This year I’ll turn 42.
One thing I enjoy about getting older is how much better I know myself. I know what works for my body. My nervous system. My heart.
So here are 42 little things that work for me.
They might or might not work for you. But I’m trying to highlight things that would be pretty easy for you to try out. So hopefully you get a couple ideas to make your life a little better, too.
Start with one thing. Treat it like a fun little experiment. Let me know how it goes :)
Here they are, in no particular order…
- A sunrise alarm clock. I hate loud, obnoxious alarms. This clock has made waking up easier than it’s ever been for me.
- Drinking a pint of water first thing in the morning. It was a bit of a drag at first. But now my body looks forward to it and I feel more hydrated throughout the day. Lately I’ve been adding a pinch of sea salt for some electrolytes, too.
- Morning walks. I aim for 20 minutes. There are tons of documented benefits but one of my favorites is how it helps me orient myself to what the world is doing day by day, season by season.
- Attuning to the seasons. I grew up near San Diego and spent a good chunk of my 20s in Uganda, not far from the equator. My experience of seasons was pretty limited. Living in Oklahoma and then the Pacific Northwest opened up a whole new dimension of the world. The deciduous cycle of death and rebirth has helped me see the shape of my own life differently.
- These inexpensive notebooks. I use these for my poetry practice. I used to write in Moleskines but they’re so expensive that I felt hesitant to fill up pages unless I knew I had something “valuable” to say—and that’s no way to write.
- Journaling. A good way to start is to write out a question like, “How are you really doing?” or “What’s alive for you right now?” then just let yourself respond. I write on these cheap writing pads then recycle or burn the pages when I’m done. Tossing the pages helps me be more honest because I know no one else will ever see what I write.
- Five minutes of movement and mobility practice in the morning. It wakes me up. It feels great. And it keeps my body moving well. The moves in this video are a good place to start. Adjust them for your own level. Experiment with a few things to find what works for you.
- The phrase, “The story I’m telling myself is…” This one is especially handy with anyone you want a close, honest relationship with—your partner, close friends, family of origin. When I’m feeling hurt or angry about the way someone’s acting I can say to myself, “Okay, the story I’m telling myself is…” Then just insert whatever interpretations your mind is feeding you: They don’t care about me; They’re mad at me; They take me for granted; etc. This helps give you a little space from your interpretation of what’s happening. Enough, ideally, to make room for the other person’s actually experience. To take it to the next level you can actually say this to the person. “Hey, the story I’m telling myself is that you’re mad at me. Will you help me understand what you’re actually feeling?” This one takes some practice, and some time to build the language together.
- Barefoot-style shoes and sandals. It can take a while to transition from more structured shoes, but my feet and ankles have never been stronger. Here are my favorite shoes and sandals.
- Darn Tough socks. They’re comfy and last forever. Pro-tip for REI members: whenever there’s a member coupon and you don’t need something else, grab a pair of these.
- Costco brand allergy spray. When I moved to the Northwest my allergies went crazy. This stuff is Flonase but much cheaper. On really bad days I’ll add one of their Allegra knock-offs to the mix.
- Nasal breathing. I read a couple books that laid out the science and benefits of breathing almost exclusively through your nose. Which sounded impossible. I have allergies and get colds and such pretty often, so my nose was often blocked. But I gave it a try. Most of the benefits are hard to quantify but two have been extremely clear: My nose is virtually never plugged any more. Even when I’m sick. And I went from using an asthma inhaler basically every day, to going years without using it once. It’s wild.
- Mouth Tape. One of the nasal breathing practices I was most skeptical about is taping your mouth shut at night. But I’ve come around. I just cut a tiny strip of this tape (maybe a quarter inch?) and put it over the center of my mouth. Instead of holding my mouth shut it’s more of a gentle reminder.
- Nonviolent Communication. This taught me how to communicate my feelings without blaming other people for them. And how to better get my needs met in the process. I’ve listened to the audiobook four or five times.
- Wild-caught sardines in olive oil. I eat these pretty much every day with my lunch. Quick and easy protein, low on the food chain, and lots of good fats.
- Intermittent fasting. Which is a fancy way of saying I usually don’t eat breakfast. My body just seems to like this schedule. But I think I remember hearing the no-breakfast thing is less recommended for women, so it’s probably worth a google.
- Adjustable-height desk. Great for sitting less. But also for making the laptop camera angle less awkward for Zoom calls. The company I got mine from looks like they got bought by Herman Miller and the price got jacked up, so you probably wanna shop around.
- Flown co-working. This helps keep me focused while working from home. It’s basically a bunch of lightly facilitated Zoom calls where you set some goals, and then work for an hour or two. I tend to get a lot more done when I use it.
- Opal app blocker for my iPhone. This makes it easy to set up a schedule when you want certain apps blocked. For me it’s mostly Instagram and news sites. You can choose what works for you.
- Focus website blocker for my Macbook. The internet is where all my favorite distractions live, but it’s also where a lot of my work lives. I tested a few website blockers to help me navigate it and this is the one I settled on.
- Vornado space heater. My little home office in the basement gets cold in the winter. This keeps me comfortable without having to heat up the whole house. Also doubles as a fan in the summer.
- Audiobooks. These are basically how I get through chores these days. I’m finally getting set up on the Libby app to borrow them for free from the library. Mostly non-fiction for me. For fiction I prefer to read for some reason.
- Richard Rohr’s book “Falling Upward.” This is one I return to about once a year. It’s about the transition from the first, ego-centric half of life to the second, soul-centric half. Highly recommend.
- David Whyte’s “What to Remember When Waking” audio program. I’ve listened to this countless times. It’s what I put on when I want something soothing and meditative in the background. The stories and metaphors he uses have burrowed themselves deep into my psyche. (If you have an Audible membership it only costs one credit, instead of the high list price.)
- Jerry Colonna’s podcasts. Jerry is an author and coach, and one of my “teachers at a distance.” His podcast conversations are one of my favorite ways to learn from him—both when he’s interviewed and when he hosts his own Reboot Podcast. Lots of episodes are full-on coaching sessions, or become coaching sessions part way through. (His books Reboot and Reunion are also excellent.)
- This “antidote” to burnout. During my own deep burnout it felt like no amount of rest was enough to feel ready to face another day. This perspective helped me start building a life I don’t dread.
- Internal Family Systems. I’ve always had the sense that what I call “me” is actually a tangle of different systems trying to get their needs met. IFS has helped me start to untangle it. If you want to understand the hidden conflicts that keep derailing you in certain ways, I’d highly suggest giving it a try. (You can book a quick half-hour session with me to see what it’s like.)
- “The space between us.” Initially this was a line from a poem I wrote for our wedding. But the title turned into a really helpful bit of language for our relationship. Instead of blaming each other when we’re in conflict, we try to bring our attention to what’s happening in “the space between us.” It helps defuse blame and defensiveness so we can see what’s going on a little more clearly.
- GMB Fitness’s Elements program. It looks weird, but after doing it for a couple months I can move a lot better (and hurt a lot less)—even after 10-hour driving days on a West Coast roadtrip this summer.
- Reading glasses. I’m far-sighted and I’m getting older. Which means looking at things close up makes my eyes really tired, even with my glasses on. So last time I went to the optometrist I requested two prescriptions. One for everyday stuff, and one for reading. It’s great.
- Cold water “head dunks.” Every morning I turn the shower on cold and stick my head under it. I used to have dandruff and an itchy scalp most of the time, no matter what medicated shampoos I tried. This fixed it.
- Homemade deodorant. I love not having to buy it in plastic tubes. Here’s the recipe:
- 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
- 1/3 cup baking soda
- 1/3 cup arrowroot powder
- You can add a few drops of essential oil if you want to smell a certain way.
- Stir it together and let it set overnight.
- Forest chats. Between college, Uganda, and living a couple states away from where I grew up, a lot of my good friends are spread all over. One of my favorite ways to catch up recently is to schedule a call, then go for a walk in the local forest while we chat. Often they’ll go on a walk, too, so it’s almost like taking one together.
- Walking with a weighted backpack. Some people call it “rucking” but I’m just not that hardcore about it. I just filled a daypack with whatever heavy stuff I could find. I keep it by the door so when I head out for walks, sometimes I put it on for a little extra challenge.
- AirPods Pro. These feel like such a luxury. But being able to block out a ton of noise and listen to something I love is a balm for my sensitive system. Also the transparency mode is great for walking in the forest while I chat with friends.
- HomePod Mini. I was trying to figure out a good clock for my office. But I wanted something that didn’t glow and didn’t tick. Something I could easily set alarms on and could even remind me of the date. Most clocks don’t fit the bill, and my phone is too distracting while I’m writing. A HomePod Mini has been perfect.
- This simple brown rice recipe. I use butter and chicken stock instead of olive oil and water. Usually I make a double batch that can last a while.
- Costco wild-caught frozen salmon fillets. These are a dinner staple for us. There’s lots of ways to use them but our favorite it is…
- Salmon bowls. This is our go-to quick and healthy dinner. Ingredients can vary but most of the time a bowl looks something like this:
- Brown rice (see recipe above)
- Half an Instant-Pot salmon fillet
- Sautéd kale
- Shelled edamame, microwaved from frozen (or some avocado if we have it)
- A little kimchi and whatever else you want to add
- The framing of “the survival dance and the sacred dance.” Years ago I read this line in the book Soulcraft by Bill Plotkin: “…each of us has a survival dance and a sacred dance, but the survival dance must come first.” It gave me some permission I needed at the time, and it’s often helped ground me in times of uncertainty.
- The AeroPress. This is my go-to coffee maker. It’s quick. It makes delicious coffee. And we’ve had ours for at least 4 or 5 years and it’s still going strong.
- Dandy Blend. Sometimes after dinner I want a hot, roasty beverage but I don’t want the caffeine of coffee. Dandy Blend is a mix of healthy things like dandelion and chicory, and makes a great cozy nighttime drink. I like it with a bit of cinnamon.
Maybe you found something worth trying out. Either way I hope it sparked some curiosities for your own life.
I’d love to see your list!