The trick is this: Make up your mind, right now, that you are going to improve your world by improving the center of your world…. YOU. When you feel good, you are happy. The world is a beautiful place. When you feel bad, you are rotten. The world is a miserable place. That sounds like text pulled from a second grade school book, doesn’t it? That’s the beauty of it; it’s so simple.
Fortunately, there are countless things we can do to make ourselves FEEL better. Let’s make it a challenge. I’m feeling extra creative today, so I’ll name it something outrageously clever. How about the “FEEL BETTER CHALLENGE?”
Wow, that was so original and random I can hardly see through the smoke.
For any challenge to work, you have to commit to it. So, I’m asking you to begin right now (it doesn’t matter if it’s morning, noon, or night). We’ll give our challenge three months to make a marked difference in how we feel. Personally, I know results will begin to rear their beautiful heads long before March 5th rolls around, but we’ll see just how gloriously fierce we can be by then.
Are you ready for the check list?!
Steps to Improve Your Mind
- Begin spending time each day with brain games. Search the bookstore, online, or simply find endless brain games on Amazon.
- Stop getting worked up over trivial matters. Here’s a trick: When you find yourself fretting over the slow driver in front of you, smile. Your facial muscles will fool your bodily systems – your brain will think, “Wow, we’re in a good mood today!” Tension will melt away and the next thing you know, the smile will be genuine.
- Eat more blueberries. Not only are they incredibly delicious – they’ve been proven to help improve memory.
- Laugh more. Find a reason to smile and laugh each day. If you know someone who never fails to make you smile, keep him or her on standby. Laughter makes you feel good, look good, and will draw a crowd every single time.
- Learn something new every day! There’s nothing quite as mentally stimulating as learning new things! Periodically pick subjects that interest you and research the daylights out of them. If you want to really make your brain cells sit up and take notice, occasionally choose subjects you’ve never really thought much about. For many this may be the workings of an automobile, Chinese cooking, airplanes, dinosaurs, World War II, Audrey Hepburn…. You get the point. Catch your brain off guard – it’ll love the excitement.
- Mix things up! Take different routes to work, school, Starbucks, the mall, etc. Brush your teeth with the opposite hand, cook meals you’ve never cooked before, watch a documentary about a subject you’re totally unfamiliar with, read the Old Testament, learn a new language – anything that will make your brain cells wake up!
- Relax. Relaxation is as vital to mental fitness as it is to physical fitness. Make a point to slow down and relax more each day. (More about relaxation below.)
- Affirmations. Begin filling your mind with positive thoughts. If you’re prone to negative thoughts (don’t kick yourself, some people are), you’ll have to work extra hard. Once you develop the habit, though, you’ll be as positive as you once were negative. And you’ll like your own company so much more!
- Drink coffee. You probably expected that from me, didn’t you? Well, it just so happens that experts back me up on this one – and, no I didn’t pay them off. Turns out, it wasn’t necessary. Coffee has antioxidants in addition to the miraculous healing properties I’m convinced are there. Did you know that coffee drinkers actually have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s than non-coffee drinkers?
“The higher your energy level, the more efficient your body. The more efficient your body, the better you feel and the more you will use your talent to produce outstanding results.” – Anthony Robbins
Steps to Improve Your Body
- Cut out red meat. Don’t panic, I’m not saying you can never have red meat again. I wouldn’t do that to you. I’m just suggesting that, for the FEEL BETTER CHALLENGE, it would be interesting to see what difference it would make in the way we felt. Chances are that when March rolls around, we won’t even want red meat again. At the very least, commit to cutting red meat out except for once a week.
- Drink green tea daily. A great big, iced glass at lunch, one at supper, and a mug of hot green tea in the evening. For rookies – don’t forget the lemon and honey, I’m not sure you can handle its attitude right off the bat. You have to work up to it.
- Eat more fish. Not only is fish incredibly, incredibly healthy for you in the long run – your body responds to it instantly. It’s as though our system knows when we’re eating right and rewards us instantly by feeling better. I notice that each time I eat a really healthy meal, I feel great. Whereas an unhealthy meal leaves me feeling pretty gross. If one meal makes such an impact on how we feel, imagine what multiple meals do.
- Eat more fruit and vegetables. If you’re one of those people who would respond to the suggestion of more fruits and vegetables with an “Ewwwwww!” – I challenge you to find fresh new ways to enjoy them. Personally, I love vegetables and fruit, so this isn’t a problem for me. (I don’t like the prices of produce one bit, though!) Try dipping vegetables into a Ranch based dip and experiment with adding fruit to cereal, yogurt, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, etc.
- Get more activity. My oldest daughter, Emily, has started exercising each night with an exercise dvd. She said she already feels better – and she just began a week ago. There are countless dvds on the market, from yoga and pilates to kick boxing and aerobics. If this isn’t your “thing,” however, don’t fret. You can still increase your activity each day. Simply take more steps. Park further from the door, walk around the mall, do your chores nonstop for 30 minutes, take your dog for a walk, etc. Just move what God gave you for 30 minutes straight each day!
- Relax. I know we already touched on relaxation above, but I want to stress, again, how important it is to find a way to unwind and release tensions. If you allow them to stay trapped in your body, they’ll do a whole world of harm. You have to let them out. I wanted to point this out: Each person has their own way of releasing tension, and you have to find the best way for YOU. Personally, I love to cook. Sometimes my girls or husband will come in the kitchen after I’ve been there for hours (happily baking away) and say something like, “Why don’t you rest?” And I’m like, “I am!” It’s something I love to do and a way that I release tension. I also love to watch movies. My husband loves to read and research things online. He loves bluegrass, so he hunts out bluegrass music and news – as well as business news, sports, internet marketing, seo tactics, etc. What may look like work to others is actually a way of unwinding and releasing the day’s tensions for him. Find what unwinds your nerves and lose yourself in it.
- Take a daily vitamin. This is especially true if your diet is restricted in any way – either by choice or health. For example, most vegans could benefit from taking a daily mutli-vitamin. Many get all the vitamins they require in their diet, but a lot of vegans simply don’t get enough vitamins. That’s where a great multi-vitamin could come in handy.
- Drink more water. If drinking more water consistently makes every list of advice known to man or woman-kind, there must be something to it.
- Cut out as much artificial sweetener as possible. I’m trying to accustom myself to Stevie instead of artificial sweetener. I can still taste it, but I’m hoping it will be an adjustment I can make. It is reportedly actually good for you while artificial sweetener is reportedly bad for you – so it’s a change I’m going to stick with.
Finally, this one is pretty amazing. I’m putting it here at the end because it’s vital to both Mental and Physical fitness. Simply put: Breathe Deeply. I was reading an article about yoga a few months ago and the author wrote, “Become mindful of your breathing throughout the day.” So, I did just that. Periodically, over the next few days, I’d stop and “test” my breathing. Remarkably, I found that I hold my breath pretty often! Why in the world would anyone – let alone someone with asthma – hold their breath?!
Anyway, I began taking deeper breaths and making a point of not “holding” my breath.
Breathing deeply is more important to our bodies and mind than we probably could ever realize. It’s the path oxygen must take to get to our cells. If we take shallow breaths (or hold it like some people), we get in its way. It’s as though we say, “You aren’t welcome here, oxygen, we’ll try to get by without you.”
Duh on me.
I hope you’ll follow as many of the suggestions above as possible. I can see it in your eyes, you aren’t happy about going to the exchange counter and handing over your Big Mac and fries while you’re handed a plate of vegetables and fish… But I believe in you and I know you’re going to give it your best.
A little tip: Instead of going to your regular fast food haunts, go to Subway, Penn Station, Panera Bread (their iced green tea is a daily ritual for me), Quizznos, or someplace with delicious alternatives. A personal joy is Penn Station’s Artichoke and Mushroom sandwich. I swear to you – this thing is Heavenly.
P.S. I’m now officially dying for a Penn Station Artichoke and Mushroom sandwich!