Buying a stock or bond is one form of investing, but it’s not the only one. By investing in yourself, you could increase your income, health, and happiness. And you don’t necessarily need a lot of money. In some cases, the best self-investments take time and discipline — but don’t cost a thing.

Whether you’re focused on your health or wealth, even a simple investment could pay dividends for years to come. However, there are so many ways to invest in yourself it can be difficult to decide where to begin. We’ll help you get started.

 

How do you invest in yourself?

It’s easy to get stuck in the status quo when your life is busy or stressful. After all, just paying bills on time, caring for family members, making it to work or school, and getting some sleep each night amounts to a full-time schedule.

One of the best ways to start investing in yourself is by taking note of small pockets of free time or disposable income. Are there moments on your commute home when you might be able to listen to an audiobook? Can you forgo daily coffee and use your accumulated savings to buy yourself a massage at the end of the month? Focusing on what is available will help you make progress faster than lamenting what is not.

 

Why is it important to invest in yourself?

There are many advantages to investing in yourself, such as:

  • A sense of purpose in life
  • The ability to do more of what you love
  • Greater confidence
  • Less stress
  • Higher earning potential

What happens when you invest in yourself?

Just as “get rich quick” schemes are often too good to be true, a plan that claims to quickly revolutionize your personal development is likely overselling its benefits.

A slower, more thoughtful plan may grant you incremental returns, such as increased energy during your day, something to look forward to, or a lower stress level. But awareness of the positive impact of your actions will encourage you to continue to find ways to invest in yourself— and eventually make even bigger changes.

 

Getting started

While everyone’s ideal self-investment may look different, there are some actions that can set you on a path to greater life fulfillment. Here are seven ideas that can make a big impact.

1. Build an exercise habit

While the benefits of exercise have largely focused on maintaining or altering one’s physical appearance, exercise is beneficial in other ways, too.

For starters, it’s a great way to relieve stress. According to Burnout by Amelia and Emily Nagoski, exercise helps you “reset” by giving you a blank-slate feeling and that leaves you refreshed. Frequent, moderate-intensity exercise (three to five times a week) can also offer protection against chronic illness.

Of course, not everyone enjoys a sweaty run outdoors. But taking a casual walk or making some time for daily stretches can be helpful. If you aren’t sure what kinds of exercise you can do safely, a doctor or physical therapist can help you find low-impact ways to start.

2. Explore your interests

Paying for school used to be the main way to learn new subjects. Not anymore — it’s a golden age for inexpensive or free information on any topic through sites like Coursera and YouTube.

While you may be interested in going back to school for a vocation-related degree, you can rediscover your sense of wonder by starting small — for example, listening to educational podcasts, downloading audio books, or watching interesting documentaries. Think about what inspires you and what you’d love to learn about, then let your Google search bar lead the way.

3. Begin a reflection practice

Human beings tend to notice when things are going wrong or there is a problem to solve. But taking time to appreciate what’s already good can drastically boost your happiness.

Consider using a notebook to examine your experiences and write down ten things you are grateful for each day. If you aren't prone to picking up a pen, simply think about the good things in your life or meditate without distraction.

A regular reflection practice will give you time to reset, calm down, and even change unhealthy habits.

4. Gain a new skill

Investing in your skillset now can have a big payoff later. Picture yourself one year from now - what new expertise could set you up for a promotion or job change? Now work backwards to figure out what steps you’ll need to take to get there.

Many new skills can be learned without going back to school. In fact some — like learning a new language — can be accomplished in just a few minutes a day using a mobile app. But if you do find that a degree or certification is required, ask your employer if they’ll subsidize at least part of the tuition. After all, if you level up your skills, they also win.

5. Reduce financial stressors

Finances can be stressful, but they’re even more so when you try to ignore them.  Spend some time thinking about where your financial pain points lie, then come up with a plan to tackle them one by one.

Here are a few ways to invest in yourself when it comes to finances:

  • Make a plan to become debt-free.  This can be as simple as putting together a list of all your debts, current balances, and monthly payment amounts. You don't have to accomplish your goal immediately, but having a long-term plan can give you a sense of control.
  • Make positive financial goals. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of money, imagine what life would be like with fewer financial worries and make a plan to get there.
  • Leverage your free time. Is there a side hustle that would help you make a little extra money without adding stress to your life?
  • Think through the role of credit in your life. Improving your credit score can open opportunities for you down the road, such as qualifying for better interest rates on credit cards and loans.
  • Save money. Use auto-savings to automatically divert a small amount of each paycheck to emergency or retirement savings — you probably won’t even miss it.

6. Pursue the simple life

The goal isn't to eliminate every modern convenience or pleasure. But pursuing a simpler life can help you feel more satisfied and grateful. In addition, it can help you cut expenses and save money. Simple life activities include:

  • Teach yourself how to cook. Doing so can help you reduce the expense of buying prepared foods or ordering takeout and can give you a deeper sense of satisfaction.
  • Spend time at a park or on a hiking trail. Being outside can boost your physical health as much as a gym— at a far lower price point.
  • Make handmade gifts for family members. Crafts and DIY gifts are far cheaper than store-bought gifts— and the gesture is often more appreciated by the recipients.

7. Express yourself creatively

If you are constantly connected to the Internet via phone or computer, devoting "tech-free time" to a particular hobby can help your mind catch a break.

Whether you like to draw, paint, write, or play music, give yourself the time and permission to do so. You may miss your phone at first, but over time you'll likely look forward to setting down your handheld device and gaining renewed energy to return to work.

 

You are your own best investment

Learning how to invest in yourself starts with believing that you deserve it. In addition to looking after your physical health and mental well-being, utilizing free financial tools and resources can help you improve your financial wellness. Start investing in yourself today!

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