We all desire to live our best possible lives but some fall short of this; or rather, they become stuck and unsure how to do so. Others are caught up in the entanglement of chasing the next goal, the next checklist, the next you name it (be it status, money, accomplishments etc). I fall into the latter in the sense I am paralyzed by the fear of monotonous and not really living life. I constantly feel compelled to make sure I am “living” by making memories, crossing off checklists and bucket lists, having an impact in my personal/ professional life etc etc. I’m drawn to reading memoirs and biographies, often enamored by what makes the individual who they are i.e. their success, their outlook etc. I enjoy reading self development and advice pieces, taking notes of these profound strategies and habits.
Recently while adding to my list of “making the most out of life” notes, it dawned on me that I should create a compilation of my own habits, life advice, tips and tricks. I’m no guru or motivational speaker, and by no means am I anyone “special” to want to emulate, but I do want to put in writing some things I feel would be of value to share with others.
But first, here’s a little more about me. I am a radiation therapist, personal trainer, cancer exercise specialist, holistic nutritionist, blogger and world traveler (65 countries to date). It’s difficult to share all this without sounding like I lack the humble gene, but I believe it is relevant to context. I completed 3 degrees at University of Toronto over the span of 9 years, while working. I’ve also completed 20 courses and certifications in fitness and nutrition. To manage to do all these things, I’ve had to learn a few things along the way, some of which was learned the hard way.
My biggest fear in life is not living. I am constantly making lists. As a minimalist, I value experiences over possessions. I also value education and self development over shopping and beauty expenses. Sometimes I become too fixated on “living” that I struggle with slowing down or the concept of doing nothing (the global pandemic definitely taught me to slow down and live more in the moment with the simple things). A self proclaimed multitasker, I hate wasting time watching shows (I don’t even own a TV), but if I do, then I am usually cleaning or cooking or doing something else. The only time I have learned to sit still is if I am sick or meditating (a massive struggle but something I am working on in an effort to attain stillness of the mind). Point of all this is to essentially say I want to try to get the most out of life and to also be able to give back to the best of my ability. Below are some of my recommendations/habits/advice for living your best possible life.
MOTTO/PHILOSOPHY IN LIFE
- Don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do today
- Don’t just do better, be better
- Life isn’t about finding yourself; it’s about creating yourself
- Anything is possible
- The universe has your back
- Learn to say sorry and to forgive
BEST LIFESTYLE HABITS
- Gratitude Journal
They say it takes 40 days to break a habit. I am a believer in the power of shifting your mindset. The more your focus on the good, the more you see the good. As someone who is a highly sensitive empath, I easily feel the energy of what’s around me and it can impact me negatively. It’s why I can’t watch the news- I literally become overwhelmed with anxiety, guilt etc. I also can easily become consumed in a negative situation, struggling to compartmentalize. We don’t live in a yoga ashram so it’s impossible to only be surrounded by good vibes. Tools like The 5 Minute Journal has been instrumental in helping me at the very least start and finish my day on a positive note.
- Create Lists for everything
I’m a HUGE advocate of lists. I create them for everything and at various time points- daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, lifetime etc. I do them for chores, bucket lists, errands, groceries, people to call/connect with , personal development, activities to do etc. For them to be effective, one has to organize and prioritize and constantly be reviewing. While this may be daunting for many, once you get into the practice, it’s actually simple and makes life feel less overwhelming. It is important to have timelines. I program alerts in my phone calendar as well as utilizing the reminders TO DO LIST app.
- More experiences; Less possessions
Maybe because I’m a minimalist and am constantly giving my stuff away makes me lack appreciation for possessions but I do think that most of us buy more than what we actually need. Cut down on how much you spend on shopping, parting and eating out. Even if you do this for a short period of time, put some of that money towards more meaningful experiences such as travel. In my opinion, travel gives some of the best educational experiences, allows for self growth, you can connect with new people and make unforgettable memories.
- Read more
Even if it’s only 1 chapter a week, try to get into the habit of reading before bed or when you are having some down time. And by reading, I am not referring to gossip sites or social media posts. I also try to avoid screen time an hour before bed. In fact, I don’t even leave any electronic devices in my bedroom (cell phone is left in the on suite bathroom).
HEALTHY LIVING ADVICE
- Consistent Sleep Routine with no naps or coffee
I used to have the mindset (especially when I was working full time and in grad school) that you can sleep when you are dead. For years I averaged 4-5 hours sleep at night in an effort to fit in workouts, time with loved ones, as well as life commitments. I was ALWAYS tired but got by each day on adrenaline. Then one day my body completely shut down. I slept for 30 something hours straight followed by 4 colds in a couple months time span. Once I started prioritizing my sleep, and slept according to MY body needs, which is about 7-7.5 hours a night, I found myself more productive and feeling healthier. In general I am in bed between 10-11pm, and I am a morning person so love to wake up between 6-7:30am. I do not nap. In fact, I hate napping. It makes me groggy. I also do not drink coffee. I get my energy from fresh kale juices, chai tea latte or lemon water.
- Take COLD showers (especially when feeling sick or tired)
I got the idea from Wim Hof, who is known as the Ice man and thereby created the Wim Hof method. Essentially you allow your body to be submerged in freezing cold water (under the shower head, but if you have a tub and have the time/resources to add ice, then great), while focusing on your breathing. It helps regulate the body and works wonders for mindset. I encourage you to research more on this. When I did, it resonated with me as I recalled a time I was feeling sick (Lyme disease) and I dipped my feet in freezing cold water from a waterfall. It was a refreshing shock to my body and I eventually did it for several minutes. I noticed I felt significantly better so there is something effective about this method.
I try to practice this frequently, especially when I am feeling like I am getting sick, or I wake up extremely exhausted. Depending on my mood, I will go back and forth between hot and cold showers, in 30 second intervals.
- Prevention is the cure
Adopting a lifestyle that entails eating whole foods and exercise on a regular basis can be instrumental in overall health and longevity.
- Movement is medicine
Everyday I force myself to move (note this should be distinguished from exercising/working out). It can include walking, biking, stretching, yoga and even dancing!
- Exercise the mind
I frequently do exercises to keep the mind sharp. They range from crossword puzzles, to problem solving challenges to reading academic journals to math. The latter is one I frequently do since I use math a lot at work, and I try to do this while I am commuting or in the shower. For example 2 x 18-4+483-232 etc or I mentally run through a multiplication table.
BEST SELF DEVELOPMENT ADVICE
- Life Coaching/Therapy
For the longest time I believed in “positive toxicity” i.e. things can always be worse etc. So I wouldn’t allow myself to get upset or mourn a loss. Years of pent up emotions were shoved deep within me that one day I exploded and unleashed. I learned the hard way to deal with issues from years before. I found having a life coach/therapist instrumental in this. But even if you can’t afford one, social media and the online world offers so many great resources. And the more your dive into your self development and reflection, the better you become at identifying your “issues”, making it easier to find avenues (books, courses, articles) to help you work through them.
- Watching movies in a foreign language
I love languages and wish I could speak more of them fluently. I speak Spanish, and understand Italian and some Arabic. Every now and then I will watch a Netflix movie in another language with subtitles in English (I do this right before I am travelling to another country too, so I can pick up on some words).
- Write it down
There is some truth to be said about the act of writing. I am not necessarily referring to journalling but I suppose that can be included. In university, one of my tricks for remembering content was to repeatedly write it out on flash cards. I would opt to do this by myself as I would sound out the words as I write them. Trust me in science/medical field this was key to remembering a lot of data!
- Never stop learning
It’s no surprise I love to push myself be it in academics or fitness. I am always chasing the next certification or competition or challenge. Once a year I set out a goal that can range from taking a course or learning a new skill/topic completely unrelated to my profession. It can even include taking up a new activity (or resuming a former one) or hobby. Point is to never stop pushing yourself to do more. We live in a digital world with so much information at our finger tips.
- Practice reflection
This was something I thought was pointless when I encountered it during one of my university patient care courses. Why do I need to have reflective practice to be a better health care practitioner? But throughout my personal development journey, I found this practice to be very effective at improving myself. With every failure or negative experience, I found that taking the time to analyze the situation imperative to “lessons learned”. The idea isn’t to beat yourself to death but to assess the situation and figure out patterns/ways to improve etc. I often take some time after the situation so I’m not emotional or over analyzing, and again pen to paper, I write down what I could have done differently, where I can improve etc. Sometimes I am able to see similarities between situations- when this happens, its what I call my karmic lesson (i.e. the universe giving me the same scenario over and over again until I learn).
THINGS I WISHED I STARTED SOONER :
Although I somewhat believe that nothing happens before it’s time, IF I could turn back the clock, I would do the following sooner:
- Use SPF on my face everyday
- Floss every night before bed
- Get routine facials (skin care prevention). In general I wish I took better care of my skin and hair before I hit mid 30s.
- Workout and Nutrition program in my 20s under the guidance of a coach (to see my full body’s potential pre injuries)
- Investments or savings plan
- More adventures/experiences in university instead of solely focusing on studying/working (I missed out on a lot of opportunities to try new things and connect with more people)
- iPad Mini (I use it to borrow book from the Public library, stream movies, etc)
- LASIK eye surgery
- Electronic toothbrush
- Castor oil (works wonders for skin and hair)
- SWELL Water Bottle
- Fanny pack (this has been a lifesaver on my shoulders and arms especially while walking/biking/carrying groceries)