With some of the wacky holidays taking place in September (hello, National Cheese Pizza Day), I take joy in the fact that the entire month has been bestowed the honor of National Self-Improvement month. Whether we realize it or not, most of us are constantly looking for ways to improve our lives. Some are looking for ways to get fit and eat healthier, while others work on blazing trails to fulfill their educational and professional goals.

In honor of this month’s celebration of personal growth, here are six practical ways you can incorporate change into your life, this month and beyond:

1. It’s never too late: Educate

If you’re a student in an online degree program, you might be looking to improve your skills to move up in your current industry or looking to move into a whole new industry, but the emphasis is the same: learning something new. Even if you have completed a degree, there’s always more to learn. Take a class that teaches you a new language or test out a new subject you don’t have as much knowledge about. It’s all about challenging yourself, which may lead to new passions you've yet to discover.

2. Clear out the cobwebs

We are all busy, yes, but if you find yourself with a few extra hours to kill, clean out your closet, car, or just one small room in your house/apartment and then call it a day, unless the sudden rush of a clean bathroom makes you want to jump for joy and clean everything in sight. I’ve found myself going on cleaning binges from time to time, mainly because I’m not the tidiest person on a day-to-day basis. Cleaning one room (often the bathroom) and seeing how nice it looks is so exhilarating that I often want to keep going with other places in my apartment!

3. Work on your fitness

Many people dread the thought of working out, but it can help with so many things, physically and mentally. According to the American Heart Association, just 30 minutes a day or three separate periods of 10-minute activity can impart a feeling of “improvement in general well-being over time,” as it increases oxygen-flow to the brain, assisting with memory and “promoting optimism.” The physical effects can be seen as a boost in overall energy levels and increased muscle strength. Walking is an obvious choice for those just starting to exercise, since it requires no equipment and can be done just about anywhere. If you prefer group activity, you can find free fitness groups in your area via Meetup or form your own group with friends or neighbors. The goal is to keep each other motivated to continue your fitness journey throughout the year.

4. Become your own foodie 

This doesn’t mean you have to know the best restaurants in town or make expensive, gourmet meals every night, but knowing how to cook and follow directions is a good way to get on the path of eating healthier. I learned how to cook by trying several of Gina’s recipes on Skinnytaste and giving them my own personal flair.

Most are unique, delicious versions of easy-to-prepare, everyday foods that don’t require a lot of fancy ingredients. One more thing, make breakfast a must every day! If you are short on time, a piece of fruit and a string cheese will usually do it until you get to lunch.

5. Be a Volunteer

I tend to place a large amount of emphasis on this, because it helps an organization in need while providing a great sense of pride and accomplishment for the person giving their time to the cause. You may also meet some great people in volunteering, who you may not have met otherwise.

6. Each Day, Do One Thing That Scares You 

Whether it is something small, such as making conversation with someone you are standing next to in line at the grocery store, or trying a new food instead of your usual at your favorite restaurant, take baby steps. Little things that force you to get out of your personal comfort zone can help you feel more confident in going for bigger things in the long run, like asking your boss for a promotion.

Even if you can’t fit all these tips into your daily lifestyle, just try a few. The key is to see that you can make small changes that can improve your life on your terms.

Make September your month to start something new, like earning your degree. Learn how you can do it on your terms by downloading our eBook, "Why Online Education." 

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