There are limitless options for you to have a better day. Thousands of articles across the internet give advice and suggestions to improve your life. I think it’s great how much information we have available at our fingertips. Yet, a lot of this (still valid) advice is difficult to sustain.
We live in a hectic, fast-paced world where most of us work at least a 40-hour workweek. Factor in sleep, commute, eating, and other basic necessities of our day, and little time remains for us. When do we focus on our primal needs — body, mind, spirit, emotion. I compiled a list of the most-effective yet least time-consuming practices that benefit at least one of these primal needs.
1. Enjoy Nature
Nature is beautiful. It is an amazing combination of complexity and simplicity. Just consider the ecosystems, how the creatures thrive within them, and how we live among all of this. In my post, A Simple, Profound Lesson from a Beaver, I discuss a connection I made with nature, and how we can use it to reflect on how we live.
Spending time in nature has proven to be a stress reducer. Aside from a drop in cortisol, it gives us time to consciously relax, meditate, reflect, or boost creativity. Go ahead and spend ten minutes in the park on a nice day and just try not to notice how focused you become. (For city-dwellers, take a drive somewhere quieter if possible, but a city park is better than nothing.)
To save time, you can do this on your lunch break or when spending time with your family on weekends. You can also do what I do and take your jogging off the pavement and into the woods, or start an indoor garden.
2. Get Moving
To build positive habits, you need to balance your efforts with your daily willpower and interest in continuing the habit. I found this out with my ideal week and language acquisition recently. Do it until it stops being fun, then quit for the day. Exercise creates a clear picture of this practice’s importance.
Most people want to exercise for the end result. They want to be fit, healthy, sexy, and athletic. The issue is all that work in between. It’s okay, I’ve been there.
Start small to ease your way into exercising. Try starting each day with a simple routine of 3 push-ups, 3 crunches, and 3 squats. That’s it. Make it so easy that you can’t say no to it. Then, you just add one more rep to each exercise as the days go on. Eventually, you’ll be at 25 push-ups, 25 crunches, and 25 squats.
Each morning, I do “The Scientific 7-Minute Workout“. It hits all the major muscle groups I need to wake my body up to start the day. Just have fun with it and make it your own. I use the timer set to 5-minutes, replace jumping jacks with shadow boxing, and replace push-ups with Hindu push-ups.
Exercise helps us physically and emotionally by lowering cortisol and charging up our creative juices. A Stanford study found a 60% increase in creative output by just walking.
Can you spare five minutes today?
3. Spend Time with Family and Friends
In the beginning of 2014, I set goals for the year. One of my most important and most rewarding was to spend more time with friends and family I don’t see often enough, as well as with my cousin.
Time with loved ones does a lot for us. We feel less lonely, stressed, self-conscious and afraid, and more loved, happy, and influential.
My suggestion is to set aside one night each week for an extended dinner with friends and/or family. Make it a 2-3 hour engagement — not an in-and-out meetup. I got this tip from Tim Ferriss and loved it.
Maybe this is “time-consuming” since I recommend 2-3 hours. But, think of it this way. Is there a night in the week you would normally spend an hour having dinner at home, then the one or two hours after not doing anything special? That’s your day to do this. The benefits to your stress levels and happiness will pay off the next day when you get to work with new-found energy.
4. Be Gracious
I recently wrote about a newer habit of mine that received a lot of attention — daily writing in a Gratitude Journal.
Life moves fast and we rarely take time to reflect on how fortunate we are. We have amazing events of each day, talents we don’t appreciate in ourselves, and important people who we don’t intentionally acknowledge enough.
Start each day with the journal and answer three questions: I am grateful for…, My day will be amazing if…, I am… [empowering statement]. Click here to read more about this.
5. Sleep and Eat Well
Dieting doesn’t work for two reasons: first, those providing the advice over-complicate things; second, the term “diet” is connotative to a temporary change.
The key is to simplify. Set basic benchmarks to work towards (don’t completely alter your current routine, even if unhealthy). Here’s my suggestion:
Sleep: 8 hours is the go-to goal. Adjust your current schedule to aim for 8 hours. Alter your sleep duration by 15-minutes at a time – no more than this. Look for the days where you feel best and continue with that pattern, even if it isn’t 8 hours. Then, start looking for a similar pattern when you adjust your bedtime and wake-time. Again, small changes.
Eating: Eat whole foods — that is food in its most natural state. That’s it. Avoid processed foods. Eat lean meats, vegetables, and fruits. You will feel better and your body will be stronger inside and out. Start here before trying Dr. Oz’s next crazy “diet plan”.
No more time needed here. Just make smarter choices. You will feel the effects benefiting your body and mind nearly immediately.
I originally wrote this post with 10 steps (all important!). I feel strongly the other five will benefit you as well!
After writing the post, I realized I was providing way too much for anyone to consume at one time and leave with actionable takeaways.
Like I mentioned, make small adjustments at your time – whether to your diet or to another piece of your every day living.
So, another five steps will be available, but for now, get to work on these above.
To Recap (I.e., what you should start doing now for a better day):
- Find time in your day to get outdoors. A morning walk, a lunch break outside, or at least a weekly afternoon in the sun with friends and family.
- Start to exercise every day, but take super-baby-steps. You can go big and go home, or start small and make a lifelong change for the better.
- Find a night that you can dedicate to an extended dinner with loved ones.
- Start a gratitude journal. You can use any piece of paper to start, but I’d go get a mini-notebook to keep everything together. It’s a $1 investment that pays off instantly.
- Stop complicating eating and sleeping. Experiment with what works for you by using the basic benchmarks: 8-hours of sleep and eating whole foods.
That’s it. You should be able to walk away, start to carry out each of these simple steps, and begin reaping the benefits immediately. I hope just reading these simple but effective ideas has given you motivation to improve your life.
If you have any other ideas, thoughts, concerns, or criticisms, please let me know in the comments below — or reach out to me directly. Feedback is great. I’d love to hear from you.
And please share this with anyone who you think it would benefit.