Try These Ten Simple Practices To Create a Better You

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Despite what the self-help books say, something as seemingly superficial as hair or skin really does say something about the inner self.

Now, to be sure, whether you have hair or good skin can largely be a function of genetics or luck. The person who has been in an accident, or forced to take a regimen of medications with adverse side effects, may not be able to control certain factors of appearance. From an early age, we all reconcile ourselves to the cards we are dealt with.

But let’s instead look at the example of a 35-year-old male sports fan. He might be Guy A, who watches his favorite team on TV in a bar, tossing back multiple drinks, smoking cigarettes for hours on end, and trash-talking the other team with the bartender. Guy B is his twin, but he instead will host a game-watching party at his house. He might have a few drinks, but he doesn’t smoke; he prepares relatively healthy snacks, and he spent three hours before the game cleaning his house and making food in preparation for the guests. He also coaches a Little League baseball team in his spare time and works out two or three times each week, when he has the time.

Which of the two guys do you expect to have a sunnier appearance in general?

Life changes — in the world of possibility

Eating right and living in a physically engaged, vibrantly social world might come naturally to many people. But for others it is a conscious decision, something they determine, after giving it some thought, to be the best way to live. So why is it that our culture seems so resistant to change, to initiating health improvements for personal betterment?

Perhaps it is because we tend to think about fitness and health as things involving denial. For example, there is that list of foods you can’t eat. And exercise is a form of punishment. It’s part of why people tend to put proactive health measures into the category of things they don’t want to do.

It doesn’t have to work that way. An alternative approach might be to do new and different things, where the novelty overcomes resistance. There’s nothing to let go of — you just have to muster the gumption to get up and try something new.

When people add simple, constructive things to their lives, the results might come slowly and perhaps imperceptibly. But those results can be cumulative. For example, by learning to make lower-calorie meals at home in place of fast-food meals — which might effectively shave off 600 calories per day — you can see a loss of 10 pounds in three months, and possibly 40 pounds in a year.

But not everything has to boil down to calories and weight. There is that great intangible known as “the sense of well-being.”

And there is what many deem the superficial: hair. But make no mistake: Healthier living can lead to healthier hair. Better nutrition, better blood circulation from exercise and reduced stress from each of those things might improve your hair’s thickness and overall count. That guy sitting in the bar and smoking cigarettes is depleting his body of important nutrients that would improve his skin and hair, and he probably is missing out on sunshine and the vitamin D absorption that comes with it. At the end of the game, he will stumble home to sleep off his stupor, a day spent with nothing to show for it.

To be clear, learning to do new things comes with new challenges. Egyptian physician and philosopher Moses Maimonides wrote in the 12th century (in his Guide for the Perplexed), “Men like the opinions to which they have become accustomed from youth; this prevents them from finding the truth, for they cling to the opinions of habit.”

An opinion can include how we think we should live our lives. Maimonides probably never imagined what television, the internet and 24/7 entertainment might be all about. But he did predict the outcome.

Resolve and evolve

Maybe today is a day when you want a better truth and you’re willing to challenge the opinions of your youth. Here’s a shortlist of things to do, with some new thoughts on how to do them.

  1. Exercise each day. Really, every day. But that doesn’t mean you have to go to a gym like some religious fanatic. Just do things physically. Scrub your own bathtub. Stairs instead of elevators. Join a community garden. Take five walking breaks from your desk job every day. Bike to the store.
  2. Decrease television and gaming time, and substitute it with something that builds your brain. It could be reading or crossword puzzles. Maybe rent a documentary. Or perhaps engage with online communities in discussion forums on a topic of interest; form solid arguments based on facts, show respect for other forum participants and be open to counterarguments.
  3. Learn more about subjects that intrigue you. Take a class on cooking, history, science fiction, furniture repair, energy economics, or whatever else that interests you. You might meet people.
  4. Learn to meditate. Meditation is an amazing way to empty the junk out of your head. Studies show that meditation actually changes how your brain handles information and emotions — to the benefit of the one who meditates.
  5. Shop for food. Alone, with a friend, or with your partner/spouse, dedicate time to learn about nutrition by reading labels and approaching meals consciously — learn what is in food and plan to cook a few dinners over the next several days. If you break the convenience food habit, you are doing better than most of the two-thirds of Americans who are obese.
  6. Listen to music. Anthropologists theorize that music preceded language in humans. Everyone has different tastes, but only the coldest soul cannot appreciate one form of music or another. Allow your emotions to flow when you tune in.
  7. Create something. Maybe it’s just doodling. Maybe you need to write down your thoughts to work them through. Or maybe it’s something you do while tinkering in your garage. The process of creation is a powerful outlet for all humans, regardless of talent and whether it is intended for an audience.
  8. Detoxify your home. We bring all kinds of chemicals into our homes for cleaning and personal care that can be caustic and even toxic. Start reading ingredient labels and investigate how you can use more natural, less damaging products (hint: vinegar and baking soda are amazingly versatile for cleaning and drain clearing).
  9. Dry your clothes and hair naturally instead of applying heat. Using fossil fuels to inflict harsh temperatures on fabrics and hair can be damaging. Sure, it might take more time, but changes sometimes require it. Aren’t you and your clothes worth the TLC?
  10. Step outside of yourself. If you think you’re having a bad day, look at people who are starving, ill or in some way less fortunate than you. Better yet, do something to help one person who suffers from something that you don’t have. What goes around comes around.

Each of these things might shake up your world. And all of them beat sitting on a barstool for an afternoon.