I recently read James Altucher’s Choose Yourself. Even though it contains tons of lessons (and quirky jokes), there’s one that stands out amongst them all.
The Simple Daily Practice is mind-blowing. Not because it’s an uber-fancy concept that makes your biceps explode and your IQ double, but because it’s surprisingly simple. And in today’s complex world, a simple way of staying happy and going to bed with a smile on our face is exactly what we all need.
James Altucher is worth listening to. The serial entrepreneur, world-famous blogger, hedge-fund manager, podcaster, and bestselling author has seen it all, from rock-bottom to sky-high.
“All you really need to do to get off the floor is acknowledge that it’s not your external life that needs to change, but that external changes flow from the inside.”
— James Altucher
A change towards a happier life comes from the inside, not your surroundings — and according to Altucher, your inside consists of four distinct bodies.
You aren’t just your physical body, but also an emotional, mental, and spiritual one. Every day, you have to do something for them, even if it’s just a small, simple act. That’s how you keep the four bodies healthy and yourself happy.
Don’t Drive with a Flat Tire
The four bodies are like wheels on your car. If one is flat, it’s impossible to drive properly, no matter how much air is in the other three.
The physical body is the most obvious one. If you’re fit and healthy, you wake up full of energy. You can stay focused for hours at a time without getting tired, move freely, and feel good in your own body. But if you don’t take care of it, you get out of shape. You lose your drive and momentum. It becomes hard to get off the couch or out of bed. Your whole life takes a downturn.
Your emotional body governs your mood and relationships. Spending time with people you love and healthy relationships nurture your emotional wellbeing. Fighting, grief, and toxic friends starve it. If you want to be happy, you can’t put your emotional body on a diet.
Your mental body is a double-edged sword. When your mind is sharp, it can not only cut through problems but also you. If you don’t tame your mind, it will make you your slave. You have to work it, make it sweat, and train it every day so it doesn’t have the time and energy to indulge in overthinking, worries, and self-loathing. Exercise your mind.
Last but not least, the spiritual body connects to your sense of self — the good old “Who am I, and if yes, how many?” Without a healthy spiritual body, you won’t be happy. You can’t be at peace with yourself if you aren’t at peace with the world.
These four bodies have to work in sync. Remember — four tires, one car.
How to Go to Bed with a Smile on Your Face
Are the four bodies the only way to break down life’s complicated works and be happy? No. Are they a simple method easy to understand and follow through? Hell yeah. And in today’s complex world, simplicity is what counts.
Yet, there’s one point I disagree on with Altucher. He says all you need to do is one simple thing a day to nurture one of your bodies. While something is better than nothing, I’ve coached enough people on building habits to know what drives results and what doesn’t. A “little bit of this today and little bit of that tomorrow” won’t cut it.
What you need to do instead is to establish a Regular Simple Daily Practice that nurtures each of your four bodies every day.
That way, you regularly do something for your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. You’ll go to bed on most days with a smile on your face and a feeling of accomplishment and happiness in your heart. It’d be impossible to not feel like you have your shit together. Here’s how to do it.
Care for your physical body
“Mens sana in corpore sano. — A healthy mind in a healthy body.”
— Latin proverb
Keeping the physical body fit doesn’t mean you have to bench 300lbs or run a Marathon daily. While breaking a sweat will release a bunch of happy hormones, there are other ways to keep your physical body happy.
- Sleep well. The American National Sleep Foundation recommends 7–9 hours of daily sleep for adults, yet 35% of Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. Without enough slumber, you not only won’t function, but also increase your chances for Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, and a bunch of other nasty stuff.
Quick fixes if you often wake up tired: stop eating three hours before bedtime. Go to bed at roughly the same time every day. Have a winddown ritual shutting off screens and reading a book or listening to a podcast. Consume most of your water in the first half of the day. Have a quiet, cool, and dark bedroom. Use your bed for sleep and sex only.
- Take a walk. I used to spend my lunch break sitting on a couch, hunched over my phone screen, scrolling through Instagram. The result? I was more tired and exhausted after my break than before. Now, I take a quick stroll to get some air and move my body. Your legs were made for walking, not sitting. 20 minutes is all it takes.
- Self-care. A few weeks ago, I did a face mask with my girlfriend. I was skeptical at first, but holy shit. This stuff is amazing. You feel like a newborn. I couldn’t stop touching my face. Groom, take a hot bath, put some lotion on, or whatever good you can do your body. You’ll feel much better afterward.
- Avoid junk food and eat a ton of vegetables. Your body consists of the stuff you put into it. If you keep shoveling crap into your mouth, well… I have some bad news for you. Avoid sugars and sweets and cook up some veggies instead. Slice ’em up, high heat, olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Takes about ten minutes.
Nurture your emotional connections
“If someone is a drag on me, I cut them out. If someone lifts me up, I bring them closer.”
— James Altucher
When I reflected on my last year, I realized almost all my happiness and unhappiness came from my relationships with others. If they were good, I was happy. If they weren’t, I wasn’t. An 80-year Harvard study confirmed this: your relationships are the main driver of your happiness.
- Avoid toxic people and energy vampires. You only have a certain amount of energy each day. The wrong people will suck it out of you like a Dyson Vacuum. Here’s a simple litmus test: Do you feel emotionally exhausted after you spent time with someone? If yes, reduce or cut contact.
- Ask yourself “Who needs me today?” I start every morning with a simple ritual. Part of it is sending someone a “have a happy day” message — whether it’s short and silly or long and deep. People struggle all the time and even if they don’t, it’s good to connect and nurture your relationship.
- Don’t do stuff you don’t want to do. So many people are miserable because they do what they don’t want to. I get it, you have to pay the bills somehow. But there are lots of things you think you have to do but can easily do without. I hate the German train company so I stopped taking their trains for good. Now, I feel so much better — and still get everywhere I want. Try it, it’s amazing.
- Forgive people. There’s no point holding a grudge. You’ll just be miserable. Forgive the guy who cut you off in traffic today. What do you gain from being angry at him? Nothing. And if your ex scammed you out of a few hundred bucks and talked shit about you to everyone, write them a letter. Call them all the names you want to. Seal it, then burn it. Forgive yourself for falling for them.
Work and exhaust your mental muscles
“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.”
Your mental body is tricky. My dad once said bad ideas come from boredom and excess energy. You need to work out your mental body so you can perform better, but you also need to exhaust it so it doesn’t suffocate you with worries and overthinking.
- Write down 10 ideas per day. These ideas can be anything. Ideas for how you can improve your life, make your apartment prettier, or cook a banging main course with pumpkin and tomatoes. Most of these ideas will be crap, but every now and then, you’ll come up with one worth pursuing.
- Write down 10 ideas for lists of ideas per day. Yes, we’re going full Inception mode here. There are only so many ideas for Zucchini-based deserts. This practice makes sure you never run out of ideas for ideas.
- Read. Books challenge your brain and your view of the world. Broaden your horizon. Make your mind sweat.
- Learn a new language. We live in the digital age. I spent about 15 minutes on a language-learning app a day and can now have a basic conversation with my roommate in Spanish. Use apps, YouTube, and other services. Be consistent. If you keep practicing, you will improve.
What spirituality is all about
“More smiling, less worrying. More compassion, less judgment. More blessed, less stressed. More love, less hate.”
— Roy T. Bennett
Spirituality is this big, fancy term people use in Instagram ads to justify selling you a 10-day course for $399. Here’s what Altucher says about spirituality (and what I wholeheartedly agree with):
Spirituality = Do not time travel
This is what it all comes down to. To keep your spiritual body healthy, don’t worry about the future or ruminate in the past. All your money and relationship problems, your insecurities and worries about tomorrow — they don’t exist. Your mind makes them up because your spiritual body isn’t healthy. Embrace the present moment and connect with everything that is right now.
- Meditate. The secret to meditation isn’t chanting Ohmmm until you run out of breath. Neither is it to sit still until your back hurts enough to justify two Oxycodone with your morning coffee.
Sit down for a minute and focus on the present moment. Make it two tomorrow, and three next week.
- Express gratitude. When the glass is half full, you have two options. Wish for more water or be grateful for what you have. Practice daily gratitude. Pray if you feel like you need to say thanks to someone. But say thanks.
- Put yourself on a positive information diet. Nassim Nicholas Taleb says “To be completely cured of newspapers, spend a year reading the previous week’s newspapers.” Bad news sells like hotcakes because your negativity bias forces you to pay more attention when things go downhill. I sold my TV six years ago and haven’t watched any news since then. Guess what — I’m still alive and much happier than I’ve ever been.
Replace the heralds of the apocalypse with some positive thinking or a spiritual text — Buddha, the Tao Te Ching, or the Bible. It will keep your spiritual body strong and healthy.
Do The One Thing
“What you need to do is build the house you will live in. You build that house by laying a solid foundation: by building physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.”
— James Altucher, Choose Yourself
I know all of this seems like a lot to do. You don’t have to change your life overnight. One thing is all it takes. Write the exercises on little post-its or a note on your phone and do one thing for each of your bodies every day. Physical. Emotional. Mental. Spiritual.
Do this for a week and see how you feel. Notice how every night when you go to bed, you’ll smile and feel accomplished — because you’ve improved your health and happiness. Do it for a month and notice you’ll feel even better. Then, just keep doing it. That’s the Simple Daily Practice.
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