Feeling lost and adrift? Out of sorts? Cut off from the things that used to bring you joy? Does it feel like a stranger has taken up residence in your own skin? Here are ten life hacks that will quickly get you back on track toward your own best life.
1. Get up earlier
Instead of dreading the alarm clock and pushing it as late as you possibly can, try reclaiming the calm, quiet, sacred hours of the early morning. Stop intoning the lie that you are not a “morning person” as if that was even a thing. People are not cast in stone. They can change their patterns. Get up early and watch your happiness, self-esteem, productivity, and sense of calm increase.
2. Turn ordinary activities into rituals
You’re already doing them every day anyway. You might as well turn them into meditative, conscious, reflective rituals. Grinding coffee with gratitude for the Central American farmers who lovingly tend their trees. Pouring that first cup with the focused intention of a monk in Japanese tea ceremony. Brushing your teeth, shaving, bathing, and dressing with deep appreciation for the magical mystery of the mind-body, and the creativity and ingenuity of those who design and make our clothing. This way, your very life becomes a temple, and everything holy.
3. Move more
An unused door hinge rusts shut. An unexercised body closes down. You don’t have to do anything crazy. Just walk for an hour. Do yoga. Bicycle or swim. Take the stairs. Rake leaves. Whatever you have access to. For tens of thousands of years human beings walked for miles and miles every day. We were made to move. Not only will your body start functioning and feeling better, but your mind will too.
Finally commit to a real meditation routine. Not just a dabble here and there, but a commitment as consistent as eating and sleeping—because it’s damn near just as important. Meditation unlocks the mind-body’s hidden restorative powers. Wellness happens if you let it. And unburden your meditation practice of any silly and overblown expectations. Forget about enlightenment. Let the stillness and glow of meditation be its own reward. The rest happens by itself without your interference.
5. Eat real food
Food guru Michael Pollan famously reduced all of his books down to one line: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” What he means is, eat real food—food as close to the source as possible. Ditch the margarine. Switch back to butter. Just eat less of it. And when you look down at your plate, it should be 75% plants, 25% protein, and 25% carbs. These aren’t hard numbers, but guidelines. Infuse your shopping, prepping, cooking, eating, and clean up with gratitude and presence. Let the miracle of food become a sacrament. Shifting your eating habits will awaken strength and restore equilibrium throughout your mind-body processes.
6. Find some new music to fall in love with
Ludwig van Beethoven said, “Music is a higher truth than philosophy,” and he was right. If you’re not mindfully, deliberately, deeply, and consciously listening to music on a regular basis, you are at real risk of soul-starvation. Find new music. Ask around. Look up artists you like on YouTube and let the algorithms lead you to similar artists you’ve never heard. Indulge in satellite radio or commercial free streaming subscriptions. When you find artists you like buy their music so they can afford to keep making it.
7. Fall in love
You can’t snap your fingers and make love happen. But it’s always hovering nearby waiting to be born. And let’s not limit this to romantic love exclusively. I’m talking about love in its broadest sense—that feeling of deep, liberating, exhilarating, and dizzying interconnection with everything. The way a bird loves the sky, a sailor loves the sea, or a singer loves a song. There’s an unbridled zeal within all of us longing to emerge. Don’t be coy. Get out of the way and let your love find its mark. To love is our deepest calling. Be still enough to hear it.
8. Work in service, not self-interest
Sure we work to eat. We need money to live. That paycheck really matters. But there are deeper currents in motion. When we work we turn our time, talent, and energy into goods and services that help other people enrich their own lives. When we pull back and see the bigger picture, all work is service—an opportunity for us to participate directly in the healing of the world. When you begin to see your work in this light, everything shifts. Your self-esteem increases, your anxiety about outcomes abate, your depression reduces, and your enjoyment expands because you finally see your work for what it is—not a simple quid pro quo for money, but a tether that connects you to the tapestry of all energy, all matter, and all consciousness. It is through our work that we affirm our oneness. Our work is a ritual that sanctifies our life and the lives of all it touches.
9. Mari Kondo your condo
Get rid of most of your stuff—you don’t really want it anyway, and mindlessly holding onto it is clogging up your life. Take a few days, empty every closet, hold each item in your hand and ask yourself, “Do I really love this, I mean really love this?” Kondo’s animistic Shinto spirituality asks us to feel the energy of each item. It will “tell” you if it should stay or go. If it vibrantly belongs in your life, keep it. If it doesn’t, say “thank you” and graciously let it go. Place the items you are keeping back in your closets and drawers one piece at a time. Give the rest away. When you are done, your home will feel free, clear, and full of light. And so will your mind. Read Mari Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for guidance.
10. Ask for help
Maybe we don’t ask for help because we want to maintain the illusion of invincibility. We don’t want anyone to see how lost we are. I get that. But get over it. Ask for help. Delegate. There are people all around you who know way more than you do about just about everything. And they’re grateful to be useful. (They hunger for self-worth and validation just like you do.) When you ask for help you are giving them a gift—the opportunity to turn their work and their love into service. And you too are brought home to the truth that none of us does any of this alone. It’s a win-win.
When you adopt these ten life hacks you’ll soon see changes happening within. You’ll see your old problems with new eyes, and feel reinvigorated enough to withstand them. You’ll shift from negativity to gratitude, from scarcity to abundance, and from fear to fullness. But don’t wait. Seeds don’t grow in a jar on the shelf. You have to plant them. Ideas alone don’t shift us, only actions do. Begin now. You do not have forever to begin living the life you were born to live.
Peter Bolland is a teacher, writer, speaker, singer-songwriter, and philosophy professor. Meditate with him on the Insight Timer app and learn more at www.peterbolland.com