Updated: Sep 1, 2019
Here is the second part of the blog post "50 tips to be a better leader and have a happy life". If you missed Part I, you can read it here. So practice these tips and get high on life!
26. Reduce your number of Apps
Until six months ago I had over 450 apps on my iPhone and iPad (I have since sold my iPad), and thought I needed all of them. I had a hard time cleaning them out. So I started by removing at least one daily. Today I have less than 100, and I continue to remove one weekly. (And, yes, I added a few along the way too; goal is not to get to zero, but to clear the space.)
27. No electronics one hour before bed
The bedroom is a sacred space. It is a place designed to allow us to do only one thing: SLEEP & RECOVER. So not only should this room be as empty as possible, but anything that distracts from sleeping should be disallowed there. Don’t use electronics in your bedroom, and turn all devices off at least one hour before going to bed – this sends a signal to your brain to start winding down. The quality of your sleep will increase drastically.
28. Say a prayer or a thank you when you wake up
This is one of my favorite daily practices. When you wake up, as you take your feet off the bed and put them on the ground, have a meaningful thought for the day. You can make it very personal – appreciation for health, your home, a life partner – or direct it towards others – maybe a close family member, a friend or really anyone else. Starting the day with an uplifting thought, a smile, and a thank you, will shift your energy in a very meaningful way.
29. Meet up with an old friend
As the world is getting more and more connected via social media, making it easier to “stay in touch” with family and friends, we have stopped taking the time to properly connect one-on-one. So think about someone you really like and haven’t seen in a while and call him/her to schedule a face-to-face meeting. Reconnecting regularly with the people who are meaningful in our lives is essential in building a happy mental state over time.
30. Buy food for the homeless
You probably know these numbers: 30% of children in America don’t have enough food, over 600,000 people are homeless (with 46 million living in poverty), and the number is growing. On the other side, food waste is close to 50% in a developed country like America. So whenever you go grocery shopping, add one item to give away to someone homeless. This will hardly impact your budget and, by giving it away right after you exit the store, you will change the feeling that you have spent money. You can also always “doggy bag” your food at a restaurant or, in the morning, pack what’s in your fridge that might go bad in the coming days. You might not use this food, but you can save it from going to waste by giving it away.
More and more studies are showing that we can keep a young brain and spirit by continuing to play like children do, as adults. This creates long term happiness by establishing deeper social interactions with friends. So go with your desires here – from climbing trees to chess playing! It’s also a great way to build team spirit at work (organize table tennis or bowling competitions).
32. Don’t answer when you disagree
This is a difficult practice. When someone says something and you have a different opinion, keep it for yourself and observe the physical sensation inside you that urges you to speak. It can range from itching to a burn in the chest. As you observe it, focus on smiling and having caring and loving thoughts for that person. Why do this? The true state of inner peace and happiness is reached only when the Ego dissolves and is replaced by true endless compassion. This practice is one of the best for taming our Ego mind. You can also always bring up the subject later to give your opinion.
33. Make a donation
This can vary a lot depending on your income and resources. In the Torah, it is said that you need to give at least 15% of your income to charitable causes. This can be applied to a company also. Aside from helping others in need, there is a very powerful reward for the act of giving. Giving part of what you earned from hard work will give you a profound sense of accomplishment and purpose in your life.
A child smiles over 400 times a day, and an adult 20 times a day, on average. What a drastic drop! Smiling is the physical sign of acceptance and triggers inside our brain and body the release of very beneficial endorphins (our body’s natural “happy drug”). Smiling also has a direct effect on our reactions and how we talk; by meaningfully trying to smile more, we are in fact re-wiring our neuronal system with “happy patterns.” It’s like micro-surgery, all free and performed on yourself! Still not convince? Watch this awesome TED talk about the hidden power of smiling.
Physical human contact has been shown to reduce anxiety by 20 t0 30%. But more surprisingly, when you receive or give a hug, your heartbeat settles, your blood tension stabilizes, and countless beneficial bio-chemical reactions are triggered inside your body. So hug more, hug people and hug trees, and for the brave, you can join the “free hug” movement.
Not forgiving is like creating your own jail. You build a mental frame to push someone away, yet it is you who will suffer the most (by thinking about it over and over again!). Nobody is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, and recognizing that we are not better than someone else is a step towards true compassion. The only way out of suffering from the behavior of others, the only liberation, is to forgive. Remember also that true forgiveness is not a mental concept, but comes first and foremost from your heart.
37. Be mindful
Mindfulness is a form of being fully present for what we do. For example, as we eat, we focus on the physical sensation, the sound, the smell, the taste, where this food came from, who grew it, etc. The brain has a tendency to jump in the future or think about the past, but by being mindful we train our brain to be just present. It’s a very powerful tool to remove anxiety.
Most adults today breathe dysfunctionally, from the upper chest. As we become stressed, our back gets tense, our shoulders shrink in, and our breathing is hindered. Good breathing starts in the abdomen and is supplemented by the upper back at the end of the inhale. So take a pause every hour or two just to do a few (5 to 10) mindful abdominal breaths. You can set a little reminder on your computer or use an app for this.
The definition of surrender is “Cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.” What we mean by surrender here is to practice acceptance of things we cannot change. This is deeply anchored in the Muslim religion, for example. We consume lot of energy every day by being upset or fighting “what is.” From being stuck in traffic, to waiting in line for our coffee to being upset at an unexpected outcome. Practicing “surrendering” is a very powerful tool to get your energy and focus on the things which matter and which you can change.
40. Cultivate Silence
I have written a whole post about it here. The more we buzz, the more we have unanswered questions, the more we try to make perfect decisions (at work or at home), the more it is imperative to cultivate moments of total silence. It is from the Silence that true guidance arises.
41. Say, "I Love You"
From your loved ones, to your friends, to your neighbors, to your dog, remember to always say “I love you,” but never forget to extend this to yourself as well. In some ancient teaching, one of the practices given by masters was to start the day by looking in the mirror and saying, “I love you,” then looking yourself deeply in the eyes and observing the reaction. Try it, I have always found this very difficult…
42. Meet your neighbor
Before Internet, TV and the rise of technology we would spend a lot more time building social interactions with our neighbors. Basically, we needed others' help more for daily tasks (like manual labor). Today, though we are facing global problems and need to solve them together. Cultivating relationships with your neighbors is a great step towards knowing each other better and building strong communities.
43. Develop and cherish traditions
Traditions connect us more deeply to our origins, family, ancestors. They signal acceptance that there are things that we are the guardians of, and that we will pass down to our children. In that respect they give us meaning, roots and an anchor in a rapidly changing world. As long as they are good and resonate inside you, make sure you cherish and transmit them.
44. Call your parents or a close relative
As family tends not to live as close together as in the past, we need to create more interaction, even if it is over the phone. So call your parents, or your brother or sister, and make it something important and regular – even if your relationship with them is not as great as you would like it to be.
45. Find your Guru, your teacher, your mentor
There is a great saying in traditional teaching: “Whenever the student is ready, the Guru will appear.” In fact, everyone we meet around us gives us an opportunity to learn something. (I talked about this in a previous post.) One good practice is to recognize that there are things you need to learn and ask that a teacher or mentor be sent to you. If you walk with that thought, soon someone will appear in your life to play that role – as long as you can recognize him…
46. Practice Yoga
Why Yoga and not anothe sports? Because Yoga is not a sport – it is a relaxation practice that is more than 5,000 years old. It will release any energy blocked in your body, will facilitate focus, reduce anxiety, help your meditation practice and keep your body joints soft while slowing down aging. So it’s for everyone, especially busy workers or as a complement to any sports practice!
By traveling we keep ourselves in a state of curiosity, wonder and excitement. Encountering different cultures, sleeping in a different bed, eating a different food, challenging our belief system – these all help power the engine for creativity and leadership.
48. Sleep under the stars
I talked about this in a recent post; it’s one of my favorite activities. If you have never done this, take advantage of the warm summer nights. I believe sleeping under the stars connects us back to what we have done for tens of thousands of years, explaining why it is such an uplifting and joyful activity.
49. Watch the sunrise
Easy if you slept under the stars. But also something you can practice even in a big city. Check the time of sunrise and set your alarm for 30 minutes before. Get up, get ready, and go out to a good spot where you can see the first rays. It’s a good place and moment to practice a morning meditation, even for only 10 minutes.
50. Get massages
Any emotions or past mental trauma is stored in our body as physical tension. The practice of relaxation is often not enough to release the tensions in our bodies. So getting regular massages supports any mental relaxation practice. Also, as we spend countless hours on our computers and smart phones, head, shoulder and hand massages are becoming almost mandatory if we do not want to block our main energy meridians.
I hope some of these practices will soon be part of your daily routine. Make it fun! Make it a pleasurable activity and not an “I have to do it.” Soon you will see a profound shift in your work productivity, quality of sleep, level of anxiety, and overall level of happiness.
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Be well, and remember to travel with your Heart.