8 Little Changes You Need for a Happier Daily Routine
Photo: Alison Gootee
Are you addled by an uncontrollable urge to refresh your in-box at all hours? Powerless to stop perusing strangers' Instagram feeds late into the night? Kathleen Hall, founder of the Stress Institute, can help you go happily off-line—at least during your off-hours:
Don't even glance at your in-box for at least an hour after you wake up. "This can be a great time to access the more creative part of your brain," says Hall. "The second you check e-mail, you shift into a more organizing, critical- thinking mode."
Unplug for ten to 30 minutes per day. "I don't care if you go outside and lie in the grass or just stare at a bug on the ceiling. What's important is that you tune in to yourself without distractions. As your brain reenergizes, your productivity should increase."
Keep mealtime device-free. "Technology can fracture families by allowing each person to retreat into a cocoon," says Hall. And don't even think about bringing your phone into the bedroom: "Out of sight, out of mind."
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In the new book Dream Year: Make the Leap from a Job You Hate to a Life You Love, Ben Arment argues that we're all motivated by two fears: the fear of failure and the fear of insignificance. He believes we must consciously choose to fear insignificance more. Because only when we become terrified of wasting our potential and squandering our dreams—more terrified than we are of depleting our savings, say, or having to go without premium cable—will we dare to leave unfulfilling jobs and live boldly. Says Arment, "You were born to live a significant life."
Think sleeveless shirts are out of your reach? Meet 20-year-old computer engineering student Estella Gong: After a lifetime of scrawniness, she started doing push-ups every day and charting her progress on the website GiveIt100.com (which challenges users to practice any self- improving activity for 100 consecutive days). On day one, Gong could barely get her chest off the ground, but on the 100th day, she knocked out more than 30 regular push-ups and ten clapping push-ups in a minute. Her inspiring videos—and muscle tone—are proof, as she puts it, "that the little things add up."
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If you forget what others have told you (instructions from your boss, the details of a friend's new romance), you're not alone. We spend about 55 percent of our communication time listening, but research shows that two days later we can recall only 25 percent of what we've heard. "We're so used to sound bites—headlines, tweets—that our attention wanders during normal conversation," says sound expert Julian Treasure. To focus, he suggests you avoid interrupting and "speech writing" (planning your response while another person is talking). Even better, wait three seconds after she finishes to jump in; this will give you time to absorb what she said. "It also helps," says Treasure, "to summarize what you heard: 'So what you're saying is...'"
Of course you know you should stop—but how? Frank Lipman, MD, founder of New York's Eleven Eleven Wellness Center, weighs in: "Those who drink at least one soda per day have a 31 percent greater chance of becoming obese. Diet soda is just as bad. Why put those extra chemicals into your body? The easiest replacement is club soda with lemon. You could also try herbal iced tea or coconut water. But do it cold turkey. In a couple of weeks, you won't even want the soda anymore."
If you long to experiment with your work wardrobe but don't have hours to spend shopping for the perfect pieces, try Stitch Fix, the latest obsession of sartorially challenged O editors. It's simple: Go to StitchFix.com, answer questions about your budget, shape, size and style preferences, and one of the company's personal stylists will send you a box of clothes and accessories (five items total) chosen just for you. Keep what you want; ship back everything else. After a few "fixes"—they can be scheduled regularly or on demand—you'll be hooked.
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Feeling meh and not sure why? Put your head in the clouds—or rather, tilt it back to look at the clouds. Taking a few minutes to marvel at the "evocative, poetic beauty" above you is a powerful, uplifting meditation, says Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society. Quiet your mind by looking for specific types: stratocumulus (low hanging, white to dark gray), cirrus (delicate brushstrokes), Kelvin-Helmholtz (breaking waves) and pileus, which resemble, according to Pretor-Pinney, a "Donald Trump comb-over." He adds, "Clouds invite us to see the exotic in the everyday."
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Anytime you find a $5 bill in your wallet, put it in a jar. If you manage to save just two per week, you'll have—in less than two years—enough to fly to a beach far, far away.