My goal is to provide simple, effective, actionable tips to making your life better each and every day. I recently began writing this post providing 10 steps, but I realized I was giving too much at one time.
And so, I decided to split that post into two separate posts. The first was last week’s “5 Simple Steps to a Better Day“.
I want you to make positive change in your life. These ideas below combine “low barriers to entry” with maximum impact. If you try to change, why not go for the easier changes that make the biggest change? (I learned this through my life journey of change thus far.)
We can only make so many changes to our lives at one time. Otherwise, we get in over our heads and don’t stick with these changes. Focus less on looking at these items as one-off “goal” and more as lifelong “habits”.
If you haven’t seen the first post, read it here: 5 Simple Steps to a Better Day.
I hope this post, and my last one, is beneficial to you.
6. Simple Presence
There’s one thing I know – the words “meditation” and “mindful” are scary. They scared me for a long time. (I also figured some of you would skip this after reading “meditation” in the headline, cause I would have done that myself a year ago.)
Being mindful means being 100% present, in the moment. Giving our full, uninhibited attention to anything in life isn’t simple. In fact, with technology we have today, it feels nearly impossible!
I am a strong proponent of being present. You can do this through traditional meditation if you wish, but I feel that the majority of people will prefer a simplified method – like mine:
- I grind my coffee by hand every morning. It takes 2 or 3 minutes, but I take that time to let my mind relax. I’m sure hand-grinding coffee seems crazy. For me, I love my coffee, and it gives me a chance to “meditate” – so it’s a win-win.
- The simple repetitive motion keeps me busy while I look outside at the trees and urban wildlife. That’s it. No chanting. No cross-legged sitting. No extended period of time. Simple yet still refreshing to be alone with your mind.
- 10-second presence test: At random times of the day, I do a 10-second test on myself. You can do this right now. How am I sitting? How does my body feel against the chair? How about my arms in their position? How am I breathing? How do I feel?
- Again, super simple and quick. It’s a pause to my day that grounds me. I find this especially useful in a stressful situation or environment. The catch is you need to consciously think about doing this (and if I did my job right, you will be after reading this). After a week or two of doing this consciously (just once or twice a day), it will become a natural tool in your arsenal.
Remember to start just like you would with any new habit you are seeking to adapt into your life – slow and steady. And find something that works for you – whether 60-minutes of transcendental meditation or two-minutes of prayer. Otherwise, it is nearly impossible to sustain.
7. Find Challenges
Challenge your mind to grow. Try learning a new language, a new musical instrument, or a new professional skill.
One of my favorite quotes is by Jim Rohn:
Education doesn’t have to be in the formal sense of delving into a college course (though it can be). Do a variety of tasks. A good target is whatever allows you to learn, grow, and be creative. You need to learn the specifics yourself.
Fortune doesn’t have to be monetary gain either. For me, fortune is fulfillment of mind, body, emotion, and spirit.
I introduced the following challenges into my life:
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Latin Dancing
- Polyglot: starting with Spanish fluency
- Running my own digital marketing business
- Improve my SEO copywriting skills
- Learning performance coaching methods
The list goes on, as you can tell from my goals list. But this is an example of how I challenge myself. I don’t “need” to do any of these things. I enjoy pushing myself, however, and I think you would, too.
8. Stay Optimistic
Optimism leads to a long, happy, healthy life. It is easier said than done though. We live in a scary, unpredictable world. That’s just a part of life we have to accept.
We don’t have to live in a “fear” state, however. Consistent optimism has helped me to enjoy my days and live more carefree. (The American Heart Association also found a correlation between optimism and risk of having a stroke.)
How do you become “optimistic” though? First, I start with my gratitude journal, where I kick-off my day with a positive outlook.
Second, I find supporting others to be optimistic is the best way to be optimistic yourself. Tell others that “all will be okay” when they need to hear it. Tell others that it’s a beautiful day and life is great. These are hidden affirmations to support your own mindset.
This seems so simple and insignificant. Yet, you not only help build optimism in others, but also in yourself.
9. Take A Break
Breaks are important. We so often get caught in the day-to-day grind. Wake up, heat up some instant oatmeal, throw your work clothes on, race to work, anxiously wait to race back home for eight hours, and so on.
When do we get to stop and rest?
If you are sitting at your desk for lunch, you are not helping yourself (Hint: I’m guilty of this, so I know!).
Taking time to let your mind relax is a powerful tool. Here’s some recommendations:
- The Pomodoro Technique: Focus on one task entirely for 25 minutes, and then take a 5 minute break. On your break, you can exercise or stretch, make espresso, clean your desk, wash dishes, chat with a friend, or just getting a glass of water. You can use a free pomodoro timer to keep yourself on track.
- 20-20-20: This is a technique I learned that helps your eyes when working at a computer all day. Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look at an object 20 feet away from you. Healthy for your eyes, but I find benefit for your mind as well. I like to combine this with the Pomodoro timing.
- Focus@Will: Many of us listen to music while we work. There is a benefit to how certain music affects us. I can often enter “flow” states while listening to music. focus@will helps you find these flow states through music with their playlists. You can try the premium version, but I’ve been happy with the free version. The other benefit, since we’re talking about breaks here, is that after the first hour, a chime rings and your playlist ends (premium allows you to adjust the time). An hour is the perfect time for a break if the Pomodoro technique is too frequent for you.
- Your own muse: Breaking away from the day-to-day grind consistently requires the willpower and interest. Everyone is different and needs different techniques. You need to figure out what it is that makes you feel special — like nothing else in the world matters at that moment. It could be some form of exercise or meditation, or playing a musical instrument or another creative passion. Whatever it is that makes you feel alive — go for that.
Laughter seems underestimated in our world. We all enjoy a good laugh — it creates rapport and friendship. It’s the reason we have millionaire comedians. Laughter relieves stress and soothes tensions. Chinese medicine says if you are in a bad mood, laughter will kickstart your qi! (Qi, or “chi”, is like your life force or spirit-energy).
While I don’t follow chinese medicine’s “qi” concept, it does make a valid point. Laughter eases fears and anxieties. Every day we engage in multiple discomforting situations. That’s why so many people are on anxiety and antidepressant pills. Laughter can be that natural medicine to replace pills. Find a way to add it to your daily routine — like hitting the gym or taking your multivitamin. Life will be much more rich for you.
Most importantly, notice who makes you laugh and make sure you spend time with them. If it’s a specific coworker, spend lunch or a few minutes in the day talking with them. If it’s a family member, give them a call, or since it’s 2014, a text. Spend time with fun people. If it is not your significant other, probably time to look for someone else. A relationship without laughter isn’t sustainable — but let’s not get into that.
Most important, I think, is perspective. Find humor in the happenings of your life. Absurd things happen to us every day. Better to laugh than to be woeful!
To Recap (I.e., start taking notes:
- Find a way to be present each and every day.
- Challenge yourself. Challenge your body. Challenge your mind. Get creative and try different things.
- Optimism keeps us happy, healthy, and enjoyable to be around. Make it a goal every day.
- Breaks are undervalued in our culture. We need to learn to reprogram ourselves to capitalize on them.
- Just laugh! That’s it! Find ways to laugh that work for you… Although I think it’s best to spend time with someone who makes you laugh than cat videos. Your call though, boss.
Last week I covered incorporating different aspects to your day: nature, exercise, socializing, gratitude, and proper sleep and nutrition. This week, there’s another five options. Your goal is to experiment. Figure out what works for you through pushing yourself to try new and different things.
Is there something I haven’t listed in these two posts you do each day (or week) that makes your life better? Something that positively affects your body, mind, emotion, or spirit? Let me know in the comments below!