2018: My Year of Kaizen

Going Small for New Year’s Resolutions

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Kaizen is a Japanese word that roughly translates to “good change” meaning “improvement”. This simple term has morphed into a philosophy of “constant, continuous improvement” and is a mindset you can apply anywhere in your life.


So, cheers to kaizen of 2018! In opposition of March’s ole weather folklore of “in like a lion, out like a lamb,” I’ll shall begin 2018 under the radar and end the year strong, awesome, and changed for the better.

When struggling with mental illness, baby steps are necessary anyway. Little changes make a huge difference. Yet, mental illness or not, many of us just need to begin small. Keeping up with small changes is easier than keeping up with large changes.

Here are my 20 baby steps I plan on implementing:

First up…the Basics

1. Drink more water. Well, this should be a simple one for me. I’m not a fan of sodas or fruit juices and such, but I’ve found myself drinking more coffee than I used to. I do love water, and I do love tea. So, I shall drink more of those, ending my day with a hot cup of herbal tea. What about you? Need a reduction of sugar or caffeine? One less beverage a day is a perfect start!

2. Improve sleep quality. I have found myself making a habit of frequent napping. As a result, my nightly sleep is tossy-turnsy. So, even if I go from 5+ naps per week to 3…it’s still improvement. Unfortunately, the hours I work and the medications I’m on add to my fatigue. So, cutting out naps altogether isn’t likely anyway.

3. Walk more. I own a FitBit. Instead of it being motivational for me, it’s become another way for me…and everyone I’m FitBit friends with…to see myself fail. My current life circumstances make 10,000 steps per day unfeasible. So, I resolve to not count steps, but perhaps take a daily stroll to the end of the block and back; I may even take my dogs. Win-win. Maybe other exercises will emerge before the end of 2018: 5 push-ups a day, 5 crunches, 5 jumping jacks. Five just sounds like a nice number.

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Next up…Include Others

4. Do something nice for others. The options here are endless! This could be a post-it note message to a colleague, conveniently affixed to her computer monitor. It could be delivering baked goods (I love to bake) or running an errand for someone. You could even simply place a flower on someone’s car window. For more ideas, click here.

5. Write a letter. Letter-writing over the years has dwindled…due to technology and the busyness of our lives. However, it’s a gift of words…and a gift of time; a letter is written with undivided attention for a particular person. What better way to lift someone’s spirits?

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6. Compliment someone. A compliment is a little gift of love, and it costs nothing. It’s a simple way to let someone know they are valued. It shows respect, admiration, approval, gratitude, trust, appreciation, and hope. Learn the art of the compliment.

7. Share a smile. Apparently, all facial expressions are contagious, and who doesn’t feel an increase in happiness when receiving a smile? Smiling not only makes us better looking, it lifts our mood as well as the moods of those around us.

Ronald E Riggio Ph.D. says, “Each time you smile you throw a little feel-good party in your brain.”

If you want more information on the science of it all, check out his article here. So, smile more…for the sake of others and for the sake of yourself.

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8. Be polite. Don’t forget sir, ma’am, please, thank you, smiles, waves, and greetings. Oh, yes, and put the phone away in the presence of others. So simple.

9. Remember birthdays. Yes, Facebook reminds us of that special day, but don’t just type “happy birthday” via a wall message; share a memory you’ve had together. For family and close friends, put forth the effort to send a card via the U.S. Postal Service. Everyone loves happy snail mail.

Now…Treat Yourself

10. Quit being a people-pleaser. When you go out of your way to please another…in detriment to your own happiness…that is where depression can grow. Oh my damn! I’ve been working on this little by little over the past couple years. There is always room for kaizen.

11. Meditate. What? Who has the time? Ok, so meditate for one minute. Anyone can do that. Shrimati Bhanu Narasimhan refers to this as “mental hygiene”, and the benefits are numerous. A few benefits include reducing stress, increasing concentration, and slowing aging! Sign me up! Information on meditation for beginners can be found here, here, and here.

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12. Buy a flower. Ok, that sounds cheesy, I know. However, having something natural and beautiful just for pure enjoyment is a simple pleasure. Don’t wait for someone to send you flowers…go out and get your own. You deserve it, and no reason is needed. If, however, you need a reason, check out this site.

And…Learn Something New

13. Read. “I don’t have time,” you whine. Well, go for the short stories! Want classics? Some of my all-time faves are To Build a Fire by Jack London, The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe, Eve’s Diary or The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain, The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin, Thank You, M’am by Langston Hughes, or A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner.

For articles, stories, poetry of all kindsof course you should browse here at Medium.com. Here you will discover writers from all walks of life; perhaps you will be the next!

14. Begin a new hobby. A hobby is a way to relax, meditate, and enjoy a moment. Perhaps something creative, like leather crafting, calligraphy, photography, or origami. Or, something active, like geocaching, gardening, or bird-watching. Many adults now enjoy advanced coloring books; perhaps it takes them back to more innocent times when life was simpler. Hobbies are a break from the daily hustle. Make time for it.

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15. Cook or bake something new. Tired of the same old same old? Is there anything you ever wanted to attempt? Go for it. Do it for yourself; you’re worth it. Need ideas? Search online. Check out AllRecipes, Epicurious, Delish, or FoodNetwork.

16. Watch a documentary. Documentaries do not equal boring. Trust me. It’s a way to learn something new or learn more about something you are interested in. If documentaries take too long, check out TedTalks; none of them are more than 20 minutes long.

TED is a global community, welcoming people…who seek a deeper understanding of the world. [They] believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.

Sounds amazing, yes? I’m a tad addicted to TED.

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What else?

17. Be grateful. Choose a journal, and write down something each day of which you are thankful for. If there is a day where you just feel like you can’t (mental illness strugglers understand), then try again the next day. Keep it bedside for easy access and a constant reminder. When needing an emotional lift, read through it.

18. Begin a commonplace book.

This is ‘a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits.’

It could be material from books, movies, speeches, videos, conversations, and whatever strikes your fancy. Think of it as a written scrapbook. A quote or lyric that resonates with you? An idea you don’t want to forget? This is a way to “synthesize knowledge into the essential wisdom that can be later used by the creator”. Rereading it from time to time is good for the soul.

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19. Clear clutter. Choose one, small task at a time. One task a day…or one task a week. Remember, baby steps. For me…not leaving clean laundry on the couch. I need to actually put it away. This is something I will be working on. In addition, I’m really bad about piles. Piles of mail, piles of toiletries, piles of paperwork, piles of…junk. I’d like fewer piles by the end of 2018. Time to purge.

20. Laugh more. What gives you a chuckle? Sitcoms? YouTube? Jokes? Laughter is good for your health. According to Robinson, Smith, and Segal at HelpGuide.org,

Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh.

After reading their article, I was amazed at the numerous benefits. I urge you to read it too!

Call To Action:

  • Let it be your year of kaizen…continuous improvement, no matter the speed.
  • Small changes throughout 2018 will lead to overall big changes in the long run.
  • What will be your first baby step?

Copyright © 2018 Alicia T-Rust. All rights reserved.

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