There are some wild claims out there in internet land.
From fad diets to face tightening serums it can be easy to get sucked into the latest life-changing fad. Hopefully this post sucked you in with it’s exciting headline. It’s also hoped that you read this and think ‘oh… ripped off, I already knew about all these tips’. Sorry, not sorry. Many of the secrets to the good life aren’t secrets. They are just common sense. These ‘secrets’ to better living are backed by science (unlike many of those fancy face tightening serums).
What’s good for Gandhi is good for me.
The story goes that Mahatma Gandhi was asked by a reporter to sum up his life in 25 words. He responded that he could do it in three:
“Renounce and enjoy”.
This pearl of wisdom was a summary of Vedanta philosophy in just a few short words. It might mean something different to you, but for me the passage is a surrender to life. We can fight really hard, set high expectations for ourselves, and work around the clock to make things happen how we would like them to. However, when it comes down to it, we must surrender to that which is- the present moment. Outside of this, we have very little control over how thing will actually work. When you renounce this desire to control the uncontrollable (be it your curly hair or the weather) then suddenly life gets a whole lot more enjoyable.
Studies presented in Nature have shown that present moment awareness can helps individuals to learn to have no fear response to neutral stimuli when there is no adaptive function for a fear response. Instead, individuals can experience a sense of safety and can flexibly elicit other emotions and behaviours. In summary, working with mindfulness can help you get over your natural ‘flight or flight’ response.
Be kind and watch yourself shine.
To put it bluntly… being a dick won’t get you very far in life. Sure, some people do manage to bluff their way through life (sometimes all the way to president) off the back of being arrogant, judgmental, and unkind, but all good people know that this approach doesn’t serve well in the long-run. If you want to really live a sustainable and abundant life then being a kind person is part of the deal.
Scientific studies into the sex appeal of selflessness has had some surprising results. Despite the fact that being a good person usually involves a little time and energy for what seems like no immediate return. Altruistic behaviour can increase an your overall ‘fitness’ as a potential partner.
The study involved 32 heterosexual women and 35 heterosexual men who were asked to rate the attractiveness of members of the opposite sex with a series of cues to show helping behaviours. Results found that being a good and helpful person was tied with being a ‘sexy’ option for partnership. The researchers concluded that this attraction to ‘goodness’ might be linked to the perception of having good genes or the ability to be a good parent.
Another (non-sexy) study into the relationship between happiness and kindness indicated that happy people are more motivated to perform acts of kindness and have happier memories. They also found that people can be happier and more grateful by reflecting on the acts of kindness they have performed throughout the week.
Happiness and kindness don’t cost a cent, it makes you more attractive and is something you can work on no matter your baseline happiness levels. So go ahead, try kind and nice on for size.
Eat well and live longer.
Yes, I know you have heard this one before. Most of us have been hearing this since we learnt how to push our peas around a plate with a safety fork (or fling them at the wall). The fact is that people who watch what they eat live healthier and longer. The tough part about all this healthy eating is that it’s really hard to work out what ‘healthy’ is.
The following are some great resources I’ve found but the general consensus is to eat a broad range of fruit and veggies, prep meals yourself from scratch, don’t eat too much processed foods, and try to cut back on meat and dairy (for your health and the planet).
- 10% Human
- The Diet Myth
- The Truth About Meat
- The China Study
- Fed Up
- Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
- Food Inc
Move through life.
Being active extends past doing exercise. Exercise is a key part of keeping your body moving appropriately for decades but it’s not the only essential for keeping yourself healthy. You should move through life like a fish moves through water.
Our lives are never static and things are always changing. To keep on top of this perpetual chaos it’s important to accept change as part of existence and embrace it with open arms. You can do this by:
- Keeping on top of technological advances: Technology is changing at an exponential rate. While some technology we can do without (like an iPod toilet roll dock) but many are adopted as the ‘new norm’ and become essential for communication. Keeping in the loop with the key technological advances can keep you moving through life with ease and connection.
- Checking your mental health: We spend a great deal of time worrying about our physical health but our mental health often goes unchecked. Our mental health is as fluid and changeable as our physical health. Check out this TED talk from Guy Winch on the importance of emotional first aid.
- Embracing mess to increase your creative resilience. In his book Messy: How To be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World, author Tim Harford celebrates the benefits that messiness has in our lives: why it’s important, why we resist it, and why we should embrace it instead. He uses research from neuroscience, psychology, social science, as well as tales of inspiring people doing extraordinary things to explain how the human qualities we value – creativity, responsiveness, resilience – are integral to the disorder, confusion, and disarray that produce them.
- Getting out there for some aerobic activity: Exercise is not only beneficial for your overall physical health. Researchers have found that getting active has been proven to be the most effective activity to ward off age-related cognitive decline and improve working memory.
You are a system that hosts systems that lives within a system. There is no way of escaping systems thinking in a universe dependent on systems. One of the issues we are experiencing as a species is that we have thought ourselves out of systems thinking. Somehow we decided that we exist outside of the environmental system that we depend on for food, water, and clean air.
This short video really gets to the nuts and bolts of thinking in systems in the most simple way. Using love as an example, we can start to understand the complexity and beauty of the way that systems exist. The way that components of a system can interact with others to create new systems or complexity or change in existing systems.
Do you agree with these five key points? Got some to add? Share your thoughts and feedback below.