Whether you think your life is perfect or you are struggling to get by, there is always room for improvement. Tips on keeping your house in order, taking better care of your body, reinvigorating your brain and lightening your spirit should always be welcome. Be open-minded to change. Some of these tips might surprise you, especially when you see that they work.
1 – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Japanese organizational consultant Marie Kondo has written the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” to share her organizational techniques with the world. Reading this book and following her process to the very end can be revolutionary. The book has reached #1 on Amazon’s Zen Philosophy category and is also a New York Times best seller.
Readers are guided through her KonMari method for getting rid of the meaningless objects that are cluttering our lives and then properly storing the belongings that we choose to keep. It might be the book for you if you have ever felt boxed in, surrounded by piles of belongings and wondered whether you own your possessions or if they own you?
The KonMari Method flies in the face of conventional wisdom, such as the common advice that we should clean up one room at a time. The central idea Kondo developed is that it is best to get the purging of belongings done first, in one fell swoop. Kondo believes that tidying up one room at a time will leave you tidying up forever. The general idea is to have one major effort in which you tackle your entire living space at once.
The whole system begins with the massive de-cluttering event. The main theme is to look at each item in your home and decide if it brings you joy. What are you feeling as you are looking at an item and holding it? If it doesn’t bring you happiness, it has to go, plain and simple. It’s a thought process that is very simple but brings profound results.
The KonMari method teaches people to look at your possessions with a critical eye. Does the item bring you joy? Are you happy when you see it? If it is not bringing you joy, it must go.
In the first phase of the program, Kondo has some helpful guidelines. She says to get rid of as many books as possible as there are very few that you will read again. With papers, her general rule of thumb is just to get rid of them.
She has a revolutionary view on what to do with the gifts we receive cluttering up our homes over the years. She says that the gift has served its’ purpose. The reason for the gift was an expression of love from the giver who spent money on it and the time to pick it out. Take the gift in your hands and be grateful that you got to enjoy it. Don’t feel guilty that you are getting rid of it, feel joy for the time you had it.
Readers are asked to do some pretty zany things, such as speaking to an item – like thanking a coat for keeping you warm. It is a novel mind exercise that trains you to think about objects differently. We have an emotional connection with our possessions. When we thank something for helping us before we give it away, we are getting closure on that relationship.
In a review, a reader tells this story: “I’m a painter and I landed a contract with a resort to do the art work. I spent thousands on paints and canvases. The whole project took months and I was really excited about getting my artwork onto those hotel walls. When I took the paintings in, the manager said she had changed her mind and I could tell she didn’t like them. I was devastated. I stored the art in my garage, thinking the pain would go away in a couple months and I could bring them out and enjoy them then. But the pain never went away and, every time I went into the garage, I felt so much shame. The negativity from the event was taking up more space than the paintings. After reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up I realized that it was ok to get the paintings out of my life for good. I gave them away and now that whole incident is water under the bridge.
A person who has lost a lot of weight might ask himself if his old “fat clothes” are worth keeping, just in case he puts the weight back on. There is negativity surrounding the clothes and it signals that he doesn’t trust himself to keep the weight off. Following the KonMari logic, it is best to get rid of them.
There are some really good tips in the book on how to keep things tidy after everything has been organized and cleaned, such as:
- Store shower products outside of the shower so there isn’t a soapy residue on the shelves and surfaces surrounding the bathtub.
- Decorate the back of your closet with the things you love but don’t want others to see.
- Put all possessions back in their places after you’ve used them. This prevents you from buying more items, as you will be able to see that you already have enough things.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up by Marie Kondo is a revolutionary book full of unorthodox methods and tips to help you de-clutter your surroundings so that you can live a more free and happy life. Borrow it from the library, she wouldn’t want the print copy cluttering up your house.
2 – Cutting out the sugar
There is one truly evil food that humans consume that harms us more than all others – refined sugars. The biggest culprit is high-fructose corn syrup which is totally unnatural and is added to more of our processed food products than most people are aware of.
Today we are experiencing levels of obesity, diabetes and heart disease like never before. We are consuming so much sugar in everything we eat and 2/3rd of us are overweight or obese. Companies are still ramming as much sugar as they can get away with into our processed foods and drinks. They know from human and animal studies that sugar can be as addictive to us as cocaine.
Sugar and fructose are added to so many products now that it’s nearly impossible to cut it out completely. Without sugar you couldn’t eat ketchup, salad dressing, butter, cured meat, or nearly every other pre-packaged food – the list goes on.
It is difficult to cut out every product with added sugar. The big culprits though, are easiest to identify. Avoid sugary beverages like sodas, fruit juices, and our favorite flavored coffees. It’s also easy to identify and cut out candies, chocolate, pastries, ice cream and other sweet treats.
A study was done by Dr. Robert Lustig of the University of San Francisco, on sugar in children’s diets. For the study, kids were taken off sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. The calories from sugar that were taken off were replaced with starch, so the kids were eating the same number of calories as they were consuming before the diet. The goal of the diet was not for the kids to lose weight. Researchers wanted to see how other health markers would improve without sugar.
The study showed that the kids were much healthier after only 9 days of not eating sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. They reduced the fat on their livers and went from being insulin resistant to being insulin sensitive and their triglyceride and LDL levels also went down.
The study was not about eating healthy and losing weight. The study was about keeping weight and calories the same. By cutting out sugars by 90% the children’s markers of health improved in a very short period of time.
It is difficult to cut all sugars and high-fructose corn syrup out of your diet, but here are some easy points to put you on the right path:
- Start with beverages first, like your morning glass of orange juice or coffee with whipped cream drizzled with chocolate, then cut out sodas.
- Next cut out candy, ice cream, cakes and other sweet treats.
- If you want to go further, cut out processed foods that you find in the middle isles of the grocery store. Shop around the edges of the grocery store where you find meat and produce and other fresh foods.
- Look for unsweetened dairy products.
- Bread and grains can be reduced as well because they typically contain refined sugar. Stick to whole grain bread and pasta.
- Buy nuts for treats, they are packed with the healthy fats.
Reducing sugars and high fructose corn syrup in your diet is easy once you get the hang of it. Simply find healthier foods as a replacement. Remember that there are other delicious foods available. You will still get to eat grass-fed steak, grass-fed dairy, sandwiches, vegetables covered in butter, toast, hundreds of varieties of fruits and vegetables and so many other wonderful foods. Focus on educating yourself on how to eat as healthily as possible.
3 – Exercise less to lose weight
The common misconception people have is that it is necessary to join a gym and push through intense workouts until the point of exhaustion. It’s like they feel that they deserve punishment for having gotten out of shape. So, for a month or two, people head out to the gym, or the trails and push themselves until they are miserable.
Has this happened to you? The new fitness regimen is so intense that it becomes unbearable and then the excuses begin. You find yourself hating it, so it gets put off until tomorrow, and then the next day, until you eventually find the new trainers in the closet with a layer of cobwebs on them.
If you are 50 years old and 300 pounds, it’s not realistic, and certainly not enjoyable, to join a cross-fit class. It won’t be comfortable and likely quite dangerous for your knees. And expensive! Try out a couple different activities, like shooting hoops or playing tennis like you did when you were younger. You have much better chances of losing weight if you don’t pick something that makes you overly uncomfortable.
If you are overweight, the best choices are walking and swimming. Both activities happen to be the most affordable. Walking is the simplest and most natural activity available. Simply walk at a pace that brings a light perspiration to your skin and increases your breathing and heart rates. Don’t make yourself uncomfortable or you won’t want to do it regularly. Start by walking for a few minutes and then walk a little longer whenever you can. The ultimate goal is 30 minutes to 1 hour of walking per day. Track your walking with a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps per day.
There are plenty of recommendations from experts on how many times to exercise per week, 4 or 5 times is generally suggested. But what about picking an exercise that you enjoy so much that you don’t want to take a day off? Regular walkers often say they don’t want a day off, they crave it and feel uncomfortable and stressed if they don’t get their daily walk. Wouldn’t it be nice to yearn for exercise?
Swimming is great for weight loss if you are starting out. Psychiatrists have come out to say that water aerobics classes seem to be the most mood-boosting exercise that their patients report. It is also the easiest exercise on the joints, which is very important!
Another reason to cool it with the workouts is that vigorous exercise can make you ravenous. You could have an amazing sweat session at the gym and come home so hungry that you’ll gobble down anything in your cupboards. Remember that an hour-long work out will typically burn around 500 to 600 calories. It is easy consume 600 calories of ice cream within 10 minutes of arriving home and all progress has gone out the window.
People often report gaining weight after taking up extremely intense exercise. The old saying goes that you can’t outrun a bad diet. Also, losing weight is 80% diet and 20% exercise. For the best results focus on eating healthy to lose weight, then add in some exercise that you truly enjoy.
4 – The Serenity Prayer
Many cultures around the world have their own version of the Serenity Prayer, but there is no need to follow a religion in order for it to change your life. An atheist might say, “If I can change something, I change it. If I can’t change it, I don’t worry about it. It’s out of my hands,” but there is beauty in how Reinhold Niebuhr said it in 1801.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
There is a Mother Goose rhyme, written by W. W. Bartley that might help children understand the beauty of changing what you can and forgetting about what you can’t.
For every ailment under that sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.
Busy people today might want to keep it even more simple, saying,
“Do your best and forget the rest.”
Just let it go. Whether you are worried about your parents, your boss, your kids, money, or your retirement, there is often nothing that can be done about many situations in life. Focus your energy on the things that you can do.
Friedrich Schiller expressed the same idea when he said,
“Blessed is he, who has learned to bear what he cannot change, and give up with dignity, what he cannot save.”
Solomon ibn Gabirol said,
“At the head of all understanding – is realizing what is and what cannot be, and the consoling of what is not in our power to change”.
5- Rebuild your brain
For a long time, it was believed that adults do not grow new brain cells. We know now that the brain can generate around 700 new brains cells, called neurons, a day. By the time we reach 50 years old our brains will have completely changed from when we were born.
High rates of neurogenesis can bring us higher emotional resilience, improved memory, better problem solving skills, and less chance of getting cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease in the future.
There are many things we can do to increase our rate of neuron development and to cut down on cognitive decline. We can optimize how we eat by cutting out unhealthy food. We can adopt healthier lifestyle choices such as cutting out stress, getting better sleep and learning news things. Neurogenesis can be increased by 5 times if you live a healthy lifestyle. The number one choice, repeated over and over, is to get exercise.
Researchers have shown that moderate physical exercise, mainly any form of sustained aerobics, can reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 33%. It is optimal to get 30 minutes of exercise, or more, that increases your breathing and heart rate. Do this at least 5 times a week for best results. High Intensity Interval Training is reported to not be as effective.
Not getting enough sleep is a cause of reduced neurogenesis. While you are sleeping, you brain is cleaning itself of neurotoxins. When you wake up after a poor sleep and you don’t feel well, it’s because your brain didn’t have enough time to clear out the neurotoxins. Continuous sleep throughout the night is most effective. Daytime naps don’t seem to produce the same results.
It’s important to keep stress in its place. Good stress is short-term and moderate. Bad stress is long-term and chronic. According to studies, bad stress damages the hippocampus and reduces neurogenesis. A reduction in neurogenesis can lead immediately to depression and decreased memory. It can also cause early cognitive decline and early onset of Alzheimer’s.
What we eat is almost entirely under our control so there is no excuse to not eat in a way that boosts your neurogenesis now and lowers your chances of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s in the future. There is a wide selection of foods to choose from.
The most brain-friendly foods have Omega-3 fatty acid, the brain’s preferred source of fuel. With enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet neurogenesis can be increased by 40%. Giving your brain these fats, plus getting the recommended amount of exercise, gives newly generated brain cells almost a 100% survival rate. The traditional Mediterranean diet or Japanese diet have been proven effective. Also have,
- goji berries,
- green tea,
Avoid sugar as it causes premature aging of the brain. High blood sugar levels correlate with cognitive decline, the rate of neurogenesis is cut in half. Avoid trans-fats as much as possible.
To keep things very simple, neurogenesis thrives on the diets rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and regular, moderate exercise that gets your heart rate up. Try to get enough sleep and reduce toxic stress. There are drastic improvements that occur immediately and there is a great deal of protection against early cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
These 5 habits are inspiring to think about. If you only have time to tackle one, it’s probably best to work on neurogenesis to prevent early cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. If you don’t have your mind, you lose everything. Eating a diet that is good for neurogenesis with help you lose weight and cut out sugar. Feeling better physically will lead in feeling better spiritually. All of this new-found health will inspire you to de-clutter your home. It’s a snowball effect of profound life changes.