A meaningful life holds a different meaning for every single person out there. My definition of a meaningful life will vastly differ from yours. There’s no right or wrong answer here. Everyone feels satisfied with different things, everyone has a different purpose.
One common thing that we can all agree upon is that our lifestyle dictates how we go about our life. Whether we add meaning to our lives or just exist from day to day is promptly defined by our lifestyle choices.
The basic lifestyle choices are all in tune with our basic needs. Our basic needs are usually what we overlook in the process of getting things that will fulfil our basic needs – it is ironic, really.
Here are a few of the most important and down to the element changes that you need to make to live a healthy life and to increase the quality of your life. Most of these are entangled with one another. When you work on one, you are bound to have started working on another. So, let’s talk about them.
1. Wake Up Early
This is one advice that is the beginning of bringing about a lot of good changes in your life. There’s something delightful and serene about the morning time. The environment we are in affects our mood – waking up early is a great example of that.
Not only our productivity is at a peak, but nature is also at its finest, especially if you live in a city. The air around you hasn’t had the chance to be tainted with pollution, and the sound is filled with happy chirping than loud horns blaring – thanks to the morning traffic not having polluted everything yet.
“Life is too short,” she panicked, “I want more.” He nodded slowly, “Wake up earlier.”
Being in a calm environment helps you focus better. Studies have shown that you have reduced stress levels in the morning which makes you more energetic. Having high energy and better concentration helps boosts your speed, which in turn helps you complete any task in lesser time than it would take otherwise.
This is the perfect time to get your biggest task done, or as I call them, your big rocks or MITs (most important tasks). Starting early lets you wrap up early, meaning you get more time for yourself and your family.
2. Get More Sleep
When you make waking up early a routine, you start going to bed early. This lets your internal clock adapt to the routine, resulting in better sleep quality. Having no sleep pattern messes up the body, but now that your body gets to get the rest it needs, you will see a lot of aches and pains go away.
When we think about working hard, we often misconstruct it as late nights and early mornings, meaning no rest whatsoever. In the whirlwind of getting as much as you can get done, it is easy to start focusing on being busy rather than being productive.
“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”
Another reason that people have difficulty falling asleep is excessive use of screens in their daily life. Scrolling through social media with fear of missing out (FOMO) lingering over our shoulders have become a common phenomenon.
Worrying about life and whatnot already reduces the hours of sleep we get drastically and add to that spending hours scrolling through various apps. It doesn’t only impact your physical health negatively, your mental and emotional health is affected too.
Going to sleep late is considered cool but your body would like to disagree. Not getting adequate sleep not only leaves you feeling tired, but it also develops a lot of health risks. Instead of trying to pump yourself full of coffee to get through the day, work on getting adequate sleep.
3. Limit Screen Time
As discussed, being on our devices is one of the major reasons for us going to bed late at night, mainly social media. You should go on social media detoxes from time to time to help yourself spend less time online.
Phones are one of the biggest distractions right now for a majority of people, taking measures to eliminate the distraction caused by your phone is an important step toward increasing your productivity. Studies have proven that using electronic devices before sleep makes people have trouble falling asleep. It is advised to not use any kind of screen at least 30 minutes prior to bed.
4. Have a Balanced Diet
“The little energy you obtained from your breakfast can ignite your willingness to kick start. Don’t overlook the little energy you have now by fixing eyes on a supposed magical influence farther away!”
As we go on working on our goals, our diet takes a backseat along with our sleep. We sort of have started taking pride in the meals we are missing – it is somehow meant to show how hard we are working. At the end of the day, it is helping no one. One of the meals, that is commonly missed, is the breakfast, it sort of ties to us not waking up early and not having enough time to do everything we need to do before we start hustling at work.
Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. It gives you the energy you need to start the day. Not having a proper breakfast is another reason why people fill up on caffeine. We have forgotten the importance and need of having a balanced diet. In our fast-paced, busy lives – out of sheer convenience – we have started relying more and more on fast foods and instant, processed food.
The processed food we consume isn’t necessarily healthy and doesn’t help our pocket either. Try to prepare batch meals on weekends that you can eat throughout the week. If you are super busy and don’t even get weekends off, then start with having at least one home-cooked meal every day. Your body will be really thankful for the nutrients it is getting.
Always focus on getting a balanced diet. Include whole foods that are filled with minerals, proteins, dietary fiber, fatty acids, and vitamins, meaning nutrient-rich. Include eggs, yoghurt, milk, fruits, oatmeal, whole-wheat toast, wheat pasta, mixed nuts, etc.
5. Practice Self-Care and Meditation
Chasing our dreams doesn’t mean we have to forget ourselves. Taking care of yourself should definitely be on your to-do list – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Being busy is no reason to neglect your health. Even when you are busy, you can slip in moments of self-care. Practising self-care fills us with optimism and helps us gain a better hold on our lives.
Meditation is a good form of caring for ourselves and making a stronger connection with ourselves. It helps you relax your mind and helps increase your focus. Self-care can mean a lot of things like lighting candles and reading or using bath bombs while having a bath or lighting incense sticks while exercising or doing yoga, or even listening to music while cooking – it all depends on what makes you feel like you are being taken care of.
“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.”
Anything that helps you feel relaxed and at peace is considered as self-care. It is supposed to help you live your life to the fullest without the exertion taking a toll on your body. Give your body time to recover from all that you put it through.
6. Listen to Podcasts
Most of us spend hours traveling to either work or college or someplace we need to be. This time isn’t usually ideal for getting work done, so it is sort of free time you get with yourself. Why not do something productive with it while still relaxing.
Our busy minds instantly start to roam and worry, stress about things that need to be done or things that are out of our control. Listening to podcasts on subjects we enjoy gives us something to do and helps pass the time by doing something productive. I usually listen to podcasts to help boost productivity. There are so many podcasts to choose from. If you want, you can also listen to audiobooks.
7. Get a Hobby
Having a hobby is important to give your passion a chance to flourish. It is a great way to learn new things and also relax while doing things that make you happy. Spending some quality time with yourself and doing things that mean something to you – is something that can’t be measured in value.
“It is in our leisure hours that we are permitted to follow our “hobbies,” and it is in them that our truer selves find expression. Many of the greatest men in the world’s history achieved their fame outside of their regular occupations in the spare moments of time which most people think are of no serious use.”
Not having a hobby, or not doing something just because you like it can have negative effects on your emotional health. Gain isn’t only monetary, you can spend time on things that build your emotional wealth. Hobbies get you a chance to figure out your passion if you haven’t already.
With an increase in work from home culture, you anyway spend a lot of time looking into your screen. Try to invest in a hobby that keeps you away from the screen. Get out in nature, spend time with friends and family, get your creative juices flowing.
Making positive changes in life is not about making drastic changes – it’s about taking small steps and being consistent about it – little changes that leave a significant impact are what we are working toward. We are creatures of habit. Breaking a pattern isn’t easy, we try to fight change. Try to ease yourself into things that will help transform your life for a better tomorrow.
Why Too Many Self Help Books are Bad for You
Since you’re reading this article on this blog, you probably have a keen interest in self-betterment. You’re the kind of person who has a constant hunger to grow, develop personality and achieve great things. You probably have a full shelf of self-help books at home, and reach for a new one in airport book stores.
Let’s take a moment to congratulate yourself on this. Not many people, definitely not the vast majority of people are genuinely interested in self-growth. However, like any good thing in life, there is a flip-side to immersing yourself in self-help content. It can severely impact the way you see yourself, and the world around you; sometimes for the worse.
It’s fairly common to read a self-help book and start valorising the writer. The requisite to write a self-help book or a how-to guide is often being successful first so that you then have the ‘right’ to preach to other people. That’s why many “successful people” write memoirs or how-to guides to spill their secrets and let others know how they made it.
A byproduct of this is the audience begins to automatically consume everything that the writer tells them as the gospel truth. We don’t doubt the credibility of someone who’s made it big. We don’t ask for much scientific backing when these successful persons tell us their life story: one anecdote is enough.
Of course, in any field of scientific research, a single anecdote is never considered to be scientific evidence alone. This is simply because one person can never be an unbiased narrator of their own experiences. We can’t weigh their words against those of others; verify their methods with a control group.
This is not to suggest that all writers of self-help books are getting away with lying or false information just because no one’s cross-checking (although that could be the occasional case).
The few people who are successful in their fields and occupy positions in the public sphere undoubtedly have more experience than you and me. However, even they cannot hundred per cent explain the reasons for their success. It is generally a number of factors that act together, right connections, right timing, right pre-dispositions combined with the person’s efforts that bring them success.
For example, if a successful entrepreneur writes about how he built his own business empire, he could give you 10 methods, or tips and tricks that he followed to stay motivated and increase his productivity. What he cannot guarantee is that this will work for everyone. He also cannot guarantee that those 10 exact methods are what caused his success.
There are many self-help books that are abundant with real-life examples, scientific studies, and academic research. These are also, coincidentally the type of books where the author relies less on his own experience as the source of his advice. These are not just more useful books to read, they also are much more informative and entertaining than their monologue counterparts.
One of the other side effects of surrounding yourself with lots of self-help content is that you become prey to the survivorship bias. This means that you continually consume stories and experiences of many people that have succeeded. Once we start following ‘successes’, we begin to see them everywhere.
Social media has a hand to play in this as well. Popular social media platforms have algorithms that create echo-chambers where you only see the kind of content that you like. So if you’re only reading about positive and uplifting self-betterment content, chances are you never come across stories about failures.
This can make you feel that there is an enormous amount of people that are succeeding and doing what you want to do. The spotlight is on the 1%, while ignoring the other 99% in the shadow.
You might wonder why this is a problem. Isn’t focusing on the positive success stories making it more likely that you will also be successful yourself?
Surprisingly, it’s not. It can be the real reason why it’s so hard to succeed, because you can follow all the hacks, tips and tricks, and methods that you read in self-help books and still have unique challenges to overcome. This is because you’re ignoring the data from the vast masses of people that tried the very same methods and failed.
You must be thinking: well, I should be focusing on failure stories? That’s depressing!
No, you don’t! For one, they are difficult to find. Simply knowing the information about how often someone succeeds to the level that you want to can be your tool.
For example, if you want to become a best-selling author, you should know that simply getting published has a 1% success rate while a best-selling author is probably closer to 0.001%.
This is not to discourage you from chasing your dreams, but only to help you bring a dose of reality into your pursuit of success.
Knowing that the advice you read in a self-help book is from a person part of the 1% rather than the 99% can stop you from being frustrated. Many people follow the methods and techniques suggested in these books and then expect instant success.
So if you’re waking up at 5 AM for three months in a row now, and wondering why you’re not a millionaire yet: the story was never that simple!
Congratulations to your brand new good habit, and pursuit of self-betterment, but know that there is a long way to go before we discover a complete formula for success.
The Science Behind Forming Habits that Last
If you’ve ever tried to form a habit, someone’s probably given you the advice that it takes only 21 days to do so.
The 21-day rule claims that one must only perform an activity every day, for 21 days, until it automatically becomes a habit and the person no longer has to put in the effort to do the activity.
And, if you’ve ever tried to test out this rule: you likely found that it doesn’t really work.
Unfortunately, there are many more factors that come into play when considering why some habit formation happens in less time than others.
I was told by a school teacher that it takes 21 days to form a habit and 90 days for it to become a lifestyle. During the lockdown, I tried to make it a practice to meditate every day for 10 minutes to meditate. I eagerly awaited the 21-day mark, expecting some kind of magical transformation to take place as soon as I awoke.
There was nothing different about the 21st day (or the 3 months after that), and I didn’t experience any time-bound results.
Where the 21-Day Rule Comes from
Interestingly, the 21-Day Rule isn’t so much a rule as it’s a misinterpreted observation. A plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz wrote a well-acclaimed book about human behavior.
In his career, he noticed that it always took a minimum of 21 days for one of his patients to mentally adjust to the physical change in their body. He proposed that any sort of mental image adjustment requires a minimum of 21 days from this data.
Now while this could be useful data for mental image adjustments, habit formation encompasses many more factors than that.
Here are scientifically-backed factors that influence how strong your newly formed habit is and how long it will last.
How Big or Small it is
If your habit is something challenging to do, it will take a lot of willpower for you to drastically change your everyday routine to accommodate it.
For example, if you work a 10hour shift and still want to workout at the gym for an hour a day, knowing it sacrifices your recreation time: chances are that this habit will be really difficult to form and sustain.
A small habit like making your bed, washing the dishes before you go to bed at night, or even self-affirmations in the morning: are all habits that can fit into a schedule without you having to sacrifice much.
Starting with small habits makes it easier since you don’t need a lot of motivation to perform them.
How Important the Habit is to your Self Image
Some habits we’re trying to form are more important to us than others. If you strongly believe that this habit will help you become the person you’re destined to be, you’re going to attach more value to carrying it out every day!
How Many Days you Skip
We’re often under the impression that all your progress will come crashing down if you skip a day. Thankfully, it’s been proven that even if you miss a day, there are no long-term effects on the habit formation itself. But it’s recommended that you never skip more than one day at a time.
How You Remind Yourself
When reminding yourself to perform the activity you’re trying to convert to a habit, it’s critical to piggyback off other existing habits. That means if you already have a habit of doing yoga and want to get into a habit of meditating, make sure that you meditate right after your yoga practice. One habit helps the other.
How Sustainable Your Pace is
If you’re working on forming a habit that needs to be built up over time, you need to make sure this pace is feasible for your current lifestyle. You know your life best, and if you know you’re going to have a significant life event and get busier soon, don’t have unrealistic expectations from your new habit!
40% of our day-to-day life is made out of habits. Forming a new habit can very realistically transform your entire life. I’m glad you’re on this journey to maximize your potential, and I’m sure you can do it!
How Reading can impact your Day to Day Life?
Reading is a healthy habit, which, if practiced daily, can change your entire life around. Do you want to know why? Through Reading, one can not only gain knowledge but also stay acquainted with the outside as well as the inside world. The best thing about reading daily is to have an isolated place for yourself in your mind, where you can run off to. Most people don’t have the patience or intention to read, and that too, daily. Though this is a habit that takes time to settle in but trust me, once it does, you would never regret it. So, here is a list of reasons why you should read daily?
Why should you read daily?
- To gain knowledge
Once you start reading daily, and by Reading, it can be anything – you can read few pages of a novel, or a magazine, or newspaper, or even poetry – you would notice within weeks how much your knowledge regarding the outer world has improved. Through Reading, one can have clear information regarding the current affairs, and hence, stay updated.
- To improve your vocabulary
Through Reading, you can definitely learn new words and hence, improve your vocabulary. Most people make it a habit to learn a new word from the dictionary every day, but if you read daily, you are bound to get new words and make a list of them on a notebook with their meanings, which is definitely going to be helpful for you.
- To have a make-believe world
The most beautiful consequence of Reading is having one’s own imaginary world, where one can live a life full of magic. This is the extraordinary superpower one acquires while reading. In this busy daily life of ours, we all look for a secluded place where we can feel the essence of peace. Reading can fly you off to the imaginary land of sunflowers, daisies, and cats who can indeed talk.
- To become more attentive
Most people lack patience nowadays. Being impatient and restless has become a severe problem in today’s world. Here, Reading can help you calm your mind and improve your observation skills. It works like meditation. In no time, you would find your mind focusing on details and becoming more attentive to events, which used to go unnoticed.
- To reduce stress
Reading is similar to meditation, and hence, it definitely helps to reduce your stress. Books always have a calming effect on one’s mind. It takes you away from daily problems and stressful situations and helps your mind to gain stability. Not only it helps in reducing stress, but it also helps to decrease the anxiety levels of a person.
Everyone should make reading a daily habit. One should switch off the mobile phones, turn off the television and take some time out to read. It works wonders on one’s day-to-day life and changes one person’s entire personality. Though it can be hard at first, with time, you would cherish the moments alone, reading in a corner while your mind is flying off to Narnia.
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