One of my favorite quotes goes something like this: “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. It has no survival value; rather, it is one of those things that gives value to survival.” – CS Lewis (in fact, I’ve had this quote as my voicemail prompt since my junior year of high school…I think it’s about time I change it up a little). It’s a fuzzy, warm quote, but it’s also serious. Think about what it means for a minute. Maybe say it aloud. Let the words roll off your tongue. It kind of inadvertently brings up the Big Question, doesn’t it? The question that Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comically answers “42,” but for which we don’t really have an answer:
What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything??? What is the purpose of survival?
What would you say if you had to answer that question? (And it can’t be 42…)
I can’t say I have the key, at least not for everyone. I only have what I believe in my heart to be true for my own life. I lean towards the concept that CS Lewis lightly touches on—the idea that we collectively exist together to make our lives worth something. I mean, if you were the ONLY sentient life form in the universe, how would your life matter? You wouldn’t be able to share it with anyone. Just think about it for a sec.
I’m curious to see what you all say about the matter. But first, I’d like to share some ideas on how you can improve upon your own life—inside and out – how you can increase your value of living, and maybe inspire others to do the same. I made some of these things a part of my new year’s resolution goals list, and so far it’s turning out pretty great. I find myself less stressed
These are just some ideas you can use…you don’t have to heed all of them. I know if I did, I wouldn’t have any time to do anything else!
In Your Home:
If you are not big on cleaning (or even if you are, but you don’t like doing it alone), make a pact with your significant other or your roommates to clean one room (thoroughly) together a week…say devote every Wednesday evening on your calendar as a cleaning day. This will keep your house neat and tidy, and will make cleaning more fun, since you get to spend time socializing with others. Maybe do a little dance-off while workin’ that vacuum.
You know those little things in your house that always bug you – like the crooked kitchen cabinet, those un-hung family pictures, or the squeaky front door? Make it a goal to fix one of those little annoyances every month. You will be less annoyed, and you’ll feel more accomplished by fixing something!
Your Own Happiness:
(Picture courtesy of Wired.com)
Every morning, think of at least five things that you are grateful for, or things that make you happy. It is said that if you truly believe that you are going to have a good day, you will. It’s all about mental preparation, and not letting things get to you. You can try this tactic at bedtime, too. Thinking of things you love will help calm you and let you sleep more easily.
Do at least one thing that truly makes you happy every day. This can range from making dinner, to painting, to going for a jog…anything that makes you happy and gets your mind off of the stressful things in life.
Stop yourself from overly criticizing others or yourself. If you can, think of a positive thing about that other person or yourself instead.
a) If you are a natural self-criticizer, like I am, try turning that negative thought into positive criticism. For instance, if I think, “Oh, my Lord of the Rings, I’m a horrible writer,” I turn that negative thought into something like “I could make my writing better by focusing on creating something more relate-able to my audience.” And then I think of ways I can initiate that positive change.
On the same line, when you find yourself thinking a negative thought, stop yourself and think of something positive instead, preferably something positive about the same situation you were thinking negatively about.
Try reading more. If you’re not much of a novel reader, go for news articles and non-fiction books. Try branching out and reading genres that you don’t normally read. It will help you out in the long run. Studies show that people who read a lot can stave off senile dementia for several years later than those who don’t read (it’s related to the ability to store short and long-term memories, and reading helps prolong your long-term memory).
Stop complaining. Just don’t do it. Complaining leads to negative thoughts, and negative thoughts are not good for the soul. If you absolutely have to “let it all out,” so that it doesn’t build up, try limiting yourself to one day of complaints per week. The idea here is to keep the whining to a minimum.
Try to write for personal gain/development at least twice a week, even if it is only a streamofconsciousness. Writing [anything] also helps prolong your long-term memory, and gives you a heads-up over those who don’t write, because your organizational skills and thought processes will overshadow theirs. Bwahahahaha.
If you like to cook, or you want to learn, try out as many new recipes as you can. My goal this year is to try out 20 new recipes, and I’m already ahead of where I thought I’d be, with 13 recipes down, and 7 to go! And I’m blogging about them! How awesome is that?!?!?!
Take college courses. If you don’t want to shell out the money for tuition and textbooks, or you already have a degree and don’t plan on exceeding it, then try non-credit or community Personal Development classes. For those of you in Northern Nevada, TMCC’s Workforce Development and Continuing Education department is a great place to take these sorts of classes. Their courses range from Yoga to Culinary Arts to HVAC and Refrigeration. I have taken a few myself, and I enjoyed them thoroughly.
Maybe pick up playing an instrument. Music is a great way to express yourself, improve dexterity, and some people claim that it can also advance your academic skills.
If you are not happy in your current work position, look and apply for new jobs. You never know what opportunities are out there until you look. For me, I’m applying for jobs in Washington. Wha-what?!?! I know! It’s scary and awesome at the same time, and it’s what the hubby and I always dreamed of.
Try to be frugal in your online purchases. Though I know it is tempting to buy that awesome Star Trek Enterprise pizza slicer (which I am guilty of owning…*cough* hypocrite *cough*), but if you don’t need it, or if it’s not a gift for someone else, you shouldn’t spend the money. It’s much too easy to shop a website and keep adding things to your cart that you don’t really have the money to buy (cause you’re likely using a credit card to purchase, right?). Not to mention that shipping prices can often bulk up that checkout total.
Pay cash for everything you buy in person. Place the change that you get back in a piggy bank, and see how much you save in just a few months. My change-collecting jar is labeled “Paradise Falls” – you may “awwwww” now.
Pick up all change you see on the ground, even if it’s a tails-sided penny (or if you’re really superstitious, flip it over to heads, and leave it for someone else to pick up…karma).
Now might be the time to pursue your dream business idea. Since the economy is still in a slump, leasing and purchasing prices are at an all-time low. So if you have the funding for it, now would be the time to jump. When your business takes off, hopefully you won’t need to be so frugal anymore .
Keep a high-interest savings account, and add at least $10 a week to it. That’s not a lot of money (think of how much you spend on your daily coffee or lunch), and if you have online banking, it’s easy to transfer money from your checking account into savings.
Also, see if your bank has any money-saving programs. Bank of America has this great program called “Keep the Change.” Basically, whenever you use your debit card, it rounds up the purchase to the next dollar amount, and puts that change into your savings account. So when I spend $5.01, it puts $0.99 into my savings account. The money builds up pretty quickly! It’s like a virtual “Paradise Falls” jar.
Organizing Thoughts and Stuffs:
Keep a notebook with you at all times (or use an app on your smartphone…I use Sticky Note for Android) to de-clutter your thoughts, keep ideas, or give yourself reminders. If you have a scheph for a new creative story, write it down before you forget it! If you hear a new word, write it down to remind yourself to look up the definition later!
Use a calendar consistently so you don’t forget appointments, dates, and reminders. I know this seems like a silly common sense thing to do, but a LOT of people don’t use calendars to organize their lives, and it helps a lot (especially if you have a smartphone). I have this lovely Kim Possible ringtone (you know the one…da da Da-DA) that goes off for appointment reminders.
Keep a dream journal/idea notebook on your nightstand. Oftentimes our dreams give us great ideas for new writing projects. Or, if you aren’t into writing much, use your dreams as insight into your psyche. You can find out some pretty interesting things about yourself, as I learned long ago in my Psychology of Dreams class. Wow, that was long ago…
Renounce your nasty habits! You know they’re bad for you, so why do you do them? Smoking, biting your fingernails, binging on potato chips, picking your nose…all can be quit, with a little bit of effort. I know it’s hard, trust me. I picked at my fingernails and cuticles for about 12 years, and I finally kicked the habit just this year. I had to physically sit on my hands for a while, but it’s totally worth it. Now my fingernails are long and pretty. And currently Batman themed
Work towards healthier measurements. Yes, measurements, not weight. As any nutritionist knows, weight doesn’t mean a damn thing when it’s out of context with your body measurements. You can be 230lbs and be in shape (you’re probably very tall and muscly, though). So, the goal is to work towards healthier measurements. Take your height, BMI, and weight in correlation with your body measurements: waist, chest, hips, thighs, and around your biceps. Work with a trainer to get the results you desire, if you don’t have the knowledge or motivation to do it yourself.
If you’re not exercising, start. Any exercise is better than none, so even if it’s just 10 jumping jacks twice a day, that’s something! Pat yourself on the back for that! Keep in mind that starting off slowly will increase your endurance, and you’ll likely be more successful with sticking with your workouts.
Try to reduce your caloric intake by 175 calories a day. If you can keep it up for 100 days, you will have successfully lost 5lbs without having to lift one weight (losing 1lb of fat requires burning 3500 calories…you do the math)! You can do this easily; you don’t really have to sit and count all of your calories. Just out-stubborn yourself and don’t eat the pack of chips that you were planning to snack on before dinner. Choose to have salad with no dressing (or just plain oil and vinegar) instead of pizza for lunch. Choose whole-grain or multi-grain bread instead of white. Etc.
Drink 8oz of water every few hours. The rule of thumb is 8 – 8oz glasses a day. If you have to be reminded, set a timer on your phone. This is really really really good for you. If you drink more water, you will be less lethargic, burn more calories, and generally be healthier. If you’re not a big water drinker, here’s a tip: I drink more water when it is flavored – not with nasty Crystal Light or Mio, but with fruit! Yes, fruit! A few slices of lemon, some raspberries, and fresh mint springs, and I’ll down a whole freaking litre in an hour. It makes me pee a lot, but that’s also good for me.
Eat smaller portions. A good tip for doing this successfully is to either put less food on your standard dinner plate, or use a smaller lunch/snack plate for your bigger meals. People tend to feel full when the food on their plate is almost gone; it’s a psychological thing…especially for those of us who grew up with the “Clean Plate of America Club” parents. Ha! You know what I’m talking about…We all need to un-learn that clearing the plate is a good thing. The starving children in Africa will still be starving, even if you eat every little thing in your fridge, and you don’t have to be a part of the CPAC. If you have leftovers, you can always save them for later.
Substitute water or tea for other drinks (I reiterate the fruit water idea!!!). Soda, energy drinks, power drinks, and even juices can have a lot of sugar and additives in them, which make them terribly unhealthy. If you’re a soda or energy drink addict, try cutting back a few cans/bottles a day and replacing them with water. This article might help you quit: http://newamericamedia.org/2011/12/soda-is-like-crack.php.
Limit you alcohol intake. Yeah…I’m really bad at that, too. I’m a sucker for good wine. But if you limit yourself to just a couple of drinks a week (save ‘em for your party on the weekends, etc), your body will thank you for it.
Post a fitness chart on the back of your bathroom door (I put mine in the bathroom so I see it every morning when I brush my teeth, and I’m reminded of my fitness goals), and check in every week or two. This is a great way to mark your progress during your fitness training. You can find lots of great fitness charts online, or even in your smartphone app marketplace. The good ones will include weight, BMI, and body measurements.
Write down one thing you love about your partner every day for 100 days. Keep this list, and at the end of the 100 days, use the words/phrases you came up with to do something creative for that person (such as write a poem or create a scrapbook), then give it to him/her.
Give compliments/thank-you’s/praise whenever your partner does something that you appreciate…make sure they know that they’re special and that they’re appreciated. Trust me, this really helps. It raises your partner’s self-esteem, and helps show that you don’t take them for granted.
Do a chore or something spontaneous that your partner isn’t expecting, at least once a week..especially if it is something that your partner doesn’t particularly like to do. This also helps show them that they are loved, that you are willing to take the good with the bad, and that they are not taken for granted.
Have more sex. Yarp, srsly. It’s physically good for you, and it will bring you two a lot closer together…physically and mentally. Yeah, I thought that’d be a good note to land on.
Additions? Comments? Random thoughts? Comment below.
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