‘Tis the season for making lists: to-do, not-to-do (or to-don’t, which I hate on a viscerally grammatical level), goals, dreams, wants, resolutions…the list of lists seems endless. Some of my favourites come from top self-improvement experts online, and others come from sites like Buzzfeed. I decided to put together a quick list of things that you should probably do more of in 2014, and cut through a lot of the extra chatter. Clean, simple, and efficient.
Odds are you sit at a desk all day. That’s poison for your body, even if you work out regularly. Flexibility is one of the five pillars of fitness, and if you’re not making a point of staying flexible you’re actually banking a lot of pain and tension over time. Inflammation and circulatory problems will be yours in a few years, so get up and stretch at least once an hour, if not more often.
Work focused stretching into your fitness routine as well. I’m not suggesting you get hardcore into yoga (although there’s nothing wrong with that either), but you know those rest periods between sets? Those are minutes that can be spent working the kinks out of your neck and shoulders, and building up to your own epic Van Damme splits (minus the transport trucks, of course).
2. Get Outside
If you’re Mr. Deskman from #1 (let’s face it…most of us are), you need to go outside more. Get some fresh air. Get some sun. Hell, get some rain dude. We evolved outside, our great grandparents worked outside. Those who sat in offices went home and relaxed on the FRONT porch and chatted with their neighbours. What’s your excuse? Too hot? Too cold? Too lazy? Go for a walk man.
Do you know that in Ontario, daycares are required to provide a minimum of an hour a day of outdoor activity time for kids? If kids have to do it for their health and exploration, so do you. In fact, it’s even better with kids.
3. Talk to Seniors
This is something you need to do for your own sanity and perspective. Seniors will not only remind you of how much you’re missing by sticking to your work schedule with no time for fun, but they’ll also remind you of how simple and straightforward the pure joy of living is. They’re full of useful advice too. My dad is fond of saying, “anything you’re thinking of doing I’ve already tried, screwed up, and paid the price for.” So listen up, meathead.
4. Plan Ahead
Why are you scrambling to get stuff done when it needs doing? A little altitude goes a long way, and you can relieve a ton of stress by focusing on what’s coming up on the freeway of life.
A simple example: My daughter goes to school two days a week (she’s in Kindergarten). I buy stuff for her lunches two weeks at a time, because I get paid every two weeks. So come Sunday of my payday weekend, I’ll stock up on enough stuff to cover two weeks’ worth of lunches. Then I’m never taken by surprise on a week when I might be a little short on cash and end up having to send her to school with a bottle of tap water and some soda crackers with butter (that’s a flashback to my own grade school days when I woke up late and had to improvise a lunch for myself).
5. Wake Up Earlier
Scrambling in the morning is sucking your energy and stressing you out. Just get up earlier and get stuff done.
6. Get More Sleep
This would seem to contradict the last point, but eight hours is still eight hours. If you have to go to bed earlier, do it. David Letterman will be fine without you, and there’s no news at 11 that’s going to be drastically different from what was happening at 6. If you need a sleep aid to get through the night talk to your doctor. But chronic fatigue is keeping you stressed, works against your weight loss goals, lowers your immunity, and contributes to all sorts of fun inflammatory diseases.
7. Eat Real Food
My maxim is this: read the label, and if it contains anything that can’t be found on its own in the grocery store put it back, because it’s not really food. Meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, eggs, dairy. These are your staples…things that can be eaten with little to no processing, or even cooking, required. It’s real food, and it will make all the difference in your health and well being.
In fact, grow some food of your own for a change. It tastes better, and you get bragging rights.
8. Stop Yourself from Judging
We all–every last one of us–makes judgments about people we’ve never met, and even more about those we know well. But even when you know someone intimately, there are aspects of their lives and history you’ll never fully understand, and these may make them do things you consider to be strange or off beat. So what? If it does you no financial, physical, or emotional harm, let it go. It’s not for you to judge your buddy’s weird obsession with snow globes any more than it’s his business to judge your preference for floral air fresheners. You like what you like, so let other people be happy.
Some choice lines from Jewel’s kids’ song “Happy” (courtesy of my daughter’s CD collection):
So may I caution you and say beware
Before you dare judge and stare
‘Cause everybody has to be something
Its a lot better than just being nothing
Everybody has to be something
Whatever makes ’em happy
9. Make Donations
We all know we should give to charity, because that’s what makes charity work. And if you’ve ever been the recipient of charity, you understand this better than anyone. But consider the notion that you can tell the character of a man by what he’s willing to do for those who can do nothing for him. Donate money to a cause that isn’t attached to a lottery, for example. The chance to win a million dollar home negates the very idea of charity. I’m not saying don’t buy those tickets as well, but when you weigh it against just giving some of what you have to support a worthy cause, remember that the cause itself is worthy. Giving with a hope of reward isn’t giving at all. Be more charitable.
And volunteer sometimes too, for exactly the same reasons.
10. Say “Yes”
Saying “yes” more often will open up a world of experiences for you. Getting out of your comfort zone a little is always a good idea. I like the Tim Ferriss idea that on a life-altering scale of 1-10 (1 being no change, and 10 being a completely change to your life and being), you shouldn’t risk a temporary 3 or 4 doing nothing to avoid an experience that could be a permanent 8 or 9 doing something awesome.