Learning to be a better person may seem like a vague concept, but there are actually a lot of things you can do to become a better person. You can even learn how to be happier in the process by boosting your self-esteem and improving your relationships with others.
“Striving to improve yourself can help increase a person’s self-confidence and sense of accomplishment,” says Sari Chait, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist based in MA. “These improvements can in turn lead to strong interpersonal bonds, improvements at work, increased health behaviors, and overall improved mood and mental health.”
But Chait notes that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to becoming a better person, and suggests first determining the qualities you’d like to embody by thinking about your values as well as areas of your life where positive changes can be made.
Jor El Caraballolicensed therapist, author and co-founder of Long live, accept. “When I think of a ‘good person’, I think of someone who could be considered virtuous,” he explains. “It can vary by culture, but generally we consider someone a good person if they are caring, kind or compassionate, collaborative, patient and generous.”
Efforts to become a better person can be easy to fit into your daily routine. Try some of these expert-recommended methods and see which ones make you feel like the best version of yourself.
1. Identify your values
“At the end of the day, what helps make someone a better person is if they feel like they’re living up to their values,” Chait says. Although we all probably have different ideas about what it means to be a “good person”, we can become better people by finding out what it means to us and then emulating those qualities in our daily lives.
2. Practice self-reflection
Once you’ve identified your values, Caraballo suggests doing some deep self-reflection to truly reach your full potential. “We can’t be a better version of ourselves without understanding the gap between who we are right now and where we want to be. To do that, we need consistent and rigorous self-examination,” he explains.
3. Try keeping a journal
One way to self-reflect is to start a journaling routine using conscious prompts or using self-help manuals like The Shadow Workbook. Engaging in mindful journaling can help “get to know yourself more intimately” and determine your best path to improvement, Caraballo says.
4. Change your point of view
“Self-improvement isn’t just about relationships or self-confidence, it’s also about developing maturity, finding happiness, and building resilience,” says Vagdevi Meunier, Psy.D.licensed clinical psychologist, master trainer at the Gottman Institute and founder of The relationship center. “Life can be difficult and unpredictable for many people.” However, Meunier says cultivating joy and maintaining a positive attitude despite the circumstances is a powerful tool on the road to self-improvement.
5. Work on accountability
While being a “good person” is relative, “a common characteristic associated with being a good person is being able to hold yourself accountable and stay humble,” Chait says. To work on being more responsible, you need to be aware of your actions and be able to recognize when you’ve done something wrong, regardless of your intention, and apologize.
6. Practice Forgiveness
In addition to staying accountable, being able to accept another’s apologies for a wrong done to you can be a powerful tool for self-improvement. By practicing forgiveness, we humble ourselves toward others and gain our own peace of mind that allows us to move forward in the world with kindness.
7. Try new things
“As a therapist, I find that getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things can help provide new information and insights,” says Caraballo. These new experiences help you learn more about yourself, including your joys, fears, and anxieties. “Taking the next step to self-reflect and identifying areas for growth from there can help you chart a new path for personal development,” Caraballo suggests a solo trip, an adventure journey, or a meet-and-greet group based on an interest you might have as a starting point.
8. Keep Learning
Likewise, education is a powerful tool for becoming a more balanced person. Constant learning helps you gain unique perspectives that will allow you to better understand others and be more compassionate. Try picking up a few books from the library, listening to a series of podcasts, or just being more curious about the people and things around you.
9. Prioritize your loved ones
Focusing on your family, friends, and loved ones can help you not only with your interpersonal relationships and the way others see you, but also with your own happiness in general. Meunier refers to a 75-year-old Harvard study that showed subjects who lived the longest, happiest lives had good, close relationships. By investing in these relationships, we “learn to communicate, to show love, compassion, empathy, and sincere gratitude,” Meunier explains. “(Participants) practiced appreciation rather than apprehension and gratitude rather than grumpiness.”
10. Improve communication
Try to work on active listening and communication, recommends Chait. These are skills that take practice, but overall contribute to feeling like a “good person”. By honing these skills, you will be able to support those around you and be seen as a genuine person who cares about those around them.
11. Be empathetic
“Striving to be a kind, empathetic person who is able to listen and receive feedback will likely lead to feeling more in line with one’s own definition of a good person,” Chait says. Active listening and communication will help you understand and understand the feelings and circumstances of others.
12. Be kind to yourself
Compassion for yourself is a key strategy for promoting “happiness, peace of mind, and resilience,” says Meunier. By shifting your overall mindset to one of love of self, you can extend this attitude to others.
13. Give back
“Volunteering has been shown to have many positive effects, including improved mood,” says Chait. “Giving back to the community, helping others, or providing a service helps people feel like a good person and be seen as such. Chait suggests making it a goal to seek out a few volunteer opportunities around you throughout the week, then commit to following up the following week to look for ways to extend their time.
14. Manage stress
Stress tends to seep into every corner of our lives if we let it. But by practicing stress management, we can focus on happiness and live according to our values, Meunier says. Some ways to deal with stress are through self-care practices, mindfulness, and taking time off from work or other stressors as needed.
15. Seek therapy
Sometimes talking to a professional can be the best way to find support and clarify your path to happiness and self-improvement. Visiting a therapist, personal coach, or someone qualified to give spiritual guidance can “help equip you with the tools you need to achieve your personal development goals,” says Caraballo.
It can be helpful to seek help from a therapist who specializes in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), as these professionals can help people identify their values, the areas they want to focus on more, and how to make those changes, adds Chait.
Shannen Zitz is associate editor at Prevention, where she covers all things lifestyle, wellness, beauty and relationships. Previously an editorial assistant at Prevention, she graduated from the State University of New York at Cortland with a bachelor’s degree in English. If she’s not reading or writing, you can probably find her frequenting the skincare and makeup forums on Reddit or hogging the squat rack at the gym.