Seven Simple Ways To Improve Your Life Today

by Josh Hanagarne on June 1, 2009

Todays the day

Today's the day

Life is difficult and that’s that.  But there are always things you can do to improve your situation and feel better.  Even if something just gives you a bit of relief or comfort, it’s all upside–unless your comfort is something like a heroin binge or cannibalism.  Below are seven simple ways to improve your day.

1 . Blink (20/20/20 rule)

If you’re at all like me, your life has too many electronic screens in it.  TV, PCs at home and at work, telephones–even the gas pump down at Chevron has a little TV I’m supposed to watch while I’m filling up my truck.  You may have noticed–possibly even while you’re reading this–that you blink less while you’re staring at a screen.

Nothing drains a person like having fatigued eyes.  Once your eyes hurt, it’s hard to think about much else.  Here’s a tip my optometrist gave me that I practice religiously: every 20 minutes, look at a spot 20 feet away and blink 20 times. It works.  It helps.

2.  Let the tension go

As often as you can remember today, pay attention to your body and figure out where the tension is.  About once every 30 minutes, I realize I’m either clenching my jaw, my abdomen, my fists, or furrowing my brow because I’m staring at something too hard.  Figure out where your tension is, make the effort to let it out and loosen up.  It takes energy to maintain tension.  If you reduce the amount of tension you carry around, you’ll have more energy at night.

3.  Give someone a compliment

This will always make you feel better, especially if you compliment someone you would rather not talk to. By making the effort to pay someone a compliment, you have to 1) step outside yourself for a moment and think about someone else; 2) pay attention to someone long enough to learn what sort of compliment they would appreciate the most.  Both are useful habits.  It feels good to make someone else feel good.  Think of it as a tiny act of service and sacrifice.

4.  Get some exercise

This is absolutely essential.  Do something.  Move your body.  Take a short walk.  Swing a kettlebell.  Do a single bodyweight squat if that’s all you’ve got in you, but do something.  The benefits of physical exercises cannot be overstated and go well beyond looking good and being strong.  Do something.

5. Start some sort of journal or add to the one you have already

I keep three separate journals: one for my training, one of the books I read, and one of my thoughts and activities at the end of the day.  Each one tells me different things about myself.  I’m not saying keep three journals–in fact, I don’t know anyone else who does–but that you leave something behind that you can reflect on later.  Don’t write a journal entry like a Twitter or facebook update.  Write something down that is worth remembering.  You’ll have the chance to learn from it later on.  I often realize that I don’t know exactly what I think about something until I write it down.

6. Think of three things you are grateful for and say them out loud

Things are never so bad that you can’t be grateful for something.  When things are at their worst, it is essential that you be able to find something good in the situation.  This isn’t being a naive Pollyanna–this is a survival skill.  It gets easier the more you do it.  Best of all, the more often you do it, the more things you’ll realize you have to be grateful for.

7.  Learn a new word

Mental stagnation and lack of curiosity: the soul-crushers.  If you find yourself caught in a negative mental loop of “This sucks,” you need to replace that thought with something.  Why not a new word?  It’s fun to feel smart and nothing works better than adding a word to your vocabulary.  Grab a dictionary or go online and learn a new word.  Try to find ways to work it into the rest of your day so you won’t forget it.  Then write that you learned a new word in your three new journals and then throw yourself a parade with 1000 elephants.

Here is some recommended reading by some really brilliant minds.

Let us all know about your experiments in the comments section.  And please add your own suggestions!  What’s working for you?

Honorable mention in light of recent events: move your body, move every single thing you can, particularly if it isn’t used to moving through all possible planes, and especially if it hurts. Lately that has been my jaw, so I have been adding some jaw exercises and movements into my training.


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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Ann Elise June 1, 2009 at 7:15 am

Josh,

Thanks for the link!

Exercise is an over-looked resource… too many of us look at it as a chore. There is a Japanese school of psychotherapy that utilizes activity as a treatment for depression, reportedly with excellent results.

I’ll have to try that 20/20/20 rule. Is that your own discovery?

Reply

Josh Hanagarne June 1, 2009 at 8:01 am

No, I’m not smart enough to discover things, but I am good at taking credit for other’s breakthroughs. 20/20/20 comes from my optometrist at Costco.

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Maggie M. June 1, 2009 at 8:56 am

excellent post! #6 is one I’ve personally found very effective.

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Sami - Life, Laughs & Lemmings June 1, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Hi Josh,
Thanks very much for the shout out – appreciate it!
I’ve combined #5 and #6 and have a gratitude journal where I write down what I’m grateful for. All too often we focus on what’s not working in our lives. A gratitude journal really helps get you focussed on what is great about your life and what is working.

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Josh Hanagarne June 1, 2009 at 1:59 pm

You’re welcome, Sami. I’ve no doubt that you’ll find a way to make it up to me online…somehow:)

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David Cain June 1, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Hey Josh,

I’ve been experimenting with the one on body tension. Whenever I feel any kind of distress at all — impatience, disdain, worry, intolerance — I try to remember to place my attention in my body. And I always find there is tension somewhere, usually in the abdomen or jaw. When I release the tension, it’s difficult to stay agitated.

Thanks for the link, by the way!

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Josh Hanagarne June 1, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Glad to hear it, David. It really does add up. A lot of the when I’m driving, I am crushing the steering wheel in my hands…for no reason! It just happens. I don’t know how this sort of foolishness wouldn’t catch up to a person.

You’re welcome–you deserve it. I’m sure you’ll find a way to pay me back:)

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Mina Irfan June 3, 2009 at 7:59 am

Josh,

Wonderful tips! Gratitude is really a big one. It really gives you the strength to change your outlook when you can’t change the circumstances.

I also love the eye blinking – you are right! I didn’t even realize how little I blink.

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Josh Hanagarne June 3, 2009 at 9:28 am

Thanks Mina. Glad you agree. Do you have any tips that you use yourself?

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Oleg Mokhov October 21, 2009 at 10:05 am

Hey Josh,

Live better and more energized by taking constant breaks. Give yourself surprises to re-energize yourself.

Just like how working out the same muscle plateaus progress, making the workout tedious – but constantly giving your body a surprise by working out different parts boosts growth – so too should you avoid doing too much of a repetitive task.

I love the blinking tip. Constant breaks to look at different distance (to exercise depth perception) has also worked great for me to avoid eyeball fatigue. And it goes without saying the stretching and loosening of body parts, since when getting focused on something we don’t notice ourselves clenching.

Awesome and simple tips to always give yourself something new throughout the day, thus staying energized,
Oleg

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Josh Hanagarne October 21, 2009 at 10:52 am

Oleg, as someone who looks at a computer all day, that blinking business has saved my eyes. Once your eyes are tired, it’s hard to focus on anything else.

Reply

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