Have you noticed that some people seem to have their shit together, while others are constantly in a state of emergency? Do you ever feel stressed, sluggish, anxious, depressed, or just unhappy for an extended period of time?
The truth is that you’re going to have times where you’re not feeling awesome, but it shouldn’t be all the time. If you find yourself struggling, there definitely are lifestyle choices that will lead you to overall be healthier and happier.
We all make small decisions every day that over time shape the kind of person we are, both physically and psychologically. Sometimes the smallest decisions in your daily routine result in you going in a completely different trajectory in life.
A healthy lifestyle is intertwined with a happier lifestyle. By following the tips below, you’ll be on your way to consistently keeping your body and mind healthy which ultimately will put you on track for a happier lifestyle.
1. Build a Morning and Evening Routine
Do you have a routine for beginning and ending your day? For example:
Wake up at 6AM
Make a healthy smoothie
Make chamomile tea
Make a to do list for tomorrow
Turn off technological devices
Unwind with a favorite book
Sleep by 11PM
There are numerous benefits to having routines, or what many people have been calling “personal rituals.” The biggest benefit is that they provide structure so you can reduce the amount of decision making you’re spending on trivial things and have more decision-making power left for the more important, bigger tasks.
Each day, every person has an “emotional gas tank.” Each decision you make takes a point out of your “gas tank”’ until it’s finally drained by the end of the day. Have you noticed that oftentimes if you have a long day, you feel drained not just physically, but also emotionally too?
Having a routine means that you don’t have to decide every morning when to wake up, if you should go work out, if you should journal, or what to have for breakfast. Instead, these routines are now part of your habit, and you can simply run on autopilot, making no decisions. By the time your work day actually starts, you’ll find that you’ve already accomplished a lot and don’t feel drained of energy, which will allow you to kick start the day and tackle difficult tasks with greater ease.
To begin with, make your routine as simple as possible. How about starting with consistently going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day? Once you’ve got that down, start stacking on other routines until you have the perfect fit for you. Be careful not to get attached to someone else’s routine, because it might end up working against you. In fact, when I used to try to meditate in the mornings, I would fall back asleep! Same goes for reading. So I moved meditation to after my workout, when I was already up and moving, and put reading in my nighttime routine because it helps me fall asleep.
2. Plan Your To Do List the Day Before
You might have noticed the to do list in my nighttime routine above. Planning out your to do list the day before is a great way to relieve stress and be more productive. Imagine being a chef and deciding what you’re going to cook without preparing any of the ingredients ahead of time. Maybe you can run a peanut butter and jelly sandwich stand with that kind of preparation, but you can bet your ass that any reputable restaurant has their inventory and food preparation done way ahead of time.
Each day is a new opportunity to create new habits and achieve your goals, no matter how small they might seem. Planning out your to do list ahead of time will allow you to sleep easy and wake up with a sense of purpose, ready to hit the ground running without having to spend precious emotional energy trying to figure out what your day looks like.
I recommend using a few programs to help you get organized.
- Wunderlist is a great way to jot down ‘to-do’ tasks on the fly.
- Evernote is a great way to jot down ‘longer-thought’ notes on the fly.
Oh, and if you don’t use a calendar yet, do yourself a giant favor and start putting everything on one today. Your brain can only store so much information, so use technology to your benefit and brain-dump thoughts, ideas, appointments, obligations, and everything else into these apps.
3. Focus on Quadrant Two Activities
What is a quadrant two activity you say? This term comes from the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Every task can be broken down into one of four categories: urgent and important, non-urgent but important, urgent but not important, non-urgent and not important. Urgent tasks need to be done right now, and important tasks are, well, important to get done.
So often we get bogged down in taking care of quadrant one, urgent and important tasks (like meeting work deadlines, dealing with crises, and other time-sensitive and necessary stuff), and we feel so productive doing that that we forget about our quadrant two tasks, which are non-urgent but important.
Some of these quadrant two activities include:
Working out: Working out is rarely a super urgent thing to do, but it’s definitely an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
Keeping up with friends and family: Sometimes weeks pass before I realize that I haven’t called a friend to catch up on what’s going on their life.
Future goal planning and execution: It’s easy to feel productive day in and day out while you’re getting through every day clearing your emails and staying on top of work. Most of the time you feel so productive that you actually start neglecting your real long-term growth opportunities and goals. Instead, you need to find time to jot down goals and also make a plan to actually execute upon those goals successfully.
But there are tons of others, too. Think about what you need to do but have been putting off, and make sure you make space to actually sit down and do it.
4. Plan Time to Unwind
A couple of these quadrant two activities are so important they deserve their own spots on the list, and this is one of them. I get it, life gets super busy sometimes. Weeks fly by, then months, and then years if you don’t consciously plan your schedule so you have time to unwind.
Or maybe you don’t even think of unwinding as important, let alone urgent, so you just keep never getting to it. If you’re naturally a high achiever or a workaholic, then it is even more important for you to find time to chill out and be okay with completely focusing your mind away from work-related activities.
There is a well-known saying: “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
Whether you’re scheduling time to unwind on a daily basis by unplugging from the internet or you’re planning an entire week at a retreat, carving out time to take a break is critical for your mental health and to prevent you from burning out.
5. Plan “Me” Time
Today everyone is constantly interconnected with a stream of text messages, emails, and other notifications — so even if you’re taking a break from work, your phone is still buzzing all day long. If you’re in a relationship, you might find that you’re always hanging out with your significant other. If you’re single, then you might spend your time socializing, working, swiping down on Instagram, or swiping right on Tinder.
Although that kind of connection is important, none of that alone time is really “me” time. “Me” time is time where you go off and do your own thing without outside distractions. You should feel alone, but not lonely. What do I mean?
Go on a walk and put on an audiobook or podcast. Sit next to the lake or river, or on the beach, and just be alone for a bit. Go to the park and bring a book. Pack a notepad, turn off your phone, walk over to your local coffee shop, and start writing down whatever comes to mind. Do stuff for yourself as opposed to constantly doing things for other people.
As a business owner, I know far too well the constant stream of work that comes in. But any successful business owner will also tell you how important it is to not only “work in the business” but also “work on the business.”
Working on the business means that you are blocking out time to improve the business itself rather than always trying to get little day to day tasks done such as replying to emails, attending meetings, and more.
Think of yourself as a business. You should constantly be thinking of how to improve yourself, not only by achieving more, but in ways that make yourself happier and healthier.
6. Nurture Relationships
Just as important as taking time for yourself is taking time to authentically connect with others. Time and time again, people have said that the most important key to happiness is belonging to a community and having great friends and relationships. Everything in life comes and goes, but having incredible people in your life that you can share your journey with is one of the most rewarding things in the world.
Relationships, like anything else, take serious time, commitment, and work. Your friends won’t be there for you forever if you don’t show up and nurture those relationships. Take a bit of time just once a week to catch up with old friends and family members to grow and deepen your relationships with them.
Start today and call a friend that you haven’t talked to for a while!
7. Learn About Yourself
Each and every day, you should be observing yourself and be learning more about yourself. Next time you’re in an argument, try to imagine the situation from an unbiased bird’s eye view. Understand why you are feeling the way you are feeling and act appropriately. Too often, we’re in our feelings, which clouds the truth. You must be brutally honest with yourself, and that means seeing past your ego and emotions, and dealing with situations rationally.
There are ways to take action to learn more about yourself as well. One of the best tests to start with is doing a free Myers-Briggs personality test on 16Personalities.com. You can learn a tremendous amount about yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses.
My personality type is ENFJ. According to 16Personalities, “ENFJs are natural-born leaders, full of passion and charisma. Forming around two percent of the population, they are oftentimes our politicians, our coaches and our teachers, reaching out and inspiring others to achieve and to do good in the world. With a natural confidence that begets influence, ENFJs take a great deal of pride and joy in guiding others to work together to improve themselves and their community.”
ENFJ stands for Extraverted, iNtuitive, Feeling and Judging. Here are what those traits individually mean:
- I am a naturally extroverted person.
- I take in information more abstractly
- I see the big picture and think of future possibilities
- I am idealistic
- I make decisions based on heart and emotions
- I am empathetic
- I am naturally organized and structured and tend to plan in advance.
It’s amazing how much you can learn about yourself from a simple free personality test. Knowing these things about yourself helps to give you better self-awareness, which helps you realize your strengths and weaknesses.
In addition to personality tests, I recommend having honest feedback sessions with people close to you who you trust. Ask them for their personal feedback on things that you can improve and things that you’re really good at. Just make sure you ask the right people and decide for yourself what constructive criticism is apt and what feedback to ignore.
By taking action to learn more about yourself, you’ll be well on your way to living a healthier and happier lifestyle.
8. Cut Out Negativity
Have you ever been in a good mood or together with friends having good vibes when someone comes in with a cloud of negative energy and instantly affects you and everyone else? I have.
Negative people make you negative and unhappy. Tell those people to stop bringing their negative energy around you, or just stop being around those people, period. It doesn’t matter if these people are your close friends, family members, or anyone else — life is too short to feel like crap and have someone else always bringing negativity into your life.
If you notice that you complain a lot or are grumpy, be aware that by bringing that energy around other people, you’re ruining their mood and happiness as well. Don’t be selfish, and either keep your bad mood to yourself, or ask for help and talk it out with someone close to you.
In the end, you will be happier and free of the stress and anxiety that comes from others burdening you with their negativity.
Just a note — I’m not saying it is bad to vent, nor am I saying that if you have a friend in need, you shouldn’t be there to help even if it means sharing some of that negative emotional energy and helping them through it. I’m just saying that in general, you should try to avoid people who constantly bring bad vibes and negativity into your life.
9. Learn When to Say No
Back when I was a kid, our school would always talk about how peer pressure is bad, and how it can lead to you becoming a drug addict and stuff. I always made fun of the concept — until I got older and my friends started going to great lengths to get me to do things that seemed harmless but were really long-term destructive.
Oftentimes it’s small things, such as:
- Pressuring someone to go out drinking and partying when they don’t want to
- Doing risky, attention-grabbing things
- Living outside of your means
- Going to happy hour with colleagues
- Going to concerts and festivals
The problem is that over time, these seemingly harmless activities lead to bigger lifestyle habits that prevent happiness. Constantly drinking and partying every weekend can be extremely draining both mentally and physically and can also take valuable time away from your other aspirations and goals. Living outside your means makes you financially unstable. For these reasons, peer pressure is a real thing and can be toxic if you don’t know when and how to “just say no.” When you can say no to these things, it will prevent you from being stuck in situations that you don’t like to be in so you can focus on the things that you do enjoy.
There’s a mentality called “crabs in a bucket.” Every crab in the bucket wants to get out, but the second one crab almost gets out, other crabs will all collectively pull it back down. This is true for people too, and helps explain part of why you’re an average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Next time, if you really don’t want to go out and do something, just say no. If your friends are consistently pressuring you to do stuff you don’t want, then maybe you need to re-evaluate the people you’re hanging out with and find people who bring you up rather than pull you back down.
10. Eat Less Carbohydrates
This is a tough one — I love pasta, pizza, beer, rice, and ice cream as much as anyone, but the unfortunate truth is that too many carbs make you feel sluggish and gain a ton of weight.
More and more I’ve started to hear about how the real culprit in weight gain is carbohydrates, not fat. In addition, people always talk about the “sugar crash” and being in a “food coma” after eating too much.
Even before I began monitoring what I ate, I noticed that anytime I had a big lunch full of carbohydrates, I’d crash quickly afterwards and be unable to keep my eyes open. Then I stopped eating quite so many heavy carb-packed lunches and noticed that I was vastly more energetic and alert.
To break down carbohydrates without getting overly scientific, as far as I am concerned there are two types:
Simple/Processed: These are carbs like white rice, candy, white bread, and things made with white flour.
Complex: These include whole grain products, vegetables, and fruits.
Simple and processed carbs strip away all of the fiber and other nutrition from the carbs which also causes quick spikes in blood sugar levels and makes you crash later.
Complex carbs take longer to get absorbed which reduces spikes in blood sugar and comes with more nutritional value.
The moral of the story is that by reducing your intake of carbohydrates in general, but more specifically simple carbs, you’ll end up being healthier and happier.
11. Avoid Highly Processed Food
While you’re at it, you should just stop eating junk food. Blanket statement incoming: If you have to check the label, it’s probably bad for you. Seriously though, those mini packaged cinnamon rolls are just not going to be good for you.
Ramen, granola bars, cereal, fast food — this stuff is not good for you, plain and simple. They’re high in sugar, high in artificial ingredients, high in junk carbs, low in nutrients — the list goes on and on. If you often get tired during the day or crash in the afternoon or your brain feels foggy, first examine what you’re putting in your body.
I get that sometimes you just want to stuff your face with some ice cream and Sour Patch kids and watch a movie. And I say go for it, but don’t make it into a habit.
12. Drink Lots of Water
This one is self-explanatory and you’ve probably heard it a million times from everyone. Drink more water. It’s so easy, it’s practically free, and it has tremendous benefits to your health, from better skin to more energy, and everything in between. The real challenge is making sure you always have water which is why I carry my water bottle around with me everywhere I go. I recently bought a Hydro Flask which keeps water cold up to 48 hours due to its vacuum layer technology. As a result, I drink more water than I ever have in my entire life! In short, do whatever it takes for you to drink as much water as possible.
13. Drink Less Alcohol
It isn’t rocket science. Alcohol is poison to your body and is neither going to leave you healthier nor happier in the long run. Now I’m not anti-alcohol, and I drink regularly, but I also keep everything in moderation. Having a glass of wine here and there isn’t going to kill you — in fact a glass of red wine has even been shown to have health benefits.
The problem is when you start drinking heavy amounts that leave your brain foggy and your body destroyed. Not only is this physically bad for you, but excessive drinking can also lead to you wasting some of your most productive “deep work” career-advancing days laying in bed with a massive headache. I know that sometimes you’re still going to want to rage with your friends and celebrate big wins and special occasions. If you do want to get hammered, then there’s a few things I recommend:
- Drink a ton of water throughout the night — a glass for every drink.
- Eat food, which slows down the absorption of alcohol into your blood.
- Avoid shots. Shots are the easiest way to go from feeling great to having a massive migraine the next day.
- Keep a store of Pedialyte at home. Pedialyte is an electrolyte-filled hydrating powder that you can put in your water to help your body recover.
Sleep is another obviously important aspect of having a happier and healthier life. Don’t overthink it — just get enough sleep every night. Usually, adults need around 7 hours of sleep to feel fully rested throughout the day, but keep in mind this is quality sleeping time. After a long night of drinking, you might notice that even though you slept at least 8 hours, you still feel sluggish and unrested. That’s because drugs impact the quality of your sleep, and the quantity doesn’t make up for it.
In fact, quality of sleep is oftentimes even more important than the quantity of sleep. The great thing is that there are a ton of different ways to impact your sleep quality, so you can sleep the same number of hours and ultimately feel way more rested. Here are just a couple:
- Use a sleeping mask. Studies have shown that even a small amount of light can disrupt your sleeping, and the best way to ensure quality sleep is to completely block out all light. This means getting blackout curtains if you can, but also wearing a sleeping mask. You can get some super comfortable silk ones for $7 on Amazon which will make a dramatic difference in sleep quality. My favorite brand is Alaska Bear, which you can find here.
- Wear earplugs. If you’re a light sleeper or happen to live in an urban area, wearing earplugs is one of the best ways to prevent noises from disrupting your sleep quality.
- Keep it cool, around 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature greatly affects our sleep, especially if it’s too warm. You’ll find yourself tossing and turning during the night as you try to cool down, which greatly disrupts your sleep. Other people go as far as to purchase a “BedJet” which allows you to set your bed to a specific temperature using a cooling fan.
15. Everything in Moderation
This is a motto I live by and one we hear often, but it’s worth repeating. Everything you should do should be in moderation.
I’m a proponent of being open to trying your heart’s desires as long as you aren’t harming others. If you want to go try psychedelic drugs like mushrooms or LSD, then go do it. Some of the most successful people in the world — like Steve Jobs — have openly admitted to regularly using LSD. The key here is that Jobs did it in moderation — in fact, over two years he said that he used LSD about 10 to 12 times. Imagine if Steve Jobs had kept doing LSD more than that! There’s no way he would have been able to create the success he had while trippin’ balls all the time.
Moderation also applies to working hard. Sometimes you need to take a break and chill before you burn out. Don’t take pride in pulling all-nighters and not sleeping a normal amount. That’s a quick way to burn out and kill your creativity. Instead, if you want to live a healthier and happier life, remember to both work and play in moderation.
16. Do Fitness Activities
Consistently working out is one of the best ways to live healthier and happier. However, it isn’t always easy to get your butt out of bed and get your blood flowing. A great way to keep yourself accountable to a regular schedule of fitness activities is to join a fitness community. It’s much easier and more fun to work out with a community of friends that help motivate you rather than lifting weights yourself at a gym. Below are a few of the best recommendations:
- CrossFit — One of the best high-intensity workout communities in the world. I’d recommend going through the basic training programs first to make sure your technique is good before joining any of the intermediate classes. Due to the nature of CrossFit, it can be easy to injure yourself if your form isn’t close to perfect, so be careful!
- Brazilian Jiu Jitsu/MMA — Iron sharpens iron. Wrestling or sparring with someone else is one of the best ways to physically push yourself harder than you ever have. Instead of just competing with yourself in the gym, you’re actually physically competing with another person who is oftentimes trying to submit you through an armbar, triangle, or choke. This sounds intimidating, but truth be told, the MMA community is one of the most ego-free, supportive communities in the world. When you grind and wrestle with other people, you push each other and constantly have your ego checked.
- Yoga — This is a bit less intense than either CrossFit or MMA. There’s many forms of yoga, but they all have a great community factor as well as helping you get in amazing shape.
At the end of the day, there are numerous fitness communities all over the world. The most important thing is to find a group of people that support you in your fitness goals. You want to find people that genuinely care about you and want to see you hit your goals — and who won’t hesitate to tell you if you’re being a lazy shit!
17. Join Communities
On the subject of joining fitness communities, you should also join other communities of like-minded people that keep you inspired. You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so why not surround yourself with people who you aspire to be like?
Co-working communities such as WeWork and online platforms like Meetup (recently acquired by WeWork) serve as great ways to meet new people. If you’re interested in entrepreneurship or technology, there are so many amazing Meetups worldwide that focus on those specific areas. Forget work for a second; you can even find Meetups just to play board games, go on pub crawls, or on hikes, runs, or anything else.
18. Monitor Your Finances
It seems simple, just be financially responsible. But the reality is you’re fighting brilliant marketers that make it as easy as possible for you to spend money that you don’t have to buy shit that you don’t need. Ever thought about why credit cards in the United States give you amazing reward programs, points, and all these other perks? Ever question how easy it is to buy stuff on Amazon with their “1-Click Ordering”?
Businesses are constantly using data to optimize the consumer purchasing process. The less friction they can create, the easier it is for you to buy more stuff.
Have you ever bought a $100+ thing with a credit card on Amazon like it’s nothing? Next time, try having to actually take out a one hundred dollar bill and give it to someone for that exact same item. I bet you’ll think twice.
Credit card companies know this. They know that people spend way more by being able to toss it on a card rather than physically paying with cash.
So how do you fight back against intelligent people using machine learning and AI to sell you more stuff? You have to find ways to take control of your financial situation. Fight fire with fire. Use the data and apps that are available to you to keep yourself informed of how much you’re spending and where so you can reign it in when you need to.
A great way to start paying attention to your finances is by using an app like Mint. Mint allows you to monitor budgets on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, and even helps you to categorize the expenses into “Food & Dining,” “Shopping,” “Travel,” and more. There are plenty of other great apps out there, so do some research and find the best one for you.
Finally, paying with cash is also a good way to be more aware of how much you’re spending. The act of physically exchanging something tangible like a twenty dollar bill to purchase a new lotion makes you stop and think for a second if it’s really worth it.
Once you start having control of your finances, you won’t have to stress so much about paying the bills. This is the first step to financial independence: knowing when to save and when to spend.
19. Set Goals and Then Set Yourself Up to Succeed
Yes, yes, goal setting is important, everyone knows this. However, what people usually get wrong is holding themselves accountable to their goals. If you actually want to achieve a goal, then the best way to do so is to follow The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey. This methodology involves the following:
- Focus on the Wildly Important.
- Narrow your focus and clarify exactly what the goal you are setting out to achieve is. Without clarity in your goal, you’ll find yourself losing focus and making excuses. Don’t set too many goals — it’s about quality rather than quantity.
- Act on the Lead Measures.
- Lead measures are actions that you can control that get you closer to your goal. Lag measures “lag” behind a lead measure. What does this all mean? Lets say your goal is to lose 25 pounds in the next six months. Working backwards, that means you need to lose about 4 pounds per month. Working backwards more, you figure that you probably have to work out 4 times a week in order to drop a pound a week. Therefore your lead measure, the action you can influence directly, is working out 4 times a week. Ultimately over time this will roll into your lag measure which is weight loss.
- Keep a Compelling Scoreboard.
- Imagine going to a basketball game but there was no scoreboard keeping track of how each team was doing. As you’d imagine, it’d be difficult to motivate the competitive spirit of working hard to win if you didn’t even know what the score was. The idea of a scoreboard holds true when it comes to personal goals as well. If you’re trying to lose weight then you should make an Excel document that actually keeps track of your progress. Companies often have this scoreboard as well. Allowing team members to see specific lead measures is both motivating and holds people accountable.
- Create a Cadence of Accountability
- Achieving goals yourself can be challenging, so why not hold yourself accountable by goal setting with someone else? For example, you both set the goal to work out 4 times a week and send each other a pic each time you hit the gym. This way you know that you’re in it together and you can hold each other to it as well. Make this joint competition into a bet — the loser has to buy the winner a reward of substantial value such as a dinner at a fancy restaurant. Have fun with it!
There you go! If you want to set goals and actually achieve them, you’ll have to set yourself up to succeed with systems and methodologies. Tony Robbins said it best when it comes to change: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
20. Find Purpose
With automation and artificial intelligence taking more and more jobs, we’re going through one of the most interesting times in human history. Taxi and Uber drivers will likely one day all be automated by self-driving vehicles. Grocery store clerks have already been downsized with self-checkout machines, but soon there won’t even be that. In fact, Amazon Go stores already have complete stores with no cashiers, no checkout lines, and no registers at all. Factory workers will all be gone soon too — in fact, the biggest e-commerce companies in the world like Amazon and Alibaba are almost purely operated by robots. The few employees left in those factories are there simply to fix the robots.
What does this mean for you and me? You might still live a comfortable life, but with robots doing your previous job, you lose one of the most important things that lead to happiness: purpose.
Purpose gives your life meaning — meaning to wake up every single day, meaning to get through the hard times and come out stronger.
This leads me to two conclusions:
1. Find purpose today by creating a personal mission statement to help bring focus to your life. Whenever you face a difficult situation or life decision, come back to your personal mission statement for clarity. An example of a great mission statement is Oprah Winfrey’s: “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”
2. Build skill sets for the future that cannot be automated. Highly creative skill sets are the most difficult to automate. This includes being an artist, an entrepreneur, or other positions that require the skills to build complex human relationships. And the best way to get into a deeply creative mindset is through “deep work.” In a review of Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work, Alex Anderson says:
“Cal Newport argues that the ability to do deep work, or the ability to perform professional activities in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes one’s cognitive capabilities to the limit is the key to success. Deep work creates value, improves your skill, and is hard to replicate.”
So there you have it. Create a personal mission statement to find meaning in your life, and work hard to build skill sets that won’t be replaced by automation. By doing this, you’ll lead a happier life today, and a happier life for the future.
I hope these 20 tips have helped give you perspective on what it takes to live a healthier and happier life. Happiness is a difficult concept and can be a bit different for everyone. The most important thing is to start with the tips that seem actionable to you today. Once you’ve begun, be sure to constantly re-evaluate and see what works best for you individually. Here’s to you taking steps to live a healthier and happier life 🥂.