A guest posting courtesy of Jennifer Scott – spiritfinder.org

Self-improvement is a long—and sometimes painful—journey that is necessary for reaching our goals and getting where we want to be in life. While it’s easy to shy away from the tough stuff, a successful self-improvement plan often involves altering certain behaviors and habits that are holding us back. Some big life changes can make you a happier, healthier person and give you the confidence you need to live the life you want. Here are some incredibly impactful life changes that can help you become the best possible version of yourself.

Adopt a Furry Friend

Believe it or not, adopting a pet can be your catalyst for change. Caring for a lovable animal can teach you selflessness, responsibility, and patience. Not only that, but some studies show that owning a pet is good for our physical and mental health as well. Interacting with a pet boosts the immune system, improve cardiovascular health, and lower levels of stress, anxiety, and fear. A furry friend can also encourage you to get outside and exercise more often—and possibly make some new friends while you’re at it!

First-time pet owners will need to pick up a few basic supplies before bringing their new friend home. A pet bed, carrying crate, ID tag, toys, and food and water bowls are essential. If you’re bringing home a new cat, you will also need a litter box and a scratching post.

Overhaul Your Diet

Giving your diet a complete overhaul can transform your life completely. Besides contributing to your long-term health, what you eat has a significant effect on your energy levels, mood, and appearance. Cutting out unhealthy foods and adopting a clean diet can boost your body—inside and out. A diet rich in whole foods can even reduce your risk of cancer!

Adopting a healthy diet is an ongoing process that involves making several small changes. Take some time to scrutinize your diet and see where you can make effective swaps—you’ll have better success if you focus on just a few things at a time.

For example, you may start by cutting out sugary drinks like soda, juice, and sports beverages, or replacing your favorite salty snacks with fruit and nuts. Try to also consume more gut-healthy foods, including pickles, sauerkraut, garlic, and yogurt with live active cultures. Keeping your digestive system happy is crucial for supporting a resilient immune system and lowering inflammation throughout the body.

Get in Shape

Whether or not your goal is to lose weight, taking steps to improve your strength, stamina, and mobility through physical fitness can boost your overall health in several ways. Regular exercise can give you more energy, alleviate stress, improve your memory, delay aging, and can even help prevent future health conditions like heart disease. According to Psych Central, physical activity also stimulates certain brain chemicals to improve mood and prevent depression.

Get started by crafting a personalized workout routine that fits your schedule, lifestyle, and ultimate goals. Your fitness goals will help you determine the type and amount of exercise that you need. For weight loss, Prevention recommends interval training, running, and kickboxing. If you want to build some serious muscle, make sure you’re training each muscle at least twice per week. Rather than winging your workouts every time you hit the gym, a solid exercise plan will help you see results faster and reduce your risk of injury.

With that in mind, many people find it helpful to work out with a partner and/or add a fitness tracker to their gear. A fitness tracker or smartwatch can track the basics like distance traveled and calories burned, but newer models feature some impressive capabilities. For instance, the Apple Watch Series 4 has some exciting innovations, including emergency SOS and the ability to detect falls. Or the Fitbit Versa is another option that features an altimeter and heart rate monitoring.

Enjoying optimal health and happiness requires a lot of hard work and dedication. No one who has met their greatest life goals has ever regretted the work involved. Whether it’s taking on a fulfilling new responsibility, like adopting a pet, or making strides to meet your fitness goals, do what you need to pursue the healthy mind and body you deserve.