Living your best life starts now.
Humans are experts at basing our happiness on outside factors.
We say we’ll be happy when we have more money, a better job, a loving relationship, etc.
Defaulting to an external locus of control keeps you on the back foot.
Happiness becomes a fickle friend. Here today, gone tomorrow.
At least, that’s how it seems.
The truth is: mood follows action. We don’t have to rely on getting a promotion or date or whatever to be happy.
When we start doing the things that make us feel better, happiness arrives without us even thinking about it.
It’s not always easy (obviously), but it’s totally worth it.
Plus —and this is the really cool part— the things we thought were hard and didn’t like that much to begin with, become the habits we enjoy the most.
It’s all about making the connection between the new habit you’ve adopted and the ‘feeling great’ feelings that result from it.
When happiness is no longer conditional, magic happens.
Before we dive into the how of living your best life, let’s take a quick look at what makes a good life. Specifically, the key lesson learnt from a really, really long study on happiness.
What Makes a Good Life?
What can we learn from the world’s longest study on happiness? Well, it turns out living your best life boils down to one thing: good relationships.
A Harvard psychiatrist, Zen priest and psychoanalyst, Robert Wagner is the study’s fourth director. In his TED talk What Makes a Good Life? Robert explains the impact good relationships have on our mental and physical wellbeing.
Who you spend your time with matters. A lot.
Be sure to take the time to watch Robert’s illuminating talk. It’ll make you view your relationships through a new lens.
Where to Begin?
Trying to implement all 10 tips right away is asking for trouble. Instead of living your best life, you’ll find yourself back on the couch binging on Netflix and Oreos.
And we definitely don’t want that.
Whether you’re eating an enormous bunch of carrots or walking a thousand miles, the only way you’re going to succeed is by starting small and focusing on the now.
One step at a time, one mouthful at a time, one new habit at a time.
Pick one of the tips —they’re in no particular order, so just go with the first one that resonates— and map out a game plan for how you’ll approach it.
Next, decide when you will begin. Settling on a start date allows your mind to come to grips with the challenge that lies ahead.
Finally, give yourself a deadline. By when will you achieve your goal? Not all of the tips require a finish date, but for the ones that do, it’s important to know what that is. It’s how you’ll hold yourself accountable and stay on track.
After that, it’s a matter of rinse and repeat. Go through each of the tips and adopt them one by one. If you’re really not feeling one of them, see how you can adapt it to work for you rather than discounting it out of hand.
Living Your Best Life Starts Now
Living your best life doesn’t have to wait until you’re rich or famous or land that perfect job or whatever. It starts right here and now with these easy (ish) to implement tips.
I say ish because you will need to make an effort. Nothing crazy like, say, climbing Mount Everest when you have zero mountaineering experience and only nine months to prepare.
But still, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and employ a little elbow grease. That being said, the results are so worth it you’ll be sending me fancy vegan chocolate to express your gratitude.
No, really, you will.
1. Hang Out With People Who Make You Feel Good
We’ve all been around people who leave us feeling drained, uninspired or less than. On the flip side, we’ve all known someone whose positive nature leaves us feeling upbeat about life.
Happiness is an inside job, but it’s also true that surrounding yourself with happy people will make you happy too. This is yet another aspect of life that the world’s longest-lived people have mastered.
They make a point of spending time with their ‘tribe’ on a regular basis. These strong social networks have had a tremendously positive impact on their health behaviors.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. —Jim Rohn
2. Declutter Your Home and Office
When your home and office environments are cluttered, it can be really difficult to get anything done. Decluttering reduces stress and makes you more productive.
By creating space in your physical world, you’re also clearing a bunch of mental cache for the things that really matter: relationships, art, volunteering, or whatever.
Blogs like Becoming Minimalist, Real Simple and The Spruce have plenty of helpful tips on how to get started. Remember though, once you’ve decluttered it’s just as important to stay on top of things and not revert back to your old ways.
Any half-awake materialist well knows—that which you hold holds you. —Tom Robbins
3. Declutter Your Habits
Decluttering doesn’t just extend to your physical stuff. You can downsize any area of your life that needs it. Take a moment to assess your habits. What are you doing that isn’t serving you?
Are you watching too much TV, spending too much time on social media, drinking more coffee than you should?
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. —Annie Dillard
4. Become and Essentialist
Greg Mckeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, says we spend too much time on busy work and not nearly enough time on the things that matter. Stop saying ‘yes’ for the wrong reasons and learn to say ‘no’ for the right ones.
Sometimes, we need to say no so that we have more time to say yes. —Suzette Hinton
5. Create a Budget
When last did you take a long, hard look at your spending habits? A lot of times we think we’re doing a good job of managing our money, but it’s only when we begin paying close attention that we realize how much room there is for fiscal improvement.
Whether your goal is to get out of debt, retire early or simply save for a rainy day, a budget is a non-negotiable part of the plan. It needn’t be a prison sentence however, you can still live the big life on a small budget.
You must gain control over your money or the lack of it will forever control you. —Dave Ramsey
6. Follow the Blue Zones Diet
Eat like the world’s longest-lived people and you’ll not only feel much better, you’ll save money, too. Their philosophy is simple: eat a wide variety of plant-based whole foods. While diets vary from region to region, people living in the Blue Zones share a common approach to eating.
These folks eat almost no meat, avoid sugar and consume dairy in small quantities. They focus on whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, legumes and grains and steer clear of processed junk and take-out.
Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. —Albert Einstein
7. Move Your Body
There are many benefits to exercise, but you don’t have to go to the gym to enjoy them. The key is simply to move your body.
Our longevity experts in the Blue Zones favor gardening, but you could find your own ways to keep active, such as yoga, dancing, stretching or focusing on functional fitness. It’s really up to you, just make sure you break a sweat.
For me, fitness is not just about hitting the gym; it is also about an inner happiness and overall well-being. —Rakul Preet Singh
8. Walk More, Drive Less
We’ve become so habituated to driving that it often doesn’t even occur to us that we could walk somewhere. Plus, we’re lazy. It’s easier to drive, so why wouldn’t we just hop in the car to go to the store?
The problem is, the more you drive, the harder walking becomes. Suddenly even a mile seems too far to contemplate. Along with being better for your health, walking is also better for the environment and your bank account.
Heading out on foot is less stressful, too. You don’t have to deal with traffic and it gives you an opportunity to meet people. If your car is your go-to form of transport, why not challenge yourself to walk more?
Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far. —Thomas Jefferson
9. Stop Watching the News
Given the rate at which bad news is replayed, it’s no surprise that watching an event on TV can be even more stressful than witnessing it firsthand. If you’re stressed or suffer from poor sleep, then quitting the news is the best thing you can do for yourself.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that we need to watch the news, but that’s not true. News of important events will reach you regardless of whether you watch TV or read the newspaper. Quit the news and you’ll you’ll feel better almost immediately.
Bad news isn’t wine. It doesn’t improve with age. —Colin Powell
Most people use meditation as a way to calm the mind, but it’s a powerful tool for self-healing as well. Learning how to meditate isn’t nearly as difficult as you might imagine and the benefits far outweigh the perceived effort.
The science behind meditation is solid: it reduces stress, increases your sense of wellbeing, improves focus and memory and makes you more creative. Spend time each morning focusing on your breath and these are just some of the benefits you can expect.
Meditation can help us embrace our worries, our fear, our anger, and that is very healing. We let our own natural capacity of healing do the work. —Thich Nhat Hanh
Ultimately, it boils down to this: either you make life happen or it happens to you. If you want to make life happen, adopting these tips will help.
Like I said, living your best life can start right now. But it’s up to you to make that happen.