In James Altucher’s entertaining book How to be the Luckiest Person Alive, he suggests a daily practice which he claims will dramatically improve your life:
- Physical – exercise enough to break a sweat for 10 minutes (probably 20-30 minutes of movement a day in total) – he also says it’s essential to sleep for 8 hours (9pm-5am), and suggests no eating after 5:30pm
- Emotional – cut people out of your life who drag you down, and always be honest (without being hurtful).
- Mental – exercise the idea muscle – come up with a list of ideas every day
- Spiritual – at least one of the following: pray, meditate, practice gratitude, practice forgiveness, study spiritual texts.
Altucher says that any time he feels things are going downhill in his life, it’s because he let this practice slip.
I agree with most of what he suggests, but of course we all have our own priorities. So here is my own list of things that help me ‘refresh my mindset’ in the hope that you’ll also find it useful.
It’s all incredibly obvious stuff of course, but we all need a reminder now and again, including myself!
1. Focus on Positivity
Being positive doesn’t come naturally to everyone but it’s the one thing all successful creative people have in common so it’s worth working at it every day and making sure you don’t default to negative thinking.
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Read/watch/listen to something inspirational each day, e.g. a chapter of a book, podcasts, audio books
- Keep a note of when you use negative or critical self-talk and try to replace it with less distorted thoughts (see the book ‘Self-Esteem‘ for more info)
- Focus on goals
- Dream big
2. Exert yourself physically
Creative thinking doesn’t come from sitting around forcing out good ideas. Most of our thoughts are habitual and circular and keep us stuck in a rut.
Creativity comes from energy, movement and action. So get out there and break a sweat and your day will be 10 times more productive and positive.
- Martial arts
- Etc. Even 20 minutes is better than nothing!
3. Prioritise creativity
Yes it seems obvious, but if you’re not clear-minded that doesn’t make it any easier to actually implement. You have to make a firm decision and commit to practicing your art each day, even if only for 20 minutes.
Not to do so is a crime against your own potential and the surest way never to achieve any creative success. At least so they tell me!
- Complete daily practice, preferably first thing in the morning – 500 words, a photo a day, drawing, painting, play a musical instrument
- Learn one small thing per day & improve your skills
- Progress one small step on a current project and keep momentum going
- Create/pursue new opportunities.
This is one tip where I find it hard to prove I’m ‘practicing what I preach’, as although I do write something most days it is not always something ‘publishable’ and sometimes it is for clients. I also take photos regularly but not every single day. So I need to focus on finding something small that I can do consistently.
4. Eat healthily
What you eat has a direct affect on your mental state and energy levels. I personally have a sweet tooth and I enjoy good grub and fine wine as much as the next man (what do you mean the next man is obese!) but I much prefer feeling light and energetic to feeling bloated and sluggish.
I’m not suggesting you make life a misery by starving yourself or falling for the latest fad diet. But it’s worth a little extra effort to eat a varied selection of fresh and wholesome food. Even small changes in the right direction will have a beneficial impact on your mental and physical health.
- Fresh foods
- Varied diet
- Healthy snacks – don’t starve yourself!
- Treat yourself to an indulgent pleasure now and again. Being miserable isn’t healthy either!
5. Connect with humanity
Most of us encounter plenty of other people throughout the course of the day but are we actually connecting with most of them in any deep and meaningful manner?
Even with our loved ones we are often too busy and distracted to really show them how much we care. But all it takes is a bit of extra awareness to improve our existing relationships and make exciting new connections.
This is something else I definitely need to get better at, and the only way to improve at something is to make a conscious effort.
- Get back in touch with family and friends
- Let loved ones know you care
- Thank people for their kindness and support
- Treat everyone with respect
- Make new friends
- Help & support people whenever you can.
6. Appreciate nature’s majesty
Connecting with nature has a grounding effect that’s essential for peace of mind and wellbeing.
I’m no scientist but I think it’s fair to say that the wondrous nature of our very existence is worth acknowledging and celebrating at least once a day.
I’m lucky enough to live near the shore which is great for running and walking. But even if you’re landlocked and live/work bang in the middle of a big city or suburban sprawl, surely you can find a nearby park where you can feed the ducks at lunchtime, or a tree you can hug. Or at least glance at.
- Go for a walk in nature
- Look up at the stars
- Pay attention to the sunrise and sunset
- Take a deep breath
- Look for wild creatures
- Drink a fresh glass of water or eat fresh fruit and vegetables
- Take your dog for a walk
- Play with your cat when it has its mad half hour
- Take photos or film a video (it’s a good excuse to get out and about and involves creativity).
7. Rest and relax sufficiently
I’ve been experimenting recently with shutting off the internet between 9pm and 9am. It’s amazing how much more I achieve when I don’t have email, Facebook, Twitter etc to default to.
As a result, I’m also getting back into my daily meditation practice and it can make the world of difference to my day.
- Turn off technology (computers/TV etc) and give your mind a rest
- Get enough sleep (easier said than done, I know as I sometimes suffer from insomnia)
- Spend time with friends and relax
- Listen to music
- Read fiction
- Take a nap
8. Practice frugality (and minimalism in moderation!)
Tons of stuff everywhere, mounting debts and debating whether to spend your entire paycheque on an XBone or PS4 are not conducive to a calm state of mind.
I’m not trying to be a killjoy but unless you’re absolutely loaded, spending more of your hard-earned money for a short term consumerist buzz that will end up in inevitable disappointment (although the PS4 does look quite good) will not bring you peace of mind – it will have the opposite effect.
Plus the more cash you can save the more financial independence you have, which will allow you to have much more choice in the future if you want to make changes to your life.
Remember, you don’t have to cut down your belongings to 100 things or live in a treehouse in order to live a simpler, less chaotic life.
- Declutter 10 things a day
- Don’t buy anything you don’t need!
- Walk instead of catching the bus or driving, get the bus instead of a taxi
- Look for simple pleasures that don’t cost as much
- Start reducing debt
- Start saving and building a freedom fund
- Don’t drink as much – you’d be amazed how much you’ll save.
A final word on habits
The important thing to remember if we are trying to establish new habits (or re-establish ones we’ve let slip) is
- Don’t try to do too much at once
- Be consistent
That’s why you’ll get much better results if you choose just 3 of the suggestions above and then practice each of them for only 5 or 10 minutes per day for the next month, until you’re happy that you’ve established them as a consistent habit. Or you could start even smaller as advised by BJ Fogg of Stanford University (see his Tiny Habits course for more info).
In order to track your progress, keep a record on your calendar or diary each day and try not to miss any days.
Do you have any tips for useful habits or practices that help you stay positive and productive? Or do any of the ones mentioned above stand out as something you want to try?
Leave a comment about your experiences and if you are ready to commit to any positive new habits let me know.