I’ve been reading a lot of articles in TIME recently and happened to stumble across a few that I felt were worth sharing.
The first article I read detailed 10 things to do to improve your life. I share them with the hope of inspiring you to make simple, healthy changes in your life:
- Get out in nature: Sometimes we just need to live the simple life and connect with nature. Being in nature reduces stress, inspires creativity and is proven to improve memory.
- Exercise: Regular exercise makes you happier, smarter and healthier. Getting exercise is also proven to help improve both your sleep and your libido, which makes sense since it helps to improve your confidence.
- Spend time with family and friends: Relationships are undoubtedly the most important part of my life, as they are my biggest source of happiness. Studies have shown that those who live the longest are those who have placed an emphasis on social engagement and good relationships. Believe it or not, investing in your relationships may even be more important than investing in a gym membership.
- Express gratitude: Expressing gratitude makes you happier and improves your relationships, so do it more. Someone held the elevator for you today at work? Say thanks!
- Meditate: I think that meditation is extremely important in allowing us to learn how to control our thoughts. Meditation is proven to not only lead to happiness, but to an increased feeling of worth and meaning in life. Similarly, meditation helps to reduce anger, stress, fatigue and depression.
- Sleep: I feel it when I don’t get enough sleep; I’m irritable, foggy, disorganized and self-conscious. Sleep deprivation always results in my being in a ‘funk’ and reasonably so, as being tired makes it harder to be happy. Similarly, sleep deprivation lowers your immune system, making it more likely for you to get sick. There are lots of things that you can afford to skimp on, but sleep isn’t one of them.
- Challenge yourself: Pushing yourself to learn a new skill, try a new restaurant or react to a situation differently than you typically would — these are all experiences that result in personal growth. Challenging your own believes strengthens your mind and widens your perspective. Never stop pushing yourself to be bigger, better and greater.
- Laugh: Laughing improves happiness and longevity, as it slows down the aging process. Similarly, laughter helps reduce risk of heart attack and stroke. Laughing should be something you do at least once a day and, lucky for you, it is one of the easiest things on this list to incorporate into your daily routine.
- Touch someone: Hugs help – to make you feel connected, calmed, comforted. See someone looking down? Give them a hug – it’ll make the both of you feel happier.
- Be optimistic: Seemingly obvious, optimism results in our feeling happier and more satisfied with our lives. Choosing to see the glass as half full never hurts – it only makes you feel more hopeful.
The second article I read pointed to numerous studies that prove we’re more likely to experience elevated enjoyment when engaged in a hobby (playing sports, volunteering, exercising) than when engaged in a passive activity such as watching TV – but despite that fact, people spend more time watching TV than they do engaging in hobbies.
“According to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby.”
The article explained that the reason we resort to these passive activities is that we are drawn to convenience.
It’s easier to throw on the TV after a long day at work than it is to muster the energy to get dressed for the gym, or put on some ratty clothes and paint that TV chest you’ve been meaning to paint for the past year.
While it’s not easy to break the routine, it’s essential to our happiness.
People who deliberately exercise their strengths and passions on a regular basis are proven to have long-lasting happiness and fulfillment in their lives.
So next time you think about skipping the gym for a TV dinner, remember that you’re almost guaranteed to feel worse.
I took my favorite behaviors / tips from the articles that, if followed, I believe will help you succeed – especially at work:
- Morning ritual: Successful people typically wake up early and have a morning ritual. They get their day started before the emails start piling in and they use that time to get focused and create a goal for the day. According to TIME, having concrete goals is correlated to increases in confidence and feelings of control.
- Manage your mood: Be mindful of your self-talk in the morning, as it truly shapes your day. When we wake up and immediately respond to emails, we are being reactionary. Instead, we should follow our routine which is proven to result in feelings of control and decreased anxiety. Research shows that how you start the day has an enormous effect on productivity, so it’s worth spending the time you need to manage your mood in the mornings.
- Important work first: Research shows that 2.5-4 hours after waking up is when your brain is sharpest, so reserve that time for the most important work-related task at hand.
- Necessity assessment: It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of the day and end up doing things that weren’t even necessary. Before asking yourself “how quickly can I get this done?” or “how can I do this better?” ask yourself “what is my goal in doing this? Does this need to be done now, or at all?
- Regroup mid-afternoon: Everyone knows that 2-3 p.m. crash. I think that the crash is attributed to the (often terrible due to its convenience) food we shove down our throats during our lunch hour, but there’s more: our circadian rhythm slows down at that time too. To help beat the slump, take a break, a walk or a snack. Also worth trying is reviewing the list of things you have already accomplished that day, as that always helps me find an extra jolt of energy and motivation.
- Relax in the evening: Unplug from work when you get home and write down your goal for the next day – doing so will help you get your mind off work and relax.
- Engage: Studies show that the activities that relieve the most stress are exercise, sports, music or spending time with friends. Further proving the points of the article I detailed above, playing video games and watching TV don’t result in our feeling happier or less stressed, so ditch them for something more engaging and fun!