by Niall Doherty

Below are five things I try to do every day. Introduce these practices into your daily routine and you’ll lead a healthier, happier, and more balanced life.

1. Meditate

I started taking meditation seriously about six months ago, and I’ve meditated for 10-12 minutes almost every morning since. In the last two weeks, I’ve upped that to 25 minutes to incorporate breathing exercises I learned at a recent Art of Living course here in New Orleans.

I find the benefits of meditation to be amazing. Practice quieting your mind for a few minutes each day, and you’ll notice you can think more clearly in pressure situations. You’ll gain more control over your thoughts, the importance of which cannot be understated.

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly.” – Marcus Aurelius

Some people give up on meditation quickly because they can’t stop their thoughts from racing. If that happens to you, know that sitting quietly for a few minutes each day can still be extremely beneficial.

The important thing is not to resist the thoughts that come into your head. Step back from them and try to figure out where each one comes from. Note whether each thought is positive or negative. Ask yourself how each thought, if repeated often enough, will affect your actions and emotions. Then seek to eliminate those thoughts which are of no benefit to you.

2. Stretch

When it comes to stretching, as with most other things, take your cues from nature. What does your dog or cat do right after waking up? He or she will have a nice, long stretch.

The importance of stretching is summed up nicely here:

During sleep, most of our skeletal muscles are normally “switched off” by the brain to prevent potentially harmful motion, and blood pressure gradually drops. Upon awakening, our muscles are oxygen-starved and loaded with irritating waste, and the brain needs a blood pressure increase to prepare the body for activity, especially standing up. All of those issues are addressed by a good stretch. The simultaneous elongation or contraction of almost every major muscle group flushes out waste, brings in oxygen, and boosts blood pressure.

One of the first things I do each morning is a few quick stretches. It literally only takes two minutes to stretch my back, neck and shoulders. Since I’ve started doing this, I’ve noticed that I suffer from back ache much less frequently.

3. Give thanks

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” – Buddha

The best way I’ve found to get out and stay out of a slump, is to focus on gratitude. I recently started taking about three minutes each morning to write out six things that I’m grateful for; three of which I already have, the other three of which are coming my way soon. I phrase all of them in the present tense. Examples:

I am so grateful and thankful for…

  • My education. Lots of people never get the opportunity to be educated, but I got plenty.
  • My colleagues at work, for keeping the bar high and working their asses off every day.
  • My excellent public speaking skills.
  • My confidence and rapport with strangers.

The point is to focus on the infinite number of things that are right with your life instead of the handful of things that are wrong with it. You’ll be much happier when you do this, and you’ll attract more good things into your life because of it.

4. Fail

If you’re not failing regularly, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

History is filled with stories of successful people who were not afraid to fail, and that is precisely why they succeeded. Thomas Edison failed a thousand different ways before he invented the light bulb. Michael Jordan failed to hit the game-winner 26 times in his career. The Beatles failed an audition for Decca Records in 1962.

Society teaches us that failure is bad. Fail a test in school and you’re labeled lazy or stupid. Fail at sports and you get heckled. Fail with the opposite sex and your buddies laugh at you.

We’ve been conditioned to take the safe, less fulfilling route, rather than risk the embarrassment of failure.

I’m trying to get past that fear of failure by failing regularly. The only way I can do that is by taking chances, pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I try talking to strangers, asking questions I’m afraid to ask, trying new activities.

My goal is to succeed at failing at least once each day. If I say hello to someone on the street and they ignore me, score. If I make a suggestion at work and it’s rejected, score. If I go rock climbing and I fall off the wall, score.

Failure is a part of life, so I best get accustomed to it and not let it bother me.

5. Hydrate

If you regularly find yourself thirsty, you’re not staying hydrated. Figure out how much water you could reasonably drink in a day, then drink twice as much. Drinking lots of water burns fat, boosts energy levels and cleanses your system. Soft drinks or sodas might give you a quick lift, but they do much more harm than good in the long run. Stick to water.

I use a Brita filter at home to fill up two big jugs I keep in the fridge. I’m not sure why anyone buys bottled water when a filter ends up costing you much less and saves on plastic waste.

Anything to add?

What daily practices do you benefit from? Share in the comments.

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