“Your priorities are not what you say they are — they are what you do.” — Ryan Nicodemus
Two weeks ago, I found myself deeply unhappy.
I was irritable. I was anxious. No matter how much sleep I was getting, I felt exhausted.
The usual suspects that brought me joy: a cup of coffee, a good book, a few scoops of ice-cream, failed to work their magic.
No, it was something that had been brewing inside of me for awhile that I ignored. It was a sign that my tank was low; I was running on empty.
I knew that in order to become a happier, healthier, and, in general, a more pleasant person to be around, I needed to make some adjustments to my lifestyle.
Here’s what I’ve done.
1. Eat cleaner.
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”
— Ann Wigmore
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t eat as healthily as I should.
I indulge in chips and chocolate a bit too often, and kale doesn’t make its way to my plate as much as it should.
I also noticed that whenever my fridge was sparse, I would simply order take-out instead of walking to the grocery store.
For a multitude of reasons, I knew that I couldn’t keep going on like this.
I became more cognizant on what I was eating and how much. I drank more water, reduced my sugar intake, and started eating salad for lunch at least 3–4 times a week.
I was surprised at how big of an impact these small adjustments made.
2. Pick up a book first thing in the morning.
“I love the smell of book ink in the morning.”
― Umberto Eco
For the longest time, my morning routine involved waking up, filling up the kettle, turning on the kettle, pouring ground coffee into the french press, taking out my dog, returning to my apartment and pouring the freshly boiled water into the french press, and then sitting down at my desk with my first cup of coffee.
The past two weeks, I decided to read for 30–45 minutes before working. I now begin the day at a much slower pace. I was initially worried that I wasn’t able to have sufficient time for my work or that I wouldn’t have the energy to write well, but that hasn’t been the case.
3. Assess (and respect) your mood.
“Even if you think you’re doing well and have it all figured out, there is a voice you will always inevitably hear at some point which nags at you and says “but wait…” Don’t ever dismiss it, listen to what it has to say. Life will never be close enough to perfect, and listening to that voice means stepping outside of yourself and considering your own wrongdoings and flaws.”
― Ashly Lorenzana
Some days I wake up energized and optimistic. Other times I wake up not quite as chipper. Both are perfectly reasonable and expected.
The important thing is to ask yourself how you’re feeling when you wake up:
- Do you need to read a bit longer this morning?
- Should you focus on less tasks today?
- Is it a day where you need to forgo your daily run?
It’s about adjusting our expectations, rather than forcing ourselves to be the epitome of productivity every single day.
4. Exercise outdoors.
“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery — air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”
― Sylvia Plath
In the last four months, I have taken a long walk (about an hour or so) almost every single day.
While that has forced me to slow down and appreciate the beauty of nature, I found that running outside has helped the most.
Running is a primal activity — no equipment or fancy attire required.
It’s also incredibly therapeutic: with each step I actually feel that I’m pounding my frustration into submission.
5. Use (guided) meditation.
Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment.
— Alan Watts
Like so many people out there, I was skeptical of its benefits. I’m really not the sort of person who can sit cross-legged in a room for a set period of time and think about…nothing.
That’s why, I use a guided meditation app (such as Headspace) to help me.
If anything, it helps me focus on my breathing — which tends to settle the monkey mind.
At the heart of this question lies a timeless dilemma: how to slow down in a chaotic world.
The techniques that work for me may not work for you, but it’s imperative to incorporate a healthy dose of leisurely activities into your daily life.
Slow down to speed up.
No matter what you find helpful, schedule regularly check-ins with yourself. Get in touch with your needs.
If you need to spend a weekend sleeping in and planning very little, do it.
If you need to spend a weekend hiking and camping somewhere that your cell phone provider doesn’t recognize, all the more power to you.
We need to stop letting slow activities fall to the wayside.
Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself and you’ll be able to finish.