I thought I’d put together a few ideas which you may like to peruse – ideas for enjoying everyday life more.
#1. Avoid doing things you hate doing
I can already hear half of you (the responsible half of the population) crying, “But sometimes you just have to do things you don’t feel like doing!” and I don’t disagree with you. However, I think you can go a long way to minimising doing the things you hate. Life is short. If you hate doing the washing up, but don’t mind doing the laundry, then why not do a deliberate trade with someone washing-up-inclined in your household? If you hate working the job you do, then why not find a different one? If you dislike cleaning, then can you hire a cleaner? If you don’t like walking or jogging, then why not try swimming or weights instead? If you hate chopping vegetables, can you use a food processor? If you hate driving the school run in the morning, can you try a cargo bike, the bus, the train, carpooling, even homeschooling? It sounds obvious to say, but all of us fall into patterns of repeatedly doing things we hate doing, sometimes to the point where we realise we are really not enjoying life. Make a change! Choreograph your life so that you’re dancing the part that you love dancing. If you don’t, life will choreograph your part for you and it might not be the part you wanted.
#2. Sleep more (and together)
It doesn’t matter here if you’re a lark or a night owl, or whether you vacillate between the two, but the fact is, we don’t sleep as much as we used to. Before the light bulb, people slept an average of 10 hours a night. How many hours did you sleep last night? I’ll bet it was a fair few less than 10. Mine certainly was, so I’ll be taking my own advice here. You don’t have to take all your sleep at night, though. Can you fit in a siesta, even if just on the weekends? (A real lying-down one!) Can you sleep in for a few mornings a week? Can you take an afternoon nap somewhere, or perhaps get up on your Friday off, eat an early breakfast, and then go back to bed for a few hours? Can you brush your teeth, turn out the lights, and curl up with your kids after putting them to bed one night and forget about the dishes for once? Take baby to bed with you? Get a family member to babysit on Saturday so you can lie down? (But don’t then use the time to do work!) Napping is one of the best cheap ways to enjoy life more. Sleep is precious, a building block of life as much as sunlight and food. Garner ye more.
#3. Spend more time with those you love
“Spend more time with family and friends” is a top New Years’ Resolution. But by February, your busy life has crowded back in again. The solution? Make your life less busy. Be ruthless. Cut back your hours at work, or at very least, your overtime. Cut back your spending so you can cut back on your work. (If you can’t decide what to cut first, I suggest the Pay TV!) Cut back your after-work and after-school activities. Instead of sending the kids to soccer one night a week and going out to tennis by yourself one night a week, find an active solution that involves all of you at the same time. Do the kids really need multiple music, sport and dance lessons, anyway? Do you really need to attend that work function, that volunteer group, that AGM? Is giving yourself away all over the place the way to enjoy life? Step back and reclaim your time. I promise the busyworld will keep grinding on without you, bless/curse it.
#4. Ditch the TV
The shameful thing about TV is that it is trying to tell you how to enjoy your life, but it mainly just sucks enjoyment out of life. You know the deal – ads making you think you want to buy this or that, shows promenading celebrity lifestyles, enjoying the life in Hollywood (and we all know they are either in debt or divorcing at any given time.) I know, I know. I just said cut back on Pay TV if you have it, and that’s a big step for some people. But why do things by halves? Television is the ultimate encouragement for passivity. It turns off your rational brain and it turns up your internal stress levels, it mucks up your sleep patterns and it lends itself to unhealthy eating, and possibly worst of all, it ensures that the people in the room look at anything except each other. Get rid of the TV altogether (and by that I mean, remove it completely from your posession, otherwise it will creep back!). After a couple of months, you’ll wonder how on earth you ever found time to watch it. Be prepared for a withdrawal period, during which you should stock up on other non-TV distractions. Indulge in anything non-harmful which does it for you. Anything but TV.
read real books bookmark by riskybeads
#5. Read books
Not on a Kindle. Real ones. Nothing like a real, holdable, page-turnable book to focus the mind and pull you into an enjoyable world of its own. If you’re intrigued or bewildered as to why a book on a Kindle isn’t as good as a book in the hand, why not start off with Nicholas Carr’s most fascinating and shocking book, The Shallows? And don’t pick a book about how to enjoy your life more. (If motivational self-help books actually helped, they wouldn’t need to keep selling them!) Instead, find a story or a topic that interests you… and fall headlong into a nice old-fashioned book.
#6. Get your kitchen sink completely clear and spotless at least once every day
I stole this one from the FlyLady. I used to scoff at it, but now I know what a difference it makes to my everyday morale and enjoyment of my home. Somehow a sparklingly clean, totally-cleared kitchen sink actually sings. Now, it will still mean a thing even if it ain’t got that swing, and you don’t need to start using curlers or retro-coloured kitchen appliances…. But you too would enjoy a spotless kitchen sink at least once every day. Ooh lah lah! There’s a definite element of fake it till you make it in getting the kitchen sink spotless even if the rest of the house is a complete and utter bombsite. But at the same time, it does actually help you “make it”. I’m always surprised at the level of stress I was tolerating until I get my kitchen sink clean, and once it’s done, I can actually notice the stress level difference. It has to be experienced to be believed. You never know where it might lead. (Probably to more cooking – haha!)
#7. Light candles – often
Connect your animal self to the everlasting wonder of fire. Often. Children love the magic of lighting a candle, and a little daily ritual could inspire many quiet moments together. Dinner candles are inexpensive and a plain iron or ceramic candle holder will last you a lifetime. Then a box of matches and you’re set, but if you want to go one step further back in time, get a flint stone! Beeswax candles give off a lovely comforting aroma, and burn for longer than parrafin candles. A happy flame will add warmth to the room. Winter breakfasts in the dark and cold of morning are made warmer with a candle; some graceful tapers burning over the dinner table give you an excuse to dim the lights and feel extra cosy. 🙂
#8. Tend a plant
It doesn’t have to be a whole gardenful. It doesn’t have to be your own. It can be a houseplant (get a hardy one if you’re at all concerned about accidentally killing it) or it can be a community garden plot, it could be the tree in your backyard, or it could be a pot of basil on your balcony. Maybe your neighbour is too creaky to water his roses anymore; could you offer to water them a couple of times a week? Maybe your kids want to try growing some vegies. Give them a bit of dirt next to the fence and sow some seeds together. I recommend zucchinis because they are pleasantly sturdy seedlings which are unlikely eaten by birds or bugs (unlike peas), they grow impressively big leaves, and they produce insane amounts of fruit, which you can watch grow bigger even within the same day! To tend a plant, you must observe it, watch it. You must offer it water and food (seaweed and manure are generally accepted by most plants!) Why tend a plant, you ask? Because your life is connected to the earth, and all your food comes via plant life, whether you are a vegetarian or not. (Cows eat grass, we eat cows. Grain eats cow poo, we eat grain.) Tend a plant because it will change you. Tend a plant because it will bring you back down to earth. Tend a plant because it is alive, just like you.
#9. Ferment something
This may sound a little crazy to those who have never even thought about the concept, but once upon a time a large proportion of our foods were fermented. This was in part because fridges and freezers and worldwide-scale food importation hadn’t happened yet! Things were grown locally and in season, and whatever couldn’t be eaten fresh was preserved, often with fermentation. The beautiful thing about fermentation is that it happens all by itself, but you can catch the kinds of fermentation you are after. What I mean is, everything will go off left to its own devices – home fermenting and culturing simply means that you make food go off in the ways that you want! Think of cheese, yoghurt, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, all things you’ve probably tasted before. They are all popular fermented foods. Homemade yoghurt is an easy one to start with. You’ll be surprised at how addictive it is to ferment and culture food – and how satisfying it is to participate in an edible ritual that our ancestors have been participating in from the dawn of time.
Painting of girl in tree: Susan Seddon Boulet
Listen to the magic of the morning – enjoy the day as it wakes up, stretches its wings and starts singing. Listen to your own breathing before you fall asleep. Listen to the rain when it falls on your roof and the storm when it hammers on your windows. Listen to the messages of your dreams. Listen to your thirst and hunger. Listen to the smell of fresh air, when you can get it. Listen to your child snoring softly. Listen to the wind in the different heights of trees. Listen to your heartbeat at midday. Listen to the silence between you and your best friend. Between you and your lover. Fill silence with listening, not words.
Listen to the way the night opens up like a huge cave inside the mouth of the sky. Listen to the bread crackling and hissing to itself when it comes out of the oven. Listen to your fridge turn itself on and off. Listen to the flame kissing the wax and the candle ever so softly hiss and pop. Listen to the ache in your bones that tells you you don’t belong on concrete. Listen to the wild, which is what you really are. Listen, not to those gurus who glibly tell you how to enjoy life and be happy, with their fireworks and fashions and crash diets, but to your own strong and fragile self, which wants to live with dignity and grace, firelight and freedom and contentment.
Take your own hand; step into the world, your home: and listen.