10 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Life Today
I came across this list of 10 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Life Today on Dr. Samantha Boardman’s site Positive Prescription. They are things we all know we should do but probably forget to do during our busy lives.
1. Get out in nature: You probably seriously underestimate how important this is. (Actually, there’s research that says you do.) Being in nature reduces stress, makes you more creative, improves your memory and may even make you a better person.
Getting out in nature can be hard to do in New York but we are lucky to have Central Park smack dab in the middle. I used to take a walk over almost every day and sit by the Boat Pond. It’s a place where everyone is happy and smiling and makes me feel better. I will definitely try to visit more often now that it’s not so hot.
2. Exercise: We all know how important this is, but few people do it consistently. Other than health benefits too numerous to mention, exercise makes you smarter, happier, improves sleep, increases libido and makes you feel better about your body. A Harvard study that has tracked a group of men for more than 70 years identified it as one of the secrets to a good life.
I’ve fallen off the exercise wagon recently and need to get back on track. Equinox is so close that I really have no excuse.
3. Spend time with friends and family: Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert identified this as one of the biggest sources of happiness in our lives. Relationships are worth more than you think (approximately an extra $131,232 a year.) Not feeling socially connected can make you stupider and kill you. Loneliness can lead to heart attack, stroke and diabetes. The longest lived people on the planet all place a strong emphasis on social engagement and good relationships are more important to a long life than even exercise. Friends are key to improving your life. Share good news and enthusiastically respond when others share good news with you to improve your relationships. Want to instantly be happier? Do something kind for them.
It can be hard to schedule time with friends in New York due to everyone’s hectic schedules but it’s always worth trying. I accepted two last minute invitations last Thursday and had such a fun day. I also make a point of remembering everyone’s birthday with a card or an event with a special note. I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t appreciate finding old fashioned mail in their real mailbox.
4. Express gratitude: It will make you happier. It will improve your relationships. It can make you a better person. It can make life better for everyone around you.
I started a gratitude journal at the beginning of the year. I can usually come up with 10 things to be grateful for at the end of each day. It’s much better to focus on the positive things in your life than dwelling on anything negative.
5. Meditate: Meditation can increase happiness, meaning in life, social support and attention span while reducing anger, anxiety, depression and fatigue. Along similar lines, prayer can make you feel better — even if you’re not religious.
I’ve been hearing so many good things about meditating lately but I’m not sure how exactly to do it. I am going to definitely figure it out today.
6. Get enough sleep: You can’t cheat yourself on sleep and not have it affect you. Being tired actually makes it harder to be happy. Lack of sleep = more likely to get sick. “Sleeping on it” does improve decision making. Lack of sleep can make you more likely to behave unethically. There is such a thing as beauty sleep.
Naps are great too. Naps increase alertness and performance on the job, enhance learning ability and purge negative emotions while enhancing positive ones. Here’s how to improve your naps.
Not looking at your phone screen before bed is the key to better sleep but it’s very difficult to do. I’m going to try harder this week to stop looking at my phone as much in general.
7. Challenge yourself: Learning another language can keep your mind sharp. Music lessons increase intelligence. Challenging your beliefs strengthens your mind. Increasing willpower just takes a little effort each day and it’s more responsible for your success than IQ. Not getting an education or taking advantage of opportunities are two of the things people look back on their lives and regret the most.
Keeping up with my French and watching foreign films is an enjoyable challenge that helps with many areas of my life. I haven’t challenged myself with regard to work as much this year so this is something I know I need to work on this fall.
8. Laugh: People who use humor to cope with stress have better immune systems, reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, experience less pain during dental work and live longer. Laughter should be like a daily vitamin. Just reminiscing about funny moments can improve your relationship. Humor has many benefits.
This is one area where I think I actually excel. Sometimes you have to laugh at the ridiculous things that happen in New York so you don’t cry.
9. Touch someone: Touching can reduce stress, improve team performance, and help you be persuasive. Hugs make you happier. Touch may help prevent heart attacks and cancer, improve your immune system and extend your life.
I’m going to hug my friends more and schedule more massages which also help.
10. Be optimistic: Optimism can make you healthier, happier and extend your life. The Army teaches it in order to increase mental toughness in soldiers. Being overconfident improves performance.
Being optimistic and thinking positively are two very important things you can do in life. I notice when people are negative and it makes me try even harder to be positive and also encouraging to other people.
11. Read more books: I would also add read more books to this list. I just came across an article via New York magazine about how reading can improve your social skills. In a study, “subjects performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence.”
Perhaps we should put down our phones and make an effort to do all of things more often and not just today.
Photo of Central Park by me via Instagram.