daily habits, atomic habits, james clear, self improvement

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear notes that “your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits … you get what you repeat.” Basically, if you want to predict where your life is leading, take a look at your daily choices. And Clear is certainly not the first or last motivational speaker to promote this wisdom. Pick up any self-help book, and it will most likely tout the message of how small, incremental changes can have an enormous impact on our lives.

A recent thread on AskReddit posed the question: What improved your quality of life so much you wished you did it sooner? For those of us who still can’t seem to tick off things like “drink more water” from the to-do list (despite knowing full well all the benefits) it might help hearing success stories from real, everyday people.

Here are some of the highlights:


Swimming for back pain

back pain, back pain remedies Giphy

“Drugs, bed rest for weeks, chiro, deep massage, electroshock. Then I swam some laps and over a three day period months of decrepitude vanished. I couldn’t believe and am now obsessed with swimming." – DontShootTheFood

“Most people who have back pain (especially lower back pain) have it as a result of sedentary lifestyle (exacerbated by sitting in office chairs for a long period of time). Swimming is a fantastic total body and core workout which just builds and balances strength to reduce back pain. If you have pain due to an injury, it may not be as effective." – hanksredditname

Managing road rage

road rage, driving habits Giphy

“Someone wants to pass me when I'm in the left lane? Move over and let them pass. Someone wants in my lane? That's ok, I don't consider the gap ahead of me to be my real estate. Semi puts on their blinkers when I'm intending to pass? Let off the speed and flick my high beams to let them know there's enough room to enter my lane. All of this helps traffic flow better, makes things safer, and actually feels good to do. And all it required was to stop feeling like all of those things were a personal attack on me and my desire to get to my destination." – Buddahrific

Setting boundaries … even with family

setting boundaries, healthy lifestyle Giphy

“I used to feel like I had to hang out with people when they asked, and as an introvert would resent losing my ‘me’ time. Now I'm just honest with people and say I'm tired, or that I had a long weekend of Great British Bakeoff and dog snuggles that I was really looking forward to. Might sound lame but I'm 150% happier.” – Acceptable-Place0872

“…I'm in my late twenties and talk to neither of my parents. I forgive them for what they did, but I don't want a relationship of any kind with them and have made that very clear. I just stopped picking up the phone, texting back, messaging back at all. My brother still talks to one, but he suffers for it. I know I made the right decision.” – thekindwillinherit

Exercising for more than just your body

exercise, exercise and mental health, mental health Giphy

“I wish more people knew exactly how helpful exercise really is for both mental and physical health! Throughout high school I was seeing psychologists for anxiety and other issues and they repeatedly told me to eat healthy and exercise to improve my mental state. It's pretty easy when you are in a bad place to dismiss that and say 'a chemical imbalance in my brain isn't going to fix itself if I go for a run' so I never followed their advice. When I was around 20 I got a gym membership and actually started exercising for unrelated reasons and WOW does it help a lot! If you have mental health issues, a healthy lifestyle might not totally fix you but it will DEFINITELY help.” – vindaflyfox

Breaking free from phone addiction

social media, phone addiction Giphy

“Disable your push notifications in tandem with uninstalling all social media apps. It's quite fascinating how much better you feel when social media isn't installed. Bye bye FB/Meta, Insta, Twitter, all of it gone. Talk about liberating. Took me about a month of "training", but now I hardly ever look at my phone, and I no longer feel phantom vibrations while it's in my pocket. It's disgusting how we've become slaves to our devices.” – dj92wa

Improving sleep

sleep, sleep and health, improving sleep Giphy

“I’ve been using my CPAP for a few weeks now and I actually know what it’s like to have energy and motivation and not be a zombie by 2 pm. If anyone else feels like that, I heavily recommend talking to your doctor about having a sleep study done.” – whomikehidden

“Sunrise Alarm Clock. I wake up so much better during the dark winter months.” – herbstavore

Decluttering

cleaning, cleaning tips, decluttering Giphy

“...A consistently clean home is amazing and doesn’t take a ton of time. 10-15 minutes a day I can keep things fairly tidy.” – unwinagainstable

“Nothing feels so relaxing when everything is in its place, organized and uncluttered. This obviously goes for at home, but also a clean car, clean desk, clean and organized computer and filing. Taking notes and reminders and deleting them when the task is done really relieves the mind. You can relax and focus better when your brain isn't cluttered and overwhelmed.” – KanataCitizen

Walking for an hour

walking, walking benefits Giphy

“This literally saved my life. A lot of people think just going out for a walk has minimal benefits, but it has both great physical and mental ones. Highly underrated (and free).” – grittypitty

Journaling affirmations

journaling, affirmations, affirmation journal Giphy

“…it helps remind me of my values, which helps me make better decisions each day, and having done it for three years now, I can see the progress I’ve made in learning not to sweat the small stuff. It’s encouraging. I’m figuring myself out.” – babblewocky

Dropping sarcasm

better attitudes, self improvement, mindset Giphy

"I thought this gave me sharp, dry wit but really it was one step up from a teenager's whiney voice making fun of people. It really was a low form of humor and, indeed, the perfect analog to the pseudo-intellectualism of the cynical act. It's so easy to be sarcastic and nasty and it gets old REALLY fast.” – zazzlekdazzle

Opting for positive content

positivity, postive content Giphy

“I stopped consuming true crime content this past summer. It overall made me a more fearful, less empathetic, and more judgemental person by nature. The content encouraged my negative thought spirals and called it awareness. Never going back.” – notwest94

Practicing gratitude

gratitude Giphy

“It is small but it genuinely makes a big impact. I had an assignment for a university course last year where we had to spend one week noting down something positive/good each day and then the next week negative things and I hadn’t realized just how much my life has improved until the week where I focused on negative things, it really solidified how much of a difference it made on my mood, how I felt about myself, and even how much I accomplished.” – supersaurus65

millennial-grind.com

There were some other great contenders: daily dancing, seeing a therapist, stretching before bed and at waking … just to name a few. But no matter the habit, they planted seeds for not only a new life, but for a new identity. As Clear would put it, “every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”

Let authors like Clear help guide you—and stories like the ones above help inspire you—as you forge a better path for yourself, one small step at a time.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

What you look like in a selfie camera isn't really what you look like in real life.

We've all done it: You snap a selfie, look at it, say, "OMG is my nose swollen?" then try again from a different angle. "Wait, now my forehead looks weird. And what's up with my chin?" You keep trying various angles and distances, trying to get a picture that looks like how you remember yourself looking. Whether you finally land on one or not, you walk away from the experience wondering which photo actually looks like the "real" you.

I do this, even as a 40-something-year-old who is quite comfortable with the face I see in the mirror. So, it makes me cringe imagining a tween or teen, who likely take a lot more selfies than I do, questioning their facial features based on those snapshots. When I'm wondering why my facial features look weird in selfies it's because I know my face well enough to know that's not what it looks like. However, when a young person whose face is changing rapidly sees their facial features distorted in a photo, they may come to all kinds of wrong conclusions about what they actually look like.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Zoologist and photographer Conor Ryan spotted 1,000 fin whales in one spot.

Conor Ryan has seen his fair share of whales, and his Twitter handle—@whale_nerd—isn't just a cutesy nickname. Ryan was just 14 years old when he published his first peer-reviewed scientific paper on killer whales with his best friend, Peter Wilson, in 2001. As a wildlife photographer, a zoologist specializing in marine biology and an expert in baleen whales and small cetaceans, he knows when he's looking at something special in the sea.

In other words, when Conor Ryan says his mind is "completely blown" by a whale sighting, you know it's a big deal. Seeing 1,000 fin whales at once? That's a very big deal.

Fin whales are the second-largest animal in the world, second only to the blue whale. In the 20th century, fin whales were hunted to near extinction before commercial whaling was outlawed. Nearly 725,000 were killed in the Southern Hemisphere alone in the mid- 1900s, and though whaling is no longer a threat, fin whales are still on the endangered species list.

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This article originally appeared on 11.30.16


Chris Porsz was tired of studying sociology.

As a university student in the 1970s, he found the talk of economics and statistics completely mind-numbing. So instead, he says, he roamed the streets of his hometown of Peterborough, England, with a camera in hand, snapping pictures of the people he met and listening to their stories. To him, it was a far better way to understand the world.

All photos by Chris Porsz/REX/Shutterstock.

He always looked for the most eccentric people he could find, anyone who stood out from the crowd. Sometimes he'd snap a single picture of that person and walk away. Other times he'd have lengthy conversations with these strangers.

But eventually, life moved on and so did he. He fell out of love with photography. "Those pictures collected dust for 25 years," he says.

Then, a few years ago, Porsz found those 30- to 40-year-old photos and sent them to be printed in his local newspaper.

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