10 Easy Ways to Change Your Life for the Better
You don’t have to uproot and move to Denmark, the happiest country in the world, to change your life for the better. Here are ten actions you can take at home to enhance the quality of your life and the lives of those around you.
Give an Animal a Second Chance
Did you know that 5 to 8 million homeless dogs and cats are euthanized each year? Many of these animals were surrendered from good homes for reasons including death, divorce, a family move or financial instability. Consider opening your home to an animal that needs a second chance. The cost to adopt a shelter animal is minimal, and the fee for “senior” animals is even less. The best part? Studies reported by the Center for Disease Control show that pet owners are healthier and happier than people who don’t have animals in their lives.
Plant a Tree in Honor of Someone
Holiday gift shopping can be tricky in a society where we already have everything. Consider giving someone the gift of a tree. Nelson Henderson said “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” What a beautiful sentiment. It means you care about the future. You want your children and grandchildren to enjoy shade in the summertime and have fresh air to breathe. What better way to show this than to plant a tree for the children in your life? (If you are physically unable to plant a tree, check out http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/hoosier/docs/plant_a_tree.htm. Every $10 donation plants a tree in one of America’s national forests.)
Volunteer Your Time
If you’ve never tried this, it’s time to find out what you’re missing. Sign up as a big brother or sister, serve dinner at a food bank, help to build a house through Habitat for Humanity, volunteer at an old age home or visit your local animal shelter and take some dogs for a walk. As a volunteer you help not only your community, but also yourself. According to AmeriCorps, people who volunteer live longer and are less likely to suffer depression and heart disease than non-volunteers.
Get an Afterlife Theory
Whether you are religious or not you need to figure out what you believe will happen to you after you die. You should be at peace on the matter. I had a friend who died unexpectedly at the age of 25. He was a naturalist. He once told me, “When I die, I want to be absorbed back into the earth. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. That’s all.” When I heard that he had died I was instantly relieved that he had this simple wish and could die knowing it would happen. We should all be so lucky.
Take a Language Class
Here is the thing you probably don’t realize about languages – they shape the way we see the world. Think about the English word “religion” and what it means to you. Now consider this: the Sanskrit word for religion literally translates to “opinion.” A different perspective, yes? It doesn’t matter which language you choose to study. Any language will offer a new way to see the world by giving you fresh words to define your experience.
Quit a Job You Hate
It isn’t easy to walk away from a “good” job just because it’s making you miserable. We can justify misery a hundred different ways – good pay, good benefits, free snacks, liking the people we work with, etc. Set those benefits aside and think about the real toll this job is taking on you. Are you anxious or depressed? Do you snap at your spouse and kids? Do you dwell on work even when you’re not there? When you wake up on Sunday morning are you already dreading work on Monday? Now imagine yourself in a different job – one that fulfills rather than drains you. Don’t ask yourself if you can afford to quit. Ask yourself if you can afford not to.
Reconnect with the Ones You Love
Someone once told me that, during a dark time in his life, he got to thinking about what was really the matter and realized he could trace all his troubles back to one simple thing: disconnection. His relationships with the people he loved had grown weak or broken. He decided to reconnect and once he did everything else seemed to fall into place. Are there people in your life with whom you’d like to reconnect? Start now. All you have to do is make a phone call and have a conversation.
Grow a Vegetable Garden
In the not-so-distant past Americans either grew their own produce or personally knew the farmer who did. Today many Americans have no idea where their food comes from, or if it grows on trees, vines or under the ground. Planting your own vegetable garden is a great way to reacquaint yourself with the natural world, the role of water and sunshine in making food and how satisfying it can be to feed your family the fruits of your labor. It doesn’t take a lot of land to raise a garden. If you live in an apartment you can fill a pot with soil and set it by the window. You will marvel at your own genius as you watch your vegetables grow and ripen, and nothing tastes as good as a tomato fresh from the vine.
Create a Wildlife Habitat (In Your Own Backyard)
I cannot think of a bigger waste of one’s time and energy than mowing the lawn. Week after week I watch my neighbors toil to keep their grass the perfect length and color. They spend hours mowing, trimming, edging, picking and sweeping. No dandelion will ever see the light of day on their watch. They must hate me. In 2005 I made my yard a certified wildlife habitat through National Wildlife Federation (www.nwf.org). It’s easier than you think. Food sources can be berries or seeds of native plants. Water sources can be as simple as a birdbath. Thicket, shrubs and vegetation can serve as places for cover and places to raise young. Sure, you might still have to mow the lawn every now and then, but you never have to use chemicals or fertilizers. Just let your yard be what it wants to be naturally. It is a blessing for wildlife – and you.
Get a Wiseman (or Woman)
If you don’t already have a Wiseman, get one. A Wiseman is an older person with a lifetime of experiences who can offer you invaluable insight and perspective. This person is an advisor, a mentor and a friend. But where are you supposed to find such a person, and why would s/he want to help you? Believe it or not, there are hundreds of Wisemen and women in your community who would be gratified to have a visit from you. They live in local nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Many get few visitors, suffer from depression and feel lonely and forgotten. Adopt a Wiseman or woman today and not only does your life get better – theirs does, too.