We get bombarded with advice on how to lead a better life on an almost daily basis, but a lot of what we hear is either unrealistic, too general, hard to maintain, or a self-fulfilling prophecy (e.g., “Laughing makes you happy”—no, seriously?). But we don’t like just pretending. Our seven rules for a better eating, wellbeing, healthfulness, lifestyle, hygiene, and a tranquil mind are based on wise words from a few experts: New York-based South African health guru and bestselling author Dr. Frank Lipman; Japanese decluttering queen Marie Kondo; the famous minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus; Japanese Zen teachings; and the latest food pyramid from the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living, which has attracted so much recent attention.
You might already have heard about bestselling author and lifestyle guru Marie Kondo, or the minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who experienced significant improvements in their quality of life as a result of adopting and practicing the tenets of minimalism. They all believe that clutter makes us unhappy and that we don’t need as much stuff as we gather. Kondo's method of organizing is based on Japanese values, and consists of bringing together all of one's belongings and then keeping only those things that “spark joy.” Start going through your closet item by item and ask yourself if it still fits your body and your life and “if it speaks to you,” regardless of what it cost. Identify the things that make you happy, says Kondo. Many pieces might seem great in theory, but are not actually your style. Donate them—they may be better for someone else. Go ahead with your bathroom, kitchen, shelves and desk, throw away old cosmetics, get rid of paper and books that you’re not going to read again. Organize your beloved belongings in boxes (and even by color, if you like) and treat them with respect. Keeping your space tidy and your work surfaces clear (put most items out of sight) will also clear your mind, make life a lot easier, and help to prevent you from unnecessary purchases in the future.
This might surprise you, but after decades of egg-white products, it’s now official that the cholesterol in your food has no impact on the cholesterol level in your body. Instead, sugar and carbs are to blame—they trigger the production of bad cholesterol. Egg yolks contain good fats and choline, which is essential for cells, especially those in your brain. So eat your eggs whole and try to avoid wheat products, whether bread or pasta, as the gluten they contain is, after sugar, our biggest energy drain, as most of us lack the enzyme that breaks it down. No matter if you are mildly or highly sensitive, your immune system fights it like a foreign substance. Besides that, bread and pasta don’t make a lot of sense anyway, since they are not nutritious. Consider a savory breakfast with good fats, such as avocados, nuts and fish, because bread and even grains that come with added fruits contain a lot of gluten and sugar that your body doesn’t need. You will feel much lighter and full of energy.
We all spend too much time inside, whether in the office, the car or at home. Try to go out for at least 15 minutes a day and soak up the sun, even when the sky is cloudy. Your body needs vitamin D, which comes from the sun, and the fresh air will do wonders for your mood and energy levels. Besides that, our body needs microbes from outdoors to keep our immune system strong. Go dig in the garden, or play with your kids in the sand—nothing is earthier than getting your hands dirty outside. Leave your phone at home and think about an occasional whole-day screen detox. Our eyes and our mind need to recover from electronic devices and the information overload—you’ll be surprised at the clarity and peace you find. It’s also the secret of a good night’s sleep: no looking at screens for an hour prior to bedtime!
One of the keys to making exercise a habit is to do something you enjoy—it’s not news to us, right? Our bodies are not built to run for hours on end, and anyway, for many people this kind of workout feels exhausting and like a waste of time. Instead, elevate your metabolism with intervals: short bursts of intense exertion interspersed with periods of leisurely movement, whether it’s running, swimming, cycling or suchlike. The intensity effectively resets your metabolism to a slightly higher rate during your workout, and it takes hours for it to slow down again. That equates to continued calorie burn long after your training is done. Whenever possible, walk or run outside, as the little bumps and hollows of the ground not only activate and strengthen every muscle, but challenge your balance and coordination as well.
Lotions, soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, makeup, laundry detergent—it’s not just what you swallow that affects your wellbeing, but anything applied to your skin, even the residue of dishwashing soap on your plate can end up in your body. So why not be as picky and strict with your hygiene and cleansing routines as with your food? Check the labels of your beauty products and cleansers, and scan ingredient lists for chemicals, sulfates and parabens, because all these substances can be toxic, affect your immune system, and/or cause disease. You don’t have to throw everything away immediately (please consider the affect on environmental pollution, as well) but to be safer at home, once you’ve run out, step away from toxic stuff and replace everything with non-chemical alternatives.
Walking around while talking on the phone? Reading an article while “listening” to another person? Eating in front of the TV? The more we think we’re managing to multi-task, be more productive, and save time, the less we actually achieve. Literally. Research suggests that when we think we are multi-tasking, we’re actually just switching our attention between two or more tasks super-quickly, creating the illusion that our attention is simultaneous. The truth is, multi-tasking is more wasteful than timesaving. Doing just one thing at a time helps us distress, work smarter, and accomplish more in less time. Follow the Japanese Zen teaching and give your full attention to every activity. You might tell yourself to “just walk,” or “just listen,” or “just eat.” When you notice that your attention is being pulled elsewhere, take notice of it, and then return to being fully present in the activity. Your brain might resist at first because it’s less stimulating, but the single-tasking approach allows us to dive deeper, do a better job of each task, and find more meaning in what we do. We’ll be more aware of the present moment in terms of our thoughts, feelings, and the world around us. This is part of the definition of satisfaction.
Closeness is a big deal. Connect with the people around you: your family, friends, colleagues and neighbors. Spend time developing these relationships, as everybody needs to laugh, talk unguardedly, and share real experiences (not virtual conversations). That‘s what enables us to accumulate loving memories and be our true selves. Travel if you can, or be inspired by books, theatre, music, or good conversation. It’s the only way to not stand still but learn and become an open-minded person. Be kind without expectations. Give compliments that you really mean and listen to someone who needs an ear. Even the smallest act counts, whether it’s a smile or a kind word. It’s a nicer way to live—and even better, it’s contagious!
For more advice on eating habits, energizing the body, getting active, and improving your wellbeing in easy and achievable steps, we recommend the bestselling book, “The New Health Rules” by Dr. Frank Lipman and Danielle Claro.