Imagine I told you that you can change your life for the better and in order to do that you have to not do something. That's right you have to not do something.
It feels to me as if the pressure (the often subtle pressure, to do more [stuff] to somehow make our lives more fulfilling has been growing. The relentless onslaught of social media 'influencers' showing us how we should be eating, exercising and dressing being just one of the facets of this. Another is the growth of the self-help book, teaching us where we have been going wrong.
[Irony alert, get ready for some advice, or more accurately I'll tell you what I do]
If you were to consume all of this online content, you'd find that the day does not contain enough hours, and more importantly, having this complicated set of life rules won't make your life more complete, you'll just feel like you are not able to complete these tasks and therefore that ideal life is always out of reach.
For me, the problem is that the focus is always on what you must do, the schedule, the process. Real life ™ doesn't work like this. Instead, I find it much easier to focus on not doing things, its surprisingly easy to do and moves the focus from activity to inactivity, which makes it a default, I'm setting my defaults to off.
'Less is more' is my favourite phrase and I try to centre myself around it whenever I am feeling overwhelmed. Here follows some of the things I try not to do, meaning I don't have to 'do' things to counterbalance them:
1. Don't eat/drink rubbish.
[Perhaps people reading this will say "well, yeah, of course", but the point is, make it your default not the exception.]
By rubbish I mean high calorie, low nutrient food. This isn't abstinence from tasty foods, I still have the occasional biscuit, ice-cream and beer, but overall my default is not eating this. I read Tim Ferris's "The 4-hour body" which promotes a high protein, low carb diet. Personally I have found it really effective, I have more energy (which is possibly the most powerful effect for any adult) and feel satiated (full up) most of the time.
2. Don't speak negatively of other people
You have to put effort into not putting others down, or criticising overly. There will always be a place for truth, but this is about taking negativity out of your life. The long term effects are wonderful. Accept that other people live by different rules. By all means create, edit and curate your internal list of enemies, but don't speak publicly or privately about them. It solves no problems and makes you bitter.
3. Don't focus on getting more, focus on being content with less
Granted this is hilariously hippy and generic, but the crux is that, in attempting to get more of anything you are directly and inversely reducing your happiness. That is not to say you should not have goals, and you should not strive to achieve them, nor is it to say that wanting a new watch/tv is inherently bad, its more about realising that more does not mean more happiness.
4. Don't let other people determine the way you feel about yourself
Weirdly, this is one that has come naturally to me, not sure why, but I am always aware of the power of its effects. Its virtually a superpower, not worrying about what others do or say to you (of course, with all things, this has limits) that makes you feel negative. The only power people have is the power you give them, having such high respect for yourself and knowing that others cannot control you with their mean-spiritedness or otherwise is incredibly powerful and makes you resilient to becoming world weary.
5. Don't let guilt drive your decisions
I think many of us, subconsciously, do this. We make a mistake or feel affected by a situation of another person and it creates a feeling of guilt, perhaps we feel guilty that we did not suffer the fate of another, or perhaps we are trying to make up for something we did wrong. In all cases, making decisions driven by guilt rarely ends up with us in a better situation that before. Of course, this does not include, say, apologising to someone you may have wronged, but more over the decisions you make when you play things over and over in your mind.
This post took me many weeks to write, and several redrafts and honestly, its not the best, but sometimes you got to finish what you started.