First of all: I’m not an expert on anything.
Other than that I’m a human being just getting through life.
My life is not perfect, but at my core I’m a happy person, and I believe that many small yet positive habits I’ve developed through the years have helped me stabilize that core. I’d like to share those habits with you, but I don’t want you to think that I think I’m an expert.
We have too many influencers vomiting their truths as fact, and subsequently creating a false paradigm of how one should live their life. It’s unhealthy and stressful; their message implies that you are not living properly, and that if you don’t post a staged photo of yourself laughing while casually getting squirted in the face with a water hydrant you are somehow unhappy.
I don’t want to add to that stress.
You can take or leave what I’m about to tell you.
These habits are small and doable — they may even seem like no-brainers that you already practice. They’re not for whole body or mind transformations — they’re just easy. Because life should be easy.
Walk like your life depends on it (literally)
This might see like duh, but I’m telling you: As a person who is chained to her computer for work, this changed my life — mentally and physically. Getting a Fitbit in 2013 made me realize how little I was walking, and my mindset shifted. Now, instead of driving everywhere, I challenge myself to:
- Walk to nearby errands/events/friends.
- Park the car in the back of parking lots.
- Take walks during work.
- Take the stairs when it’s an option.
- Walk after lunch and dinner.
These walks have given me more energy and strength. My muscles no longer ache after a short walk. I’m no longer winded. I find myself not getting that mid-afternoon sleep attack. A good walk improves a foul mood and helps me appreciate my surroundings and connect with my neighbors. Plus, I have a special walking fanny pack that makes me as cool as the silver-haired ladies I cross paths with.
The reason why I walk is because I can’t run. My back is too precarious to run, plus who likes running anyways? It was a sport invented by Satan. Many of us think that if we don’t run, what’s the point? But running causes way more exercise-related injuries than walking, and there is a lot of research on the health benefits of walking, including decreasing your risk of heart attack/stroke, dying early, dementia, diabetes, cancer…the list goes on.
Challenge yourself: Take every opportunity to walk throughout the day. Schedule walking meetings at work. Take your next work call while pacing your office. Park in the back of the parking lot. Take the stairs. Force the entire family to walk after dinner. These walks add up. You might not shed tons of weight (or maybe you will), but you’ll discover a new spring in your step.
Unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad
It took me many years to understand that social media profiles of certain friends, strangers and publications gave me negative emotions. It took me even longer to tell myself it was ok to unfollow or mute them.
Listen, you do you. You keep the stuff around that makes you happy. For example: Say you meet this really bubbly girl at a work convention. Her name is Madison. You become online friends. You soon realize she only posts about how #blessed she is to have the most perfect husband and perfect child. They’re all on #keto diets, including the five-year-old. Madison forages for mushrooms and makes an $80 one-ounce elixir that she sells on Etsy. Her skin and hair glisten like baby jellyfish. EVERY DAY IS ANOTHER STAGED PHOTO OF HER FAMILY WEARING FLOWY WHITE CLOTHING ON THE BEACH. She exists to make everyone else feel bad.
A global study conducted in 2016 with 35,000 respondents found that comparing yourself to others online and/or dwelling on things you see online (a picture of your ex, for example) can make you feel more depressed.
So, yeah, unload that shit.
Challenge yourself: Next time you’re thumbing through your feeds, ask yourself, “Does this person’s posts make me happy or sad?” If that answer is sad, cut it loose.
Read less news that makes you want to live in a cave
The news sucks, friend. And I don’t mean it sucks because the world has gone to hell in a hand basket (which it has); I mean because most of the major outlets and publications create content to scare you.
Often wonder why everything seems so bad? It’s because many outlets choose to only show you the bad, and they frame everything in a negative light like your Great Aunt Deborah who is the human equivalent of Eeyore. Personally, I find CNN.com to be just that. They prioritize who has slighted who, who has died, who has been tortured, who hates who. Before my grandmother passed away, CNN is all she watched. She would call me every day pleading, “Don’t leave the house. Don’t leave the house.” That’s what CNN and similar new sources want you to feel like: Afraid to leave the house. They do this because tragic news gets more eyeballs on it, which means more money.
A survey conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health found that a quarter of the 2,500 respondents experienced “a great deal of stress within the month mentioned watching, reading, or listening to the news as one of their biggest daily stressors.” A more recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that half of respondents say the news “causes them stress, and many report feeling anxiety, fatigue or sleep loss as a result.”
Challenge yourself: If you find that watching/reading certain news sources only brings you down, drop ’em like a hot potato. That doesn’t mean you have to be blissfully ignorant about everything, it just means you get your news sources from less sensational publications. My personal fave is NPR.
Sing and dance your mother f’ing heart out
I often find myself listening to a little too much to NPR, which means I go days without listening to music. When I remember to listen to music, everything changes. My mood instantly brightens and I get my groove on in the driver’s seat (or while walking, or cleaning the house, or taking a shower). The release I get from singing and dancing is sometimes euphoric. Especially when I put on Purple Rain and pull out my (painfully white) sexy moves.
Singing and dancing is a lot like exercise but a lot more enjoyable. They help release endorphins, which makes you happy, and improve cognitive skills. Singing and dancing also helps lower blood pressure and improves memory. In one study, dancing helped ward off dementia in participants by 76%.
Challenge yourself: When you feel like you’re carrying the world on your shoulders, take a break to listen to music, sing and dance. Don’t just listen to it from your laptop. Pull out the ol’ record player — put on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life or The Isley Brothers’ 3+3 — and hook up those speakers. You need to feel the music in your bones.
Be intellectually honest with yourself (and everyone else)
You’re probably seeing this phrase popping up more and more often. It means being truthful when you already know the truth. In the Age of Rage many of us find ourselves joining Team #1 or Team #2 and losing sight of objectivity. When jumping on board with one team’s groupthink, we tend to fudge the truth to push our argument or the greater argument of our team’s. Separately but similarly, many of us also don’t do our research before speaking, and thus are spreading misinformation. This behavior is causing a deeper divide amongst Americans, friends, family and neighbors. We can point fingers at the media for capitalizing on this division, but we need to also hold ourselves accountable. Now, the funny thing about being intellectually honest is that sometimes you’re the bad guy/gal for going against the groupthink. This is a tough place to be in, but kudos for being stepping outside the box.
Challenge yourself: When you find yourself emotionally charged by an event or comment, instead of instantly putting on your Team #1 or Team #2 hat, take a step back and ask what your intentions are in responding, or if you’re even knowledgeable on said topic. If your intentions aren’t intellectually honest, do a little soul searching first. And for the love of God, please stop sharing unchecked political memes.
You’re not always right
Social media and our current political state has made many of us incapable of thinking we could possibly be wrong. I hate to break it to you — you’re sometimes wrong. And you sometimes need to acknowledge that. And sometimes you need to just say you’re sorry.
Challenge yourself: The next time you get into an online spat with someone and they say you’re being rude or insensitive, just say “You know what. You’re right. I’m wrong. I’m sorry.” It takes a lot of balls to admit when you’re wrong and to apologize. And even if the person doesn’t accept your apology, you can feel good knowing you made the effort to say you’re sorry.
Take a mother f’ing nap
I’m telling you — sleep cures a lot of things. Again, I’m not a doctor. This is all anecdotal, but when I feel like I’m getting sick? 50% of the time a nap makes the symptoms go away. When I’m PMSing and want to drive my car into a ditch? A nap makes me a somewhat normal person again. When I’m really down and don’t want to deal with the world? A nap helps me recharge and gain back energy.
But if my anecdotes aren’t enough for you, the research is indisputable. Naps help with fatigue, alertness, performance, stress and mood. Now don’t be taking three hour naps like I sometimes do. I wake up disoriented, angry and wanting to eat an entire tub of Cherry Garcia. The National Sleep Foundationrecommends 20–30 minute naps.
Challenge yourself: If you find yourself feeling like crud, find a place to take a quick nap. I’ve slept under my desk, in my car, in closets and on floors. Keep a pillow and blanket in your car so you can access it for an emergency nap. If someone has an issue with you taking a nap, point them to this guide I wrote and blame me.
Meditate however the hell you want to
I’m a high-strung Jew from Upstate New York who works from home, which means my brain is very loud and very anxious. It also means meditating is very difficult for me, and because it’s difficult for me I end up getting angry and silently cursing whoever the eff invented meditation. (Thanks, Hindus or Buddhists or whoever the hell came up with it.) Though I wish I was better at meditating, I also realize that I practice other forms of meditation, like going for a walk in nature without listening to music or talking on the phone, or sitting in a cafe and people watching without my computer or phone. People might think you’re a serial killer just sitting there without a device, quietly smiling to yourself, but that’s ok.
Challenge yourself: If you find yourself getting really worked up or anxious, step out of your setting. If you can mediate — GOOD FOR YOU — but if you’re like me, just go do something, ANYTHING, other than your daily routine. Like, go stand on the corner and wave to passing motorists.
Drink loads of water until you pee your pants
I used to never drink water. In fact, in my 20s, I was lucky if I got 20 ounces of liquid in my body a day. How I didn’t look like or feel like the dead body of Estelle Getty? I don’t know. Now if I don’t get at least 50 ounces of water a day, I feel like shit and that’s not even enough.
Experts and studies vary on how much water you should drink a day — from eight glasses (64 ounces) to drinking half your body weight in ounces. A 2018 NPR article recommended 91 ounces of water for women, and 125 ounces for men to prevent hurting you mental performance. Dehydration is no joke, friends. It can lead to: dizziness, confusion, kidney problems, seizures and low blood pressure.
For some reason, I’m way more likely to remember to drink water if I use a large glass bottle (like Starkey Spring Water) or overpriced water bottle. Maybe I’m bored with traditional glass? Whatever gets you drinking water more, roll with it.
Challenge yourself: If you’re drinking under 50 ounces of water a day, try to up your intake a little more. Sure you’ll have to pee a lot, and you’ll get to the point where you’re like, “OH MY GOD WHY I HATE PEEING!” but it’s better than having your kidneys shrivel up.
Tell carbs you’re only in a platonic relationship
This was a hard one. I’m from NY which means my children will be named “Submarine Sandwich” and “Bagels.” Not-so-surprisingly, my love for these carb-heavy meals meant I would often fall into a near comatose state, finding a floor to pass out on and going unconscious for about two hours. It took most of my life to realize that if I lay off the carbs at lunchtime, I don’t get the mid-afternoon zzzz. Somebody on Medium called cutting carbs a productivity hack, so let’s call it that because it sounds pretentious. Listen, carbs are delicious and they help you live longer. Just know that they’re probably making you tired because they trigger the amino acid tryptophan.
Challenge yourself: Go for the salad. I know salad sometimes feel like a side dish, but pile a BUNCH of shit on there — turkey, eggs, cheese, chickpeas, black beans, edamame, carrots, beets, shoe leather, dirt.
Reserve the drinking for special occasions, like dancing around in your underwear
I don’t drink anymore. At one time I did. At one time I was in my early 20s and I drank at home alone and took drunk selfies for a pretentious Lena Dunham-esque art project I envisioned doing years later, but thankfully I learned to deal with my stress in a healthier manner.
Because I began slowing down my drinking, the want to drink became less. And because my tolerance got so low, having one drink kind of made me feel ill. And then just the thought of feeling ill on one drink made me not want to drink all together. I still have a bottle of tequila in my cabinet for stressful days when I want to dance around the house in my underwear and do my Purple Rain non-sexy white person dance moves, and I’m a big believer that everyone should have this emergency bottle.
Challenge yourself: Cut down on your drinking.
Tell sugar you’re still in a relationship but probably won’t ever get married
Look, cutting out sugar is bullshit. Sugar makes everything better for about five minutes until you have a barfy headache. I love sugar. LOVE IT. So I’m not going to tell you to stop eating it; I’m going to share ways to cut down on so you’re not faced with health challenges such as obesity, inflammation, cavities, diabetes or heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association, women should consume 25 grams of sugar a day, while men should consume 37.5 grams. Unless you’re a health nut, chances are you’re surpassing 25 grams by breakfast. I was, and probably still am, but here are some “hacks” (← f*ck that stupid phrase) I try:
- I no longer buy soda because if I did, I would drink it like a 5-year-old with zero self-control. That’s why I try to keep a regular stock of seltzer water and 100% juice in the fridge. First of all, juice soda is delicious. Second of all, you’re talking about 10 grams of sugar vs. 40–50 grams of sugar per glass.
- Condiments — I love me some ketchup (3.7 grams), some salad dressing (0–5 grams) and some coffee creamer (2–6 grams). However, those little spoonfuls can really add up, and now I’m much more conservative in the condiment department. (However, I will always be a proud ketchup eater and I will not accept your condemnation.)
- Most yogurt is 15+ grams of sugar, so now I buy plain yogurt and mash fruit and a little bit of honey in it.
- In the morning I try to avoid sugar pitfalls like cereal, granola, waffles or bread, and instead try to enjoy an egg scramble.
- I don’t buy cookies or candy anymore because if I did, I would just stuff the entire bag in my mouth, plastic and all. I still enjoy them, but not at home.
Challenge yourself: Start looking at the labels and noticing how quickly you’re adding up to 25 grams. It happens real fast, friends.
Know it’s ok to live the life you want to live
Seriously, don’t let self-help Instagram photos or Medium articles make you feel bad about yourself. If your house isn’t Marie Kondo’d out, or you pig out on a Hershey’s bar after lunch, so what? If you’re happy, that’s all that matters.
Challenge yourself: Live the life you want to live and take what everyone else says with a grain of salt.