Updated: Sep 1, 2019
At work, as in life, there are a lot of little things we can easily implement that can give us better focus, better presence, better rest and, ultimately, more joy and happiness each day. I have received a lot of great comments and questions from you on some of my recent blog posts, especially “In times of Darkness” and “The long road to awakening.” I thought it might be handy to try and list all the little practices I believe can be extremely useful on the Path to Happiness.
It’s definitely not exhaustive, nor an imperative “must do,” but after years of explorations and trials, these are the practices that have benefited me the most. Time to share – here are the first 25 tips (Part II next week...).
1. Sleep and nap more
As a society, we are deprived of sleep. Our immune system, muscles and brain only restore fully when we are asleep. After 5 days without sleep, our immune system would collapse and we would die! Therefore, it is important to rest enough (6-7 hours per night), to rest well (deep and continuous sleep), and to rest at regular hours – have a set sleep and awakening time). Napping is also very useful (there are even napping companies now – check out YELO). And yes, it is true that it is harder to sleep during full moon. Check out why here.
2. Reduce electronic consumption
Our brain needs rest and, contrary to what most people believe, cannot multitask well. Our efficiency increases drastically by focusing solely on one task. So turn off your cell phone's sounds and vibrations whenever you're not making phone calls. Close all the programs on your computer and open only the one you are using. You will quickly see an improvement in your capacity to work efficiently.
3. Simplify digital life
How many newsletters are you subscribed to? How many digital magazines do you read? Try to reduce that number slowly by unsubscribing to the ones you rarely read or just skip over. Having a lighter inbox helps the feeling of moving forward, and allows you to focus on what’s really essential.
4. Read less (or no) news
Most news sources add noise inside our brain, increase our addiction to “drama,” and divert our thinking process from action and deliverables. Unless you are part of the solution and need information, most news channels in the world of today are self-medication for a brain addicted to a constant feeding of “drama, conflict, fear and entertainment.” By reducing news intake, you will find you won’t miss anything (word-of-mouth spreads the big stories), and you will live your life with less anxiety and more joy.
5. Eat more raw and organic food
Once food is cooked over 58°C it loses most of its vital energy. Even if the vitamin and mineral content stays the same, the life force in raw food, like raw veggies and fruits, is what our body knows and needs. Organic food also contains little to no chemicals, pesticides, fungicides, hormones or GMOs. Make sure you have uncooked and organic food daily to give this vital energy to your body.
6. Un-crowd your space
Clarity of mind is gained by clearing out stuff in the places we work and live. So clean your desk, your office, your living room and your bedroom. Get rid of items you haven’t used in a while. My rule? If I have not used something for one year, and if that object does not bring something really meaningful to my life, I get rid of it (donate it to charity or sell it). Try one object a day, and within a few months you will leave in a very new, peaceful, recharging environment.
7. Walk in nature
Nowadays, there is a pathology called Nature Deficit Disorder (lack of contact with Nature). This separation is proven to lead to increased anxiety, depression, diabetes, cholesterol and fatigue. We are part of Nature, but we often forget our link with it. We need to connect at least weekly with nature, ideally in wild places (parks are good but often not enough). In fact, we need direct contact, physically. So walk barefoot when you can, hug a tree or buy a connecting mat or bed sheet!
8. Create a sanctuary
Sanctuaries, places that are safe, quiet, still and unchanging, have always been part of human history – from life in caves 50,000 years ago to much more recent history. Sanctuaries help us reconnect with our true nature and are pillars in a constantly changing world. So make a place in your home special. Use a quiet corner of a room, ideally your bedroom, and place photos and objects there that are meaningful to you (spiritual or not). Keep that place clean, add a small, live plant, and care for that little place at home. Burn incense regularly (Sandalwood raw powder is ideal).
9. Plan a time for you only
In each 148 hour week, how many hours do you book in your agenda just for you? Time where you can sit, rest (awake) in your body, breathe slowly and still your mind. It can be at home, in a park or even at the office if you can find a closed room just for yourself. In today’s busy world, it is essential to schedule this time daily – or weekly if you feel daily is too much. Make it something you look forward to, a date with yourself!
10. Meditate daily
Practicing daily meditation, even for 5 minutes, is proven to increase brain performance, focus and work efficiency, and also to reduce stress, the need for sleep and even heart pressure and cholesterol. So make it a routine, like brushing your teeth, and take it easy when you start. More tips here.
11. Take time to wonder
Our right brain is our creative brain. Our left brain is where logical processes happen. In today’s world, we overpower one side of our brain and, as a result, we are (and feel) unbalanced. Create time when you can wonder. Try going to see an art exhibition, listen to an inspiring talk or go to the planetarium watch the stars! This will allow your logical brain to rest and give you a break!
12. Have a creative activity
It is said that all the new thoughts and all the new ideas and inventions in the world came to life during wondering and creative time. You know the story of Isaac Newton, who saw the apple fall in front of him as he was resting under a tree in his parents’ garden. Einstein often talked about it. So make sure you have a time when you look for inspiration and have a creative outlet for this inspiration.
Meaning read a good book, not the news. From fiction to biography, when we read we pace our brain to a constant speed and we disconnect from the world around us, while we activate our right brain. It’s good for focus and also very enjoyable!
In today’s saturated world of information, many studies are showing that people know less and less as they replace knowledge with Google. In fact, studies now show that by using Google and similar services we are weakening our brain’s capacity for analysis – hurting our ability to make better decisions at work and in life. So instead of flying through millions of “interesting” ideas and subjects, pick one or two you are really passionate about, dive in, study them on your own (or online or in a class), write notes about them and share them with the world.
15. Grow your own food
Even in the smallest apartment you can grow your own food – from fresh herbs to spices to mini-vegetables and even salads. There are amazing window-farm concepts or you can simply do it yourself. This is part of the essential act of reconnecting with Nature. If you have a balcony, a rooftop or a garden, then go wild and grow tomatoes, green beans or cucumbers. I promise they will taste better than anything you've had before.
16. Make dinner for friends
Cooking for others is an act of giving and allows you to share a beautiful experience. The connection you make while doing so will be much greater than if you went out to a restaurant together. Long term social interaction and meaningful connections in trusted communities are proven today to be one of the main elements of longevity. So make this a ritual and organize a dinner once a month with friends.
17. Sell your TV
We do not need passive entertainment or more anxiety from “breaking news” channels. So, as a simple piece of advice, sell your TV or cancel your cable. If there is a movie you want to see, or a series you love, you can always watch it or stream it online, but do it on your schedule, not at the time imposed on you, and not with the risk to start zapping around.
18. Buy less stuff
I have been trying not to buy clothes for a year unless I really need something I do not have. But start by reducing what you buy: find out if you can borrow, swap, or buy second hand. This is not only good for your wallet, it will help un-clutter your wardrobe, make you feel happier (check this article) and also help the environment.
19. Be Present
One of the biggest problems of our day is that we are constantly living in the future – worrying about it or expecting things – and also ruminating on the past and what happened. We are less and less living in the present. Observe your thoughts and you will see that very few of them have to do with just being present. This drastically reduces our capacity for focus and productivity. So deliberately focus on the present. If you walk in the street, focus on your walk, the physical sensation of your feet on the ground. If you listen to someone, do not let your brain drift into analyzing and preparing your answer, just focus on the words you hear.
20. Give your time
We all have skills we can share. And by giving them away for free, we invite compassion and a profound feeling of happiness and accomplishment into our life. So find a local charity, go to the local soup kitchen or participate in local associations in your neighborhood or city. The disabled, elderly, impoverished and young can all use your help, even for a few hours every month.
21. Write a journal
When we write down our thoughts and feelings, we create a unique space for growth. Even if we never go back to read those thoughts, implementing the practice instills a new quality into your thought process at work and at home. I like to write in the evening before going to bed as I look back on the day. Writing also slows down your mind and allows you to reconnect with yourself.
22. Give your hand
Once a day, give your hand to someone who needs help crossing the street, climbing a staircase, or just walking into the subway. By creating a random act of kindness, random physical human contact, we stay in touch with our true nature – helping others. In our busy life, taking that one minute will make all the difference in the lives of others – and in yours.
I know some of you do not believe in God but it’s not necessary to Pray! You can make your prayer a good thought of Love for someone close to you: your parents, your kids, your friends or someone who is suffering or needs help. The act of taking the time to pray – to allow pause in our day, to make a meaningful loving and caring statement in our mind – is one of the most compassionate gifts you can give another human being in the privacy of your mind.
24. Schedule time for social media
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… we are all often addicted! I find it hard to follow advice that says spend only X hours per day on this. The most efficient way to reduce social media time is to set time for it. Like twice daily. Make sure it’s far from wake-up time and bed time (at least one hour away). You can’t wait the whole day? Then make it 3 times a day, but stick to it, and try twice a day on weekends!
25. Clean your inbox
This is an extension of de-cluttering your space. An overloaded inbox – with that message we are keeping on the side to answer later, that has been sitting there for 3 weeks – does that remind you of something? ;) So make the decision to clean your inbox weekly before the weekend. You can also use a great new tool/app like “Mailbox” on the iPhone to help you do this.
So that's the end of Part I, Read Part II NOW here. Did you like this post? Share it on Twitter & Facebook. And tell me which practices you do and whether you read here or not!
Remember to travel with your Heart.