The internet is awash with wellness tips — some good, some bad, and others downright dangerous. It’s a minefield out there, but living a happier and healthier life doesn’t have to be something that confuses us.
With the implementation of a few simple habits, reaching a position of contentment and peace of mind becomes an easier task. Happiness isn’t always a simple quest to embark upon, but we have to start somewhere. So start here.
1. Solidify Your Sleeping Schedule
Like it or not, the quality and length of your sleep underpins just about everything you do. It determines how focused you are throughout the day, the speed of your metabolism and your energy levels.
And yet, regardless of its importance, we rarely put our sleep first. Late nights at the office and social media scrolling in bed take priority more often than not, leaving us feeling tired and miserable when we wake up. It follows, therefore, one of the most effective ways to improve your day-to-day wellbeing is to maintain a healthy sleeping pattern.
It’s hard to imagine going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, especially with weekdays so demanding and weekends used for recharging. But if you can reinforce a consistent rhythm that provides you with 7 full hours of sleep a night, your body will benefit tremendously.
What’s more, sleep isn’t just good for your physical health, but it’s also great for your mental health. When you sleep better, you’ll feel better. Lack of sleep makes us less alert, impairs memory and makes us more prone to negative patterns of thought.
Improving the quality and quantity of our sleep is essential. But what should you do if you struggle actually getting to sleep?
Simple Ways to Sleep Better
According to Frank Lipman M.D, author of The New Health Rules, we need four things to secure a good night’s sleep:
- A cool room — around 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Our bodies like to cool down before sleeping and warm up before waking.
- Total darkness. Avoid light when you’re trying to sleep. Even if you need to get up to use the bathroom at night, don’t turn on the light as it interferes with your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin, making it harder for you to return to your slumber.
- No screens an hour before bedtime. No TV, laptop, ebooks or phones. They’ll only keep your brain stimulated and body awake.
- No food or drink two hours before bedtime. Excess food before bed converts into energy in your body, leaving you alert and ready for anything but sleeping.
2. Spend More Time With People That You Love
We’re all so busy — busy with our jobs, commitments and obligations. So busy that we rarely make enough time to spend with the people that we care about the most.
Socializing with those people is crucial to our happiness. You need to be around those who really understand you. Those with whom you can laugh, cry and talk unguardedly about your problems. You need hugs, smiles, and friendship. You need time to be your true self in the company of others doing exactly that.
‘Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself — and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to — letting a person be what he really is.’― Jim Morrison
Sure, there are people that we can’t be completely ourselves with, like our bosses, coworkers, and competitors. We spend enough time with those and not enough around the people with which we feel totally free and at peace.
Don’t assume that Facebook, email or even phone calls will do, either. Real-life physical contact with the ones that you love is crucial. It’s essential to our happiness, health, and sanity, and it’s something that we can never have enough of.
3. Start Solo-Tasking
The speed at which our lives move has us all constantly piling each task onto the next. We’re drowning in things to do and the list never seems to get any shorter.
One of the easiest ways to quieten some of the chatter inside your head, as well as reducing your stress levels, is to take things one step at a time. To solo-task. To start giving your whole focus to just one thing instead of darting between five different actions at the same time.
When you’re brushing your teeth, just brush your teeth. Put down your phone and give the task your undivided attention. Notice the sounds as water begins trickling out of the tap, the sensations as you run the bristles over each tooth and the taste of your toothpaste.
When you do this you’re performing a kind of moving meditation. Solo-tasking is what mindfulness is all about. It doesn’t take up any extra time or energy, but it’s an easy way to bring your focus to the present moment, quietening your thoughts and bringing clarity.
Intentional awareness slows the mind. Taking that same mindset with you to work will allow you to complete each task much more effectively and with greater effort. And, best of all, even the most mundane of responsibilities can become interesting when we learn to be more present.
4. Be Kind
The importance of kindness cannot be overstated. It’s one of the most important keys to happiness — a guaranteed path to a heightened sense of fulfillment and an instant mood-booster.
Forget karma, paying-it-forward or giving only to receive. This is about being nice and kind to others with absolutely no expectation of return or payback. Letting another driver out of a junction, offering a compliment to a stranger, listening attentively to friends. That’s kindness.
Switch your default mode of being to generosity. Start doing more for others. It’s a great way to live, and most of all, it’s contagious. Kindness breeds kindness, and if the world could do with more of anything, it’s kindness.
“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” ― Henry James
5. Soothe Your Surroundings
Your living environment has a dramatic effect on your mood. Clutter is like junk food for the mind, distracting us from the things that matter and generally making us feel uncomfortable.
Following a few of the simplest principles of the Japanese art of feng shui can work to improve your mental and physical wellbeing, allowing you to feel more are peace in your home and at work.
- Fix or discard broken objects. Loose doorknobs, broken switches, stopped clocks. These things will only make it more difficult for you to relax, so repair or remove them.
- Keep spaces clear. Make your rooms easy to move through. Keep entryways open and aim to place objects at the edges of the room rather than in the center.
- Opt for soft shapes rather than sharp edges. Where you can, stick with circular and oval objects instead of angular ones. Curves are soothing, corners can feel aggressive and jarring.
- Add in energizing objects. Implementing things that symbolize energy, like living plants or touches of the color red, will work to keep you focused and stimulated.
- Make the most of soft lighting. Candles, low-Kelvin bulbs, and ambient lamps are all much more welcoming than harsh bright bulbs.
By making an effort to soothe your surroundings, you’ll find yourself in a much clearer mental space when at home. Try it. You’ll feel it.
6. Become Familiar With Doing Nothing
Sometimes the part of our body that requires the most care and healing is the brain. With so many responsibilities and stressors, it isn’t often that we make time to rest and repair.
If you’re an aspirational person with many goals and ambitions, you’re probably not overly keen on being unproductive — in which case the very thing you might need is an unproductive day.
Doing nothing is often seen as a bad thing. It’s why many of us don’t meditate or take days off or read books. We’re just too busy getting things done, and taking our foot off the gas feels like failure.
Instead of beating ourselves up about not getting stuff done, we should really allocate time to do exactly that: nothing. An unproductive day means switching off your computer, leaving your phone in another room and putting your to-do list on hold.
In the same way that you’d give your sore muscles a break before resuming your workout schedule, give your stressed-out brain a day to recharge. And if a day isn’t feasible, take a couple of hours to do something that you might deem a complete waste of time.
Snuggle up in bed on a rainy day, take a walk barefoot on the grass, sit in a cafe with a good book. Spend some time doing nothing at all and you’ll thank yourself for it.
These are just six simple tips that each and every one of us can start doing to make our lives just a little bit better. They aren’t complicated, they don’t cost any money, and most of them require minimal effort, too.
Happiness isn’t something that we can find overnight. It starts with making basic changes to our day-to-day routine — changes that don’t overwhelm us or stress us out, but small adjustments that, when they add up, go a long way towards improving our lives.