Want to live better, with more balance? Want to improve your mental and emotional health?
Try these techniques daily to get a balance of emotional, physical, and mental health, lovingly sourced from Ryan Holiday's Daily Stoic, with some Fred Venturini sprinkles on top.
Journal in the Morning.
Marcus Aurelius and the Stoics journaled to prepare themselves for what they would face each day. We know the broad strokes of what we will face each day, don't we? The coworkers, the customers, our loved ones. Decisions and stress, the little moments of joy or frustration.
Write about what you will face and other Stoic principles using the Daily Stoic Journal.
Write down a few things you're grateful for, perhaps using the Five Minute Journal.
Write stream-of-consciousness "morning pages" to open your creativity, a la The Artist's Way.
Or, just write anything you want, on anything you want. A blank piece of paper and five minutes? You're set.
I wish I had a tool here, but I don't. If you remind yourself enough to be kind, you'll find a moment in the day to be kind. Kindness creates all kinds of wonderful brain chemicals that help you connect with the human race and feel proud of yourself.
You can do this via the journaling exercise and use a tool like the Five Minute Journal. Or, you can sit quietly and think through your gratitude. Another way to do this is as a family, around the dinner table or at bedtime. What are three things you're grateful for from the day that just passed?
This exercise sounds corny, but doing it consistently programs your brain to see more gratitude and more joy during the day. You know how you buy a Honda Accord, and you suddenly see Honda Accords everywhere? That's the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, and you can use it this way to increase your happiness.
I just summed up the one exercise that the book, The Happiness Advantage, clinically proves. Read that for more context on the power of happiness and gratitude from a scientific perspective.
Read. Seriously, Read.
Everyone thinks they don't have the time or attention to read.
However, reading is one of the best uses of your time, and if you don't have the attention span, deep reading fixes all the attention span bullshit that goes wrong in your brain thanks to the Internet and smartphones.
If you read 10 minutes a day, you'll typically read a book per month. Start there!
"Every book is a quotation," Ralph Waldo Emerson says. "And every man is a quotation from his ancestors." Reading exposes you to the human experience across our time on this planet. How could you not connect yourself to this?
You already know you should exercise. It's perhaps the most powerful, free medicine that no one takes.
For the purpose of mental health, an hour of even mild exercise each day enhances your mood, fights depression, lifts your spirits, and generally makes you a happier and more accessible person.
Right now, I'm only lifting weights once per week (thanks Body by Science!) but I try to take two long-ish walks each day.
Create a daily exercise goal that won't destroy your body and burn you out. Walking is perfect between your intense training sessions, but maybe it's a softball game or a bike ride.
Enjoy a Moment of Silence and Stillness.
Sit still. Take a few long, deep breaths.
There, you're done!
Now, to up your game, learn how to meditate. I use the Headspace app, but also recommend Dan Harris's 10 Percent Happier. He wrote a book by the same name that shows you how anyone can access the ancient practice of meditation. I love the subtitle of the app: "Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics."
Meditation is a critical skill that helps you deal with stress, emotions, and monkey mind. If you don't do it, start! There is a reason almost ALL of the highest performers in the world engage in some sort of daily mindfulness practice, prayer, or meditation.
It works, it's not complicated, and it's easy to learn. Start today!
Review Your Day.
The Stoics would review the day they just experienced to consider their successes and failures.
You can use the Daily Stoic Journal, which has evening exercises to help you improve yourself day by day.
Just as simply and just as effective is take some time to review your day mentally. Go through a few things you did well or succeeded at.
Dan Pink adopted the strategy of "turning off" his workday by writing down what he accomplished. He found that it created a wonderful transition away from work, that he got more done than he realized, which helped his mental health, and that it created more momentum and excitement for his next session of work.
Get Your Sleep!
I won't write a book on the importance of sleep, but getting the proper amount of sleep is critical.
In fact, over the years of self-experimentation and reading, you are much better off skipping a workout than cutting down on your sleep or waking up too early to get a workout in. Work out more efficiently, and get consistent, proper, deep sleep.
A handful of sleep tips (you know the drill): cut down on blue lights, sleep in a dark, cool room, use white noise or sleepwave sounds, and don't drink too much water around bedtime.
Don't overwhelm or frustrate yourself with new habits. Try one or two of these at a time, and many of these can be combined. Some examples:
- Meditate or do your gratitude list while you take a walk.
- Read ten minutes to prepare you for a good night's sleep.
- Spend your journaling time on acts of kindness or reflecting on gratitude.
- Listen to audiobooks while you exercise.
If even one of these daily habits helps impact your life in a positive way, my work here is done.
I'm grateful that you read this post! Good luck!