Neuroscientists have proven that repetition improves learning. According to the multiple trace theory, finding at least one trace of an event becomes easier when there are more traces of that event in memory. With that premise in mind, this post is a consolidated summary of a few articles published earlier this year— a wellness recap on productivity (do well), self-improvement (be well), and happiness (feel well).
(Note: I have linked the long-form articles in each area if you'd like to revisit or take a deeper dive.)
Wellness Recap: Do Well
Twenty-four hours a day (168 a week) is plenty of time. The difference between a day well-spent and a day you rue depends heavily on how you use those twenty-four hours.
Doing well is more than just managing your time. Knowing what to do and when to let go, learning something new every day, challenging yourself, and getting better at what you do are all equally important aspects of wellness.
Here are a few ways to improve your wellness by doing.
Define your Ideal day
Life is too short for us to do things we don't like, obtain items that aren't useful, or please people that don't matter. Defining, with intention, what your ideal day would look like (within the constraints of being a functioning member of society) is the first step to actually living out an ideal life. After all, how you live your days is how you live your life.
You may already be doing work that fills you with happiness and joy. Good for you. Or, you may be in an unenviable position where your day isn't really yours but is actually run by other peoples' priorities.
Defining your ideal day will motivate you to align your activities towards meeting your priorities.
If you retire tomorrow and all you can think of is alphabetizing your spice rack or arranging your shoes by heel sizes, then life may soon turn out to be like a can of canned cabbage soup—bland.
So, work on defining your ideal day now, and then start aligning your dream lifestyle to your current one.
Lifelong learning is the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge. Learning something new keeps us cognitively sharp, makes us interesting, boosts our self-confidence, and makes us want to get out of bed and embrace the day.
But more than anything else, learning keeps us grounded and humble by helping us realize how little we actually know.
Self-learning sounds like fun in theory but can be frustrating in practice. Thankfully, autodidacts have made it easy for us. They've figured out clever ways we could learn all sorts of things. All we need to do is copy their methods.
Do Hard Things
It is tempting to keep reaching for the low-hanging fruit or revel in quick wins, but true fulfillment only comes when you challenge yourself.
If you choose to do only easy things, your life will, at best, be mediocre. Surely, you didn't wake up today to be mediocre. Learn how to do hard things.
By default, unless there are genuinely good reasons, we tend not to deviate from the path of least resistance. Even when we seem to go over and above the bare minimum, like squirrels saving acorns for a cold winter, or a couple eschewing a fancy car in favor of saving for their retirement, our actions are motivated by our natural tendency to minimize overall effort in life.
Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Mark Twain
Get 1% better constantly
Thanks to the power of compounding gains, when you make tiny improvements to the parts, you'll end up with a whole that is more than the sum of the parts.
All popular habit-building literature point to the power of micro-improvements, aka tiny habit changes.
Your chances of success are much better and less overwhelming when you focus on getting 1% better at everything you do instead of making massive changes.
You don't have to get a whole lot better at what you do. You only have to do things that will make you 1% better. Compounding will take care of the rest.
Know when to cut your losses
We've all been schooled on how not to throw good money after bad. Yet, we do it. We continue to sink in perfectly good time and resources into ventures that aren't working for us, hoping for miracles to occur.
Life is too short to spend your days hoping for miraculous turnarounds that you know aren't coming.
Staying in dead-end jobs or relationships just because you've already wasted too much time on it isn't a testament to your perseverance or willpower. Instead, it is a reflection of your inability to cut your losses.
It is the sunk-cost fallacy—our tendency to continue an endeavor or behavior simply because we previously invested resources (money, effort, or time) into it.
The best poker players in the world are the ones who know not just when to hold 'em but when to fold 'em. Knowing when to cut our losses is worth learning because quitting can sometimes be more challenging than staying put.
Manage your time
There is significant disparity across the population for most resources—health, relationships, wealth, fortune, etc. Some people seem to be abundantly blessed, while others aren't. However, there is one resource that doesn't discriminate. Time. It is the most equitable resource distribution in the world. However, what isn't fixed is how everyone manages their allotted time.
When you manage your time well, you are, in effect, choosing to spend time on things that matter while letting go of stuff that's irrelevant. To you.
There are many techniques and tools to manage your time—this article lists five of the most practical and proven methods.
Wellness Recap: Be Well
Every one of us is a work in progress with endless opportunities to better ourselves daily. Finding how to become mentally tough and broad-minded, acknowledging our cognitive fallacies, and dropping our resistance to change are small steps to self-improvement. The payoff is enormous—inner peace.
Become mentally tough
The voices in our heads keep telling us to back off when we're about to exert ourselves in challenging situations. They try to convince us that what we've done is good enough and that there's no point pursuing the good. It exemplifies evolution's desire to keep us comfortable (and alive).
Thanks to these prematurely self-reassuring voices in our head, we falter on our diets, compromise on our workouts, and settle in our jobs when clearly, we are capable of more.
To build mental toughness, we must condition our minds the same way we prepare our bodies to take on physical challenges.
Keep an open mind
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident—German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer.
Keeping an open mind means being open to the possibility of change in our opinions, perceptions, and beliefs. It means learning to break a mold you may have carefully constructed all your life. It can be jarring and may even result in an existential crisis.
But the truth, as they say, will set you free, even if it takes a little while.
Are you waiting for permission?
Without realizing it, we put our most vivid dreams on the back burner because we wait for permission that may never come.
It would be nice to have other people bet on you. And, if they don't, it's disappointing but
understandable. But, to not bet on yourself? That would be a travesty. Life's too short for that.
Ask yourself, "What if I could …?" (fill in the blanks as you wish). Then reflect on why you haven't. Are you simply waiting for someone to give you permission?
Don't fall victim to the zero-sum fallacy
We believe that our progress or success in life can only come at the expense of someone else's growth. This "my gain is your loss" concept is a fallacy and can be detrimental to our happiness and well-being.
Zero-sum thinking can lead us to act irrationally and create unnecessary insecurities and jealousy, making us less trustworthy of others. It encourages competition and dissuades cooperation. We start hoarding resources instead of sharing them.
And more often than not, zero-sum thinking leads to poor, regrettable decisions and avoidable interpersonal conflicts. It makes us less-nice humans. And by no means can we call that evolutionary progress.
The pie is not fixed. It can be as large or small as you want it to be.
There are few things in life we universally detest. Change is one of them.
As we get older, our resistance to change seems only to increase. We become stubborn and resistant, throwing toddler-like tantrums whenever life deviates in any way from how it's "supposed" to be.
Cocooning ourselves in our comfort zones and living our lives on repeat only makes us resist harder when we're confronted with unforeseen change(s). And resistance gets us nowhere.
While change is inevitable, our resistance need not be.
The best way to adapt to change is to learn how to live in the moment, in the breath—the here and now. That's all there is. Everything else is imaginary.
Choose your worries wisely
Some of us just can't help it. We like to worry. About things that matter and things that don't. We feel responsible for world peace but pay for it with inner peace.
Worrying whether your teens turn their assignments in on time or your adult children end up in good, loving relationships are not battles worth losing your inner peace over.
But it doesn't have to be that hard. All you need to do is ask yourself if the circus and the monkeys
you're worrying about are yours.
It doesn't make you less empathetic or less friendly if you stop concerning yourself with all matters of the world. It simply means you make deliberate choices on what to worry about.
Wellness Recap: Feel Well
Happiness is more than just not having to set your alarm to wake up early tomorrow. Learning to say "no" more often, sleeping well every night without waking up in a panic-induced state, and above all, the ability to be content are hallmarks of what it means to feel really well.
Get a grip on your 3 a.m. anxiety
3 a.m. is called the witching hour for a reason. It's when we wake up to worry and nitpick on ourselves even more than we would during the day. Everything, especially problems, seems amplified in the darkness and stillness of the night. Our tendency to catastrophize is at its peak during this time, and so is the feeling of having to battle our problems all alone.
Whether you are just cranky after a night of disturbed sleep, forget to pick up your child from school, or fail to recall that you have a child at all, we can all agree that sleep deprivation can have some serious consequences.
Ideally, we'd find ways to sleep through the night. But failing that, there are strategies we can use to get back to sleep soon after a 3 a.m. awakening. It's a problem worth nipping in the bud.
It's okay to say "No"
We are culturally driven to feel grateful for and say yes to every opportunity
We want to be everywhere doing everything because it's been drilled into our heads that opportunity comes knocking once.
But taking on too much can create its own set of problems. Learning to say "no" more often is a skill that will leave us energized and prepared to say a resounding yes, when the right opportunity comes along.
Contentment is not complacency
Have you ever checked every item on your to-do list, hustled all day, only to feel a sense of disquiet when you go to bed? The feeling that you haven't done enough or could do more and be more can be very disheartening.
You are not alone. Our culture has twisted the definition of contentment to the point where we are afraid to admit we're content for fear of being judged lazy.
The perception is that people say they are content because they need an excuse to sit around and do nothing all day. And that their contentment allows them to mindlessly scroll on their phone for hours on end because, after all, there is nothing else they need to be doing.
But that's not what contentment means. You don't stop learning, growing, or being productive. It just means you do all those things from a place of happiness and comfort rather than from fear or anxiety.
It's okay to admit to being content and not fear complacency.
Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for. Epicurus.