What does it mean to feel fulfilled? For each person, the answer may be different. You might not find a specific “answer” at all, or it may be fleeting, changing often, or stemming from some unknown source. However, there are small adjustments you can make to your behaviour and the way you interact with the world around you that could help maintain a healthy, happy mindset. Here are some strategies for finding satisfaction in many areas of your life.
1. Organize Your Spaces
With the busy lifestyle many of us lead, it’s easy for things to begin to pile up. Letting your home and work spaces get out of control can happen in small increments and may seem like a low priority at the time. However, researchers and philosophers have pointed to a connection between the physical environment we create for ourselves and our emotional well-being.
Put simply, your physical environment may be a reflection of your state of mind. If you leave your clothes strewn in piles on the floor, maybe even stepping on them, does that mean you don’t care about your appearance? Maybe not, but it’s a habit that might form from convenience, laziness, or necessity, and you might not even think about how it affects you on a subconscious level.
Consider the same sort of question about leaving dirty dishes in the sink, keeping your books in odd stacks, losing important papers in piles, or allowing clutter of any kind to accumulate. At some point, these areas may become confusing and unusable.
Disorder impacts everyone at some point. Especially in the wake of life changes and other distractions, small tasks and responsibilities can slip out of sight. However, if you make a point to be aware of your physical spaces and intentionally work to keep them clean, clear, and organized, you can achieve a better peace of mind and create a more positive relationship with your home.
Consider trying out minimalistic storage and organization strategies in order to simplify your home. Practicing minimalism doesn’t mean you have to get rid of everything you own. Instead, you can take less drastic steps to declutter your home – one area at a time – and create habits that will make it easier to maintain these spaces in the long term.
For example, you might start by sorting out clothes you haven’t worn in a long time and deciding if they are really something you plan to wear or if they should be donated. Paring down your wardrobe to the most essential items will reduce the confusion you might face when choosing an outfit. With this space cleared, you’ll eventually buy more clothes, but it’s possible to choose items that will fit well with your downsized wardrobe.
When purging items from various areas of your home, a best practice is to consider whether the object truly makes you happy or if it’s just taking up space. Whether it’s a chair that isn’t comfortable anymore or a piece of art that doesn’t bring you joy, clearing space can allow for new opportunities and a simpler, more fulfilling home life.
2. Get Some Exercise, Even Small Amounts
Just as our homes can fall into disarray, it’s easy to neglect our bodies and miss out on the effects self-care can have on our physical and mental health. Exercising regularly is something most of us know we should do, yet it can feel like a chore — even when it stands to reduce anxiety and depression, as well as improve mobility, physical health, and appearance.
It’s difficult to find the time and motivation. However, starting small is the key here. Even taking a brisk walk for 10 minutes in the morning could help you begin creating a fitness routine without requiring a gym membership or extensive planning.
If you think you simply hate all exercise, it might be because you haven’t found the right activity for you. The most obvious exercises that come to mind are things like lifting weights, running, and bodyweight exercises like push-ups and sit-ups. Going out of your way to perform these activities might not sound like fun, which means you’re less likely to keep up a steady routine.
Instead, you can get a solid workout from activities like yoga, hiking, gardening, swimming, dancing, cycling, and even shopping. Instead of forcing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy, try experimenting with some of these fun exercises or anything that gets your body moving.
3. Be Mindful of What You Eat
Like exercise, maintaining healthy eating habits can be challenging. Many people choose to go on specific diets because they want to lose weight or change their appearance, while others might go on a diet to combat medical conditions like diabetes. The sheer number of diets and nutritional fads available can be overwhelming and may seem too restrictive. However, healthy eating habits don’t have to revolve around any goal bigger than simply giving your body the nutrients it needs.
Rather than starving yourself or choosing an extremely restrictive meal plan, the best way to promote a healthy body and mind is to focus on a balanced diet. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply put, a balanced diet involves eating some of each of the following food groups:
- Whole grains, such as pasta, bread, and cereals. When choosing these products, look for “whole” or “whole grain” on the packaging’s nutritional information.
- Fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Broccoli, sweet potatoes, spinach, bananas, apples, and blueberries are all great choices.
- Protein helps to build and repair tissues in the body. You can get protein from meat, fish, eggs, beans, soy products, and nuts.
- Dairy, which provides calcium for healthy bones and teeth. Yogurt, cheese, and low-fat milk are a good place to start.
- Fats help your body absorb certain vitamins, improve your energy, and contribute to brain health. Try to limit the saturated fats you’ll find in fatty meats and fried foods as these can lead to heart disease. Instead, aim to eat unsaturated fats that are present in avocados, nuts, and oily fish.
You may already eat some of these on a regular basis, but making a point to include each of these can make a huge difference in your life. In addition to understanding the major food groups, here are some general strategies for eating a healthy diet.
- Pay attention to your hunger levels and aim to eat until you are full, not until you are completely stuffed.
- Try to eat mostly fresh foods, avoiding processed foods when possible. Processed foods often contain added ingredients like dyes and preservatives. In some cases, the act of processing foods can destroy nutrients.
- Limit added sugars whenever possible as these can lead to heart problems, weight gain, blood sugar imbalances, and other medical conditions. It’s okay to enjoy a sugary foods occasionally, but next time you’re craving a sweet treat, try reaching for fruits instead of cookies or ice cream. (Mixing yogurt and berries is my go-to dessert!)
4. Don’t Avoid Professional Help
It’s difficult to be happy when we’re not well. Too often, we wait until an injury or illness becomes unbearable before seeking medical attention. By that time, the condition is likely much worse than when you first noticed it. This makes the condition more difficult for doctors to treat, creates longer recovery times, and causes you more suffering in the long term.
In some cases, waiting too long to seek professional help can result in irreversible effects. For example, early detection of lung cancer can mean the difference between life and death. This is true for many forms of cancer and other serious diseases, and unfortunately when symptoms begin to show, it may be too late to treat them effectively.
Seeking medical attention may seem scary and expensive. However, consider that talking to a doctor is less scary than becoming deathly ill. It also costs much less to treat a condition early rather than paying for expensive treatments and surgeries later.
Instead, seeking out opportunities for preventative healthcare can allow nurses and doctors to catch conditions in their early stages and create a more effective treatment plan. Preventative healthcare includes regular checkups, blood tests, physical examinations, and immunizations. Even if you aren’t sick or noticing symptoms, a medical professional may notice patterns in your health that point to a specific, preventable or manageable condition.
Beyond in-person visits, new technologies in the medical field are helping healthcare providers better track, treat, and communicate with patients. For example, wearable health trackers and mobile apps can report changes in a condition remotely and in real time. This allows doctors to shift their approach to treating an illness on a moment-to-moment basis without forcing you to visit the hospital so often. Similarly, telemedicine options including phones, email, and other remote communications can allow healthcare providers to communicate with people who may live far away from a medical facility or specialist.
5. Take Part in the World Around You
This may be the most important thing you can do to improve your life. It’s too easy to shut out the world around us, especially when we’re busy. You may move from task to task, from home to work, and back, day after day. But it’s important to take time for yourself — to do something out of the ordinary to wake up from the repetitive cycle. This could be as subtle or drastic as you like.
For example, you may normally spend a lot of your downtime on your smartphone. You might be listening to music, watching shows or movies, or scrolling through a never-ending stream of social media posts. These activities are convenient, and it’s nice to tune out from time to time. However, if you’re always on your phone, your mind never has a chance to rest and you’re more likely to ignore the people and places around you.
The effects of overusing social media, in particular, can be subtle yet devastating. Because of the ways people present themselves online, social media can distort your self-image and lower your self-esteem. You may feel disappointed when you compare your life to other people’s photos of extravagant meals and vacation spots. You can also compete with yourself in a negative way if you struggle to live up to the exciting life you’ve presented online. And, of course, spending all your time taking photos and thinking up clever taglines can distract you from what’s happening around you.
You don’t have to give up social media altogether, but planning a week out of each month when you won’t use social media can help reset your brain and help bring you back in touch with the world around you. If taking a week off is too big of a step, at least be conscious of how much time you spend in the digital world and try to be present in your surroundings.
Sometimes you need to get away from your routine and surroundings altogether, and travelling is one of the best things you can do to invigorate your life and interact with the world. There are so many beautiful places to see, and each can offer you the chance to immerse yourself in the unfamiliar, learn about new cultures, sample exotic dishes, and take in breathtaking landscapes.
Travelling can be a life-changing event that will help shift your perspective for years to come. Having found a new way to see the world, you can come back home refreshed and better able to accept the challenges and the beauty of your daily life.