When you're stuck in a rut, it often feels like you need a big change--a new job, a globetrotting dream vacation, a wildly different, way healthier, lifestyle.

But the problem with big changes is that they're usually terrifying. And expensive. And difficult. So you end up just sitting there in your dreary rut, dreaming of a major life overhaul but actually managing to change nothing.

How do you break out of this cycle? Experts are pretty clear on the answer. Give up your big dreams, at least initially, and start with small changes instead. Warm up to a new life with lots of little actions that expand your horizons, increase your energy, spur your creativity, and provide valuable feedback about what habits and paths will actually work for you.

Small actions like what? Like the 25 below. There's something here to suit every temperament and situation--and each and every one of them can be done today (or this week at least) and will cost you very little to absolutely nothing.

  1. Test drive your dream car. You don't need to blow your budget to experience a thrill.
  2. Go to lunch with someone you barely know. This might sound grim if you're shy, but it actually tends to expand both your mind and your comfort zone.
  3. Perform a random act of kindness. Bring your deskmate a coffee or your significant other flowers. Psychology suggests you'll be even happier than they will.
  4. Move your furniture around. A different physical space can lead to a different head space.
  5. Throw stuff away. Just like No. 4 above, less physical clutter can lead to less mental clutter.
  6. Start a meditation practice. It's less difficult to get started than you think, and there are a ton of tools to help.
  7. Take a different route. Leave yourself a little extra time and try a different route into work, to the gym, or to pick the kids up from school, and see what you see.
  8. Send a thank-you note. Gratitude is a muscle that needs exercising.
  9. Try a should-less day. It's pleasurable AND productive.
  10. Go stargazing. There are tons of apps and resources to help you navigate the night sky. Or just look up in awe.
  11. Volunteer for a good cause. Good deeds are energizing and horizon-expanding.
  12. Say yes to everything for a day (or a week).
  13. Talk to strangers. Here's a detailed explanation of the hows and whys.
  14. Wake up way earlier (or sleep in). Life looks different at 5 a.m. (or after a lazy, relaxing morning in bed).
  15. Cook something wildly experimental for dinner. It might be delicious, and even if it's not, cooking is its own form of mindfulness. Plus, eating your creation together is a good occasion to really reconnect with loved ones.
  16. Photograph your city. You'll see it with new eyes.
  17. Contact an old friend you haven't talked to in awhile. Sometimes the best new connection is an old connection.
  18. Finally conquer that dreaded to-do list item. Just think how good you'll feel when you've finally cleaned out that closet/organized your photos/finished your taxes, etc.
  19. Play tourist in your own town. Set aside a day to visit the local tourist spot you haven't seen in ages (if at all).
  20. Host a clothing swap. Shopping your way out of your doldrums is probably a bad idea, but getting to together with friends to exchange underused pieces is social, creative, re-energizing, and free.
  21. Forgive someone. Do it for yourself.
  22. Declare a digital Sabbath. Clear your mind with a day or two away from all your gadgets. You can do it. Really.
  23. Let yourself get bored. It might be unpleasant, but boredom actually spurs creativity, studies show.
  24. Learn something random. Browse your local library and pick up something unexpected, or check out an online class that's way outside your comfort zone.
  25. Look through old photos. Enjoy a trip down memory lane while you get back in touch with your past self and youthful dreams.

Do you have any suggestions to add to this list?

Published on: Sep 29, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.