Do you feel like your life needs a makeover? A new set of clothes or a flashy car only go so far when we’re upset, stressed and miserable on the inside. Buying stuff is just a cosmetic fix and they won’t change the quality of our inner lives or how we see and experience our world. We can’t improve our lives by doing the same things that got us where we currently are, let alone keep us there. Luckily, we can greatly improve our lives on the cheap, oftentimes for free.
Here are 5 ways to improve the quality of your life without breaking the bank.
#1 – Eat Better Food
If you’re anxious, stressed and miserable, chances are that you’re eating crap food. The quality of your food will directly impact the quality of your mood. Processed foods and junk foods lack the nutrients our body and mind need to repair themselves, work at optimum energy and health, and maintain themselves. The modern diet is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders and so much more (1). Studies on depression and anxiety are showing that the modern diet of processed foods and refined carbohydrates is impacting not just our physical well-being but also our mental health (2).
We are chemical beings and what we eat and drink will affect our physical health, mental health and emotional health. Want to immediately experience more vitality and more even moods? Drop or limit the sugar, refined carbs, and processed foods for real food – the stuff that nourishes your body and mind with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, live enzymes and so much more. See my articles How to Join the Real Food Revolution and What are Whole Foods?.
You don’t have to go organic and break the bank. You just need to 1) eat real food and 2) avoid the processed crap littering store shelves. You’ll also find that there are plenty of delicious, filling and healthy foods and meals that don’t require slaving away in the kitchen so make the switch to quality food today.
You’ll be shocked at how much better you feel physically, mentally and emotionally just by changing what you eat. And with that renewed vitality and clarity, you’ll be able to live your life with more focus, drive and energy. That’s a game changer in terms of quality of life.
#2 – Meditate
Quality of life is all about perception and our mental and emotional game. Food plays its part in how well our minds and emotions function but we can do a great deal to become happy and at peace individuals. If our internal dialogue is miserable, angry, self-castigating, stuck in past, obsessive over the future, despairing or full of complaints, our quality of life will suffer no matter the outward trappings. You could be a billionaire with everything in the world but if your internal self-talk revolves around pain, grudges, a lack of self-worth, etc., you will still have a poor quality life.
Few people realize we are not our thoughts and emotions. These come and go and you can sit back and watch them as they do so. Better, you can learn to direct and control the flow, change the course and even alter the dialogue. When you do, you find peace and happiness, focus and clarity – all of which means more energy since you aren’t constantly expending it in a state of anxiety, stress and misery. Free of those energy-draining states, you can only soar.
One of the best ways to take our minds from bad roommates constantly causing us pain and misery to welcome guest and best friend is via meditation. Meditation teaches us to watch our thoughts and emotions, see the dialogues at play and their triggers, and either dissipate them or encourage healthier inner speech and emotions.
I used to be a miserable person – constantly berating myself mentally or inwardly complaining about everything – but after practicing meditation, I learned to calm down. Then I learned how to change the dialogue, quiet turbulent emotions, and live in a state of contentment and happiness. People don’t even recognize me anymore since I went from a miserable grouch to a “happy person.” See my article What It Takes to Find Peace.
Happiness and peace are as learn-able as cooking and gardening skills. When you train your mind, reprogram it and your default emotions, you have learned invaluable skills that will change the way you experience life – and for the better! Your quality of life, because your inner life has changed, will really start to flourish as your inner world heals and flourishes.
And really, when you think about it, our inner lives and our inner dialogues toward our world colors so much of how we experience our overall life and how well we enjoy it.
#3 – Turn Off the Television
Whenever you read bucket lists or articles about living your best life, no where is it found the suggestion to “watch more television.” No one on their deathbed ever says “I wish I had watched more movies or all 10 seasons of Friends.” No, they wish they had lived more. Done more. Spent more time with friends and family. Pursued their dreams.
Television is a time and life suck. You are literally trading hours out of your life to watch the stories about other people’s lives and adventures at the expense of your own. You’re not talking with your friends and family, not really, not at any depth even if they happen to be glued to the tube with you. You’re not pursuing your own hobbies and interests. It’s bad enough you’ve just given 8 hours or more to a job that day, now you’re turning your brain over to someone else’s programming.
If we’re doing it to relax and unwind because we’re tired after a long day, that just shows how out of sync we and our society have become with ourselves and the world around us. If we don’t have energy to pursue our own hobbies and dreams on our own limited free time, away from work, and instead switch on a box to watch either make believe or stories about someone else, we’re basically zombies.
Am I saying never watch TV or go to the movies? No. I’m saying be aware of how many hours every day and week you are using in lieu of pursuing other activities that may be more meaningful to you and bring more enjoyment into your life.
#4 – Spend Time With Those You Admire
Relatedly, the people around you will greatly impact your quality of life. If your work colleagues are miserable or your circle of friends or family isn’t supportive or filled with people who inspire your better nature, you don’t have a circle, you have a cage.
There’s an adage about how we are a composite of our five closest friends. These people influence us greatly, help set our values and expectations, and reflect our own perspectives about life. Quality friends are important. Having detractors and naysayers, people who point out flaws or reasons why things won’t work out, will yield a very different personal life than having friends that are sympathetic, encouraging, or problem-solvers. If we’re being with people because we don’t want to be alone, we’re selling ourselves short.
We’re not tied to the people in our lives. Social contracts with family and friends are just that – contracts. Sometimes they expire naturally or become null and void. It doesn’t mean we have to stop loving or wishing people well. It just means that we don’t have to give more of our time or energy than we want to people who tear us down or keep us from being who we want to be. Instead, we can give that time and energy to family and friends who help support us and whom we can be happy supporting in the same way. From that, the quality of our lives improves immeasurably.
#5 – Live Your Life
Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives, wrote down the most common regrets those people held. The top regret of the dying was:
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all,” says Ware. “When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”
If you are dissatisfied with work or the general state of your life, you have to ask why that is and what it is you are wanting from your time here. No one is going to understand our innermost dreams and ideas of the perfect life, let alone grant them. We have to pursue them ourselves. Doing so gives life a richness and fullness that standing on the sidelines never will. If we play it safe, hoping to never experience failure, frustration or risk, we will live stunted lives always wondering about what could have been.
No life is perfect or without setbacks or hardship. The greatest joy is knowing you are pursuing what you always wanted, making life your own come what may. There is a fantastic freedom in that. After all, things eventually fall apart for the billionaire, the monk and the office drone. No one escapes this great game alive. In the meantime, most people live lives of quiet desperation. That’s horrifying.
Why not buck the trend? It’s not like we have anything to lose if the average is mediocrity or worse. You might as well play your game rather than being miserable following the set trajectory that walks most people into the grave long before they ever physically die.
When you decide to live the life you want, not the one you think is “safe” or that is expected of you, your life takes on meaning and depth otherwise missing. At the end of the day, isn’t that the real quality of life you are seeking?
What does a better quality of life mean to you? Is it really about adding more things and possessions into it or is it fundamentally about feeling happier, more fulfilled and alive? Probably it’s closer to the latter. Such feelings can’t be bought but they are achievable. At no point have I suggested shilling out tons of money for workshops, expensive coaching, or gadgets and possessions. Even eating healthy is pretty inexpensive once you realize how to shop the basics. We can improve the quality of our lives pretty cheaply. Why? Because it’s mostly a lot of inner work and time allocation.
Everyone comes into this world naked. No one gets an automatic Grade A life, not even the trust fund kid. They just get more toys and more so-called opportunities but their inner life – where the quality of life really draws power – is a whole other game. I’ve worked in corporate law with multimillionaire partners and in a hedge fund lobbying organization with billionaire members. People with money aren’t happier. They’re just people with the same inner demons and angels as the rest of us. I’ve also worked with refugees who escaped extreme poverty or harrowing, life-threatening circumstances. They were just people too and some of them had amazing outlooks. If they could laugh and smile and be happy while a multi-billion dollar banker is miserable, what does that say about our own capabilities and limitations?
How would you judge your life and the satisfaction you feel in yourself? Are you friends with yourself or your own worst enemy? What are you doing or not doing to make your life one of quality? Every night when we close our eyes, are we happy with where we are, what we are doing and who we spend time with? We all judge the state of our lives but few of us resolve to do the inner work necessary to move forward.
The means to a better life are often free or cheap but we think the cost is too much in terms of effort or time or ability. This is the great delusion. When we live by default and following the crowd, we live mediocre lives at best and at worst, are miserable. Instead, use these cheap but amazingly powerful ways of improving your life for the better. You’ll thank yourself almost immediately as the results start coming in.
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