10 Things I Started Doing In 2018 That Completely Changed My Life

A woman smiles at the camera and holds out the peace sign
Unsplash / Lucas Lenzi

1. Wearing face masks regularly

Face masks were once just a thing of luxury during monthly girls’ nights in. I’d lather on the clay masks, wine in hand, while watching The OC with my closest gal pals. But this year I’ve decided to take on a new beauty routine that includes at least one face mask a week, and it has done all the wonders to my skin. Not only is my face is clearer and smoother than ever (which means a lot to someone who’s always struggled with acne), but I get to pretend I’m living a more luxurious, relaxing life, which somehow makes all my problems feel a little less significant. Self-care is real, y’all.

2. Going to sleep on time

I’ve always been the person who tries to go to sleep around 11 and then, five hours later, finds myself still scrolling through my phone. I’ve just never been a good sleeper, and I’ve never held myself accountable for it. The fact of the matter is this: I suck at sleeping. But now I set myself a bed time and hold myself to it, even if I’m not feeling particularly tired. It’s amazing how much more alive you feel the next morning when you’ve gotten a solid 8 hours of sleep instead of just 5.

3. Waking up before necessary

My general aesthetic has always been hitting the snooze button until the last possible moment, then hauling my half-conscious body out of bed to get ready for the day. Sure, sleeping in later feels good in the moment, but I was never 100% awake by the time I got to work. That’s why I’ve started aiming at waking up earlier than necessary, which works great for several reasons — not only am I more awake for the rest of the day, but I actually have time to get things done before work. Sometimes I read a book, sometimes I make breakfast, and sometimes I just give myself more time to get ready (because my makeup routine is much more complicated than it should be). It’s not always easy to force myself out of bed, but once I’m up, I never regret it.

4. Reading a book a week

I used to be a total book nerd when I was younger, but once the real world hit, I stopped having the time (and energy) to get through a single novel. But this year I challenged myself to start reading again, starting with a feminist book club that forced me to finish a book by a certain deadline. Once I (slowly) got used to reading again, I started giving myself my own little deadlines, and now I’m back to reading a book a week. Not only has it helped me creatively (which is great, considering I’m a writer), but it’s also helped me put my phone down for a while and disconnect from the world, something I never realized I needed until I finally did it.

5. Unplugging at night

Everyone always told me that staring at screens at night would make it harder to fall asleep, but I never actually believed them. As far as I was concerned, it was just a modern myth to get people to put away their tablets and phones. But now that I’ve started putting away my laptop at 9 and focusing on other things at night, I’ve noticed it’s actually easier to fall asleep, and a lot easier to keep myself from getting distracted and scrolling through my phone all night. Instead, I spend an hour or two reading before bed, and it’s made all the difference in my life.

6. Eating out less

I’ll admit it: in college, I was awful about eating out. I always felt too busy and stressed to cook a full meal, and it was easy to get tired of instant food, so I started eating out several times a week. It was just easier. But now that life has settled down quite a bit, I have a new rule: eating out is a social event only. Brunch with my parents? Cool. Dinner out with friends? Awesome. But if I’m by myself, I just make my own food and spare myself from spending money. Not only do I find myself eating healthier at home, but I’ve saved more than I ever imagined I could.

7. Stepping away from stressful situations

I’ve always had a horrible habit of putting myself in bad situations and then, worst of all, keeping myself in them. My friends used to joke that I was a “drama magnet,” though one told me that I probably found myself in so much drama only because I never walked away from it. Since then, I’ve taken on a new rule: if something stresses me out, I take a break from it. If I have a friend who’s using up an insane amount of my emotional energy over something that isn’t of the upmost importance? I take a step back. If my interactions with someone are much more negative than positive? I put some distance between us. If a hobby is stressing me out more than it’s making me happy? I take a break. It doesn’t necessarily mean walking away forever, but sometimes distance from something can be healthy.

8. Minding my own business

I’ll be real: I’ve always been incredibly nosy. Some people called me “gossipy.” I Just wanted to know things. It didn’t help that a lot of my friends in college were gossipy too, which meant we spent a lot of time caring way too much about other people’s lives. Why? I look back now and I have no idea why I cared so much. I used to press for unnecessary details when I talked to my friends, would angle questions to try to learn something specific, would basically beg to be let in on their personal drama. Now I tell myself that if someone does tell me something, it doesn’t really concern me. If my friend wants to tell me about the guy they’re seeing, cool. If they don’t, I’m not going to pressure them into telling me something. There’s no point in taking on more drama in your life when you don’t have to. Now that I spend less time worrying about other people’s lives, I have more time to worry about my own and to focus on my own needs.

9. Holding the people in my life to certain standards

As a general rule, I try to keep friendships somewhat unconditional. I try to hold my judgment and listen to the people I care about, to love them no matter what they’re going through. But one things I’ve learned over the years is that that shouldn’t include letting people treat you poorly. I’ve had a pretty bad track record of questionable friendships, and since then I’ve decided that if someone wants to be my friend, they have to respect me in the same way that I respect them. There’s no point in bending over backwards for people who won’t do the same for you. Friendship is a two way street, and once it stops being that way, it’s time to walk away. Since I’ve started holding the people in my life to a certain standard, my friendships have become much healthier and much more productive — and as a byproduct, I’ve maintained a healthier, more productive life.

10. Being a positive influence to others

I’ve never thought that much about how I’ve influenced others. Have I tried to be supportive? Sure. But I’ve also definitely peer pressured my friends into spending late nights drinking or spending money on superfluous things. Instead of being an enabler of bad habits, I’ve spend 2018 focusing on how I can help others improve themselves. Be the cheerleader. Show up to your friend’s half marathon with a sign and some loud encouragement. Shine a lot on your peers’ good traits. Congratulate someone you hardly even know on an accomplishment you can tell they worked hard on. Remind your friends that they don’t have to do anything they aren’t comfortable doing. It’s made me not only feel better about myself, but have made the relationships is my life feel all the more important. Tip your waiters well and compliment your barista and try to bring just a little bit of positivity in the world. Trust me — we need it now more than ever. TC mark

Callie Byrnes

Callie is a professional Thought Catalog blogger by day and an amateur Tumblr blogger by night.

This is me letting you go

If there’s one thing we all need to stop doing, it’s waiting around for someone else to show up and change our lives. Just be the person you’ve been waiting for.

At the end of the day, you have two choices in love – one is to accept someone just as they are and the other is to walk away.

We owe it to ourselves to live the greatest life that we’re capable of living, even if that means that we have to be alone for a very long time.

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