We know we would be better off if we slept for eight hours every night. And did yoga five days a week. And ate kale and ran marathons and kept a gratitude journal and shopped at the farmer's market and learned to play the viola. But we all don't. Every one of these things would require a huge lifestyle shift. Well, maybe not kale, but the point is that committing to too much change at one time is a recipe for failure.
So where to start? Here are three of the most common pieces of "live better" advice, and ways to make some serious progress without feeling too overwhelmed to continue or turning your life upside down:
Get enough sleep. Yes. Sleep deprivation ruins health, diminishes competence and leaves us feeling unhappy. Commit to getting your full seven to nine hours every other night. While consistency is ideal, many of the worst effects of inadequate sleep are associated with compounding deprivation over the course of several nights. If you absolutely have to work late Monday, don't do it again Tuesday. If you find yourself out until bar time on Friday, lay low Saturday.
Unplug and recharge. The pros of unplugging sound great, but we use our smart phones for everything. Not to mention the fact that we can no longer focus, navigate or remember anything without the aid of an electronic device. Baby steps. Even if you can't bear to unplug during the day, don't keep your phone in arm's reach while you sleep. Having a smart phone on the nightstand is associated with poorer sleep and insomnia. If you use your phone as an alarm clock put it across the room from your bed. This has the added bonus of forcing you to get out of bed when it goes off.
Find time to pursue your hobbies. “Flow” is a term psychologists use to describe a state of invigorated concentration experienced while pursuing an enjoyable activity. Playing an instrument is a classic example, but for the utterly talentless among us there are some more attainable alternatives. While "drinking" or “napping” may not count as a flow activity, thought-provoking discussions where you lose track of time certainly do. Even if these conversations take place in bars. While channel surfing is mentally discombobulating, various kinds of media consumption (some movies, most video games) can produce a sense of flow, provided the content is sufficiently stimulating.