Use a gentle-sounding timer. Many people like an external stimulus to signal the end of their meditation session. However, avoid startling yourself after you meditate since it defeats the purpose of meditating in the first place. Most cell phones these days have a wide variety of timer sounds with a few of them on the gentler side.

• For example, sounds like a harp, sonar alarm, gong, or xylophone are particularly helpful to use when emerging from meditation.

9. Meditate. The scene is set. Get comfortable. Close your eyes. You can also stare at a spot on the wall or an object of beauty, like a vase of flowers or picture of a sunset or the beach, if you prefer. Breathe. Listen to the sound of your breath and clear your mind. Should your mind wander, just re-focus on your breathing.

• After some practice, you’ll find yourself going into an altered state, almost like sleeping. You’ll experience feelings of tranquility. When your timer sounds, take some seconds before gently arising and going about your day.

If you get into the habit of practicing meditation twice a day for 10 minutes, every day, you’ll soon be amazed at the results you achieve. Alter your brain by meditating each day. You’ll live a more enriched life and have healthier relationships with your inner self and others.

Think Faster, Focus Better, Remember More

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