Wednesday, January 20, 2016

100 easy life hacks and tips for a better 2016


AURA FITNESS STUDIO

Hi Everyone, Happy New Year!  I hope 2016 is off to a great start for you and yours!  We're only 20 days in, so there's still PLENTY of time to make it the best year yet!

I want to help you live your life to it's fullest potential.
I want to help you live a life that is authentic, attentive and above-average.  
I want to help you live a life that mindfully addresses each domain of wellness.  

I'm here today to offer you all some easy life hacks and tips to be more successful in 2016.



PHYSICAL HEALTH

1. Eat healthy on the go.  Did you know that you can request vegan and vegetarian meals on airplanes?  You have to call at least 48 hours in advance of the flight, but the service is great for a few reasons.  One, you get served first.  Two, the food actually resembles food and is not mystery meat/filled with chemicals.  Three, the food digests better which means less bloating, thus making the flight more comfortable.  If you're really lucky, you may even get to eat with real cutlery and drink from a real glass!




2. Get in touch with your inner child and make workouts fun again!  Shoot hoops, go for a swim, go rollerblading, jump rope to a great song and workout with a fitness buddy.  If you're not having fun while exercising, you will never make it a part of your daily routine.  So many adults are afraid to just play.

3. Better yet, if you have children, exercise with them!  Time and time again, when I ask my students how many have actually ever seen their parents run, only a handful raise their hands. Exercise doesn't have to be difficult!  Something as simple as taking a 15 minute walk or playing catch with your children after dinner is sufficient.  Go for a jog or play tennis with them on a Saturday morning.  Don't let teenagers fool you! They will also benefit from this adult model of healthy behavior!

4. Explore other methods of cardio besides running and the elliptical.  There are so many other great options to improve your cardiovascular health.  Swimming, spinning, Zumba, hiking, rowing, jumping rope, HIIT training, etc. If you are going to run on a treadmill, how about mixing it up* by running backwards, side shuffling, or doing "mountain climbers"?  *Safety consideration: start slow and steady!


5. Sit on a stability ball at work, or use a standing desk.  Works wonders for your posture, energy and even self confidence.

6. Take a nap.  One of life's little luxuries that is completely free!  However, if you find yourself napping for longer than 30 minutes, your body is telling you that you need to sleep more at night.  A little trick I learned in Europe during my Spanish siesta days, is to drink a small coffee before your nap, so that the caffeine kicks in right as you're waking up.  Sleep enhances creativity, manages our moods, regulates hormones that control our appetite and boosts cardiovascular health.

7. Practice your flexed-arm hang.  Even if you can't do a pull up or chin up, improve your upper body strength with the flexed-arm hang.  Using an underhand grip (and maybe a chair), jump up so that your chin is above the pull up bar and your arms are bent at a 90* angle.  Hold this position for as long as you can.  As soon as your chin touches the bar or goes below it, the test is done.  The highest record I've seen in my teaching career has been for 3 minutes and 42 seconds.  To be USA military ready, you need to be able to hold it for at least 70 seconds.  But hey, do what you can and always strive to improve.

8. Personal trainer in your pocket.  There are a lot of cool fitness applications out there, but one of my favorites is Sworkit.  It's user-friendly, has a nice variety of exercises and types of workouts (strength training, yoga, etc), and best of all, it's FREE! :)

9. Use an online grocer application to do food shopping.  This is the best way to save time and money and not get distracted by cupcakes, cookies, things on sale that you don't really need, etc.
I used an online grocer while living in Shanghai, and my most favorite memory of that convenience was being on vacation in Vietnam and realizing I would arrive home to an empty refrigerator.
So by the poolside, I clicked on the "re-order" button and voila!  By the time I got off the plane, my groceries were arriving to my house.

10. Exercise with your partner.  Partners that sweat together, stay together!  There's nothing better than sharing small victories and being physically supportive with each other.

11. Ride a bike whenever you can.  More than 600 cities worldwide have a bike-sharing program.

12. Drink your fruits and vegetables.  Make juice, make smoothies, make soups; do whatever you have to do, to consume at least five servings of REAL fruits and vegetables every day.  An easy/discreet way to count your fruit and vegetable servings is to start each day with five silly bands, rubber bands or string bracelets on your left arm.  Throughout the day, each time you eat a serving of fruits or vegetables, move one band to your right arm.  You'll know you've had a healthy day when you finish with all five bands on the right arm.



13. Cook with your family.  Allow children to be involved in choosing healthy toppings for pizzas, salads, pastas, etc.  Let them push the buttons on the blender.  Physically engage them in the preparation of healthy meals and show them that good food comes from the earth, not necessarily a box, bottle or can.

14. Don't be afraid to go to a fancy gym.  I absolutely love a bargain, and am always searching for tips and tricks to save money.  But I refuse to short change myself and go to a no-frills gym.  In practical terms, I hate wasting money so I know I push myself to go more frequently to "get my money's worth", whereas when the gym only costs a minimal amount of money per month (like the cost of the train fare to get from NYC to Long Island), I don't take my commitment to fitness so seriously.  It feels good to spoil myself by going to a gym that has a great variety of classes, teachers who are kind and attentive, and a locker room with nice hairdryers and nice bath products.  Soft, fluffy towels are also always appreciated.  Sometimes I think people treat fitness like it has to be this kick-ass, tough as nails, work until you vomit experience and they forget to treasure their body as being this amazing machine that needs to be nurtured.

15. Ditch all of the sauces, salad dressings, cheese, etc.  Really.  It's not doing you any good.  Just more empty calories for your body, like those from sugary boxed fruit juices and soda.  If you really want the taste of dressing on a salad, try whisking together olive oil, fresh-squeezed lime juice and a teaspoon of mustard.  It's really lovely, and no funky chemicals are included!

EMOTIONAL HEALTH

16. Say good morning to people.  Really!  It's THAT simple.  If you know the person's name, use it! Wow!  Such an easy way to make someone else feel like a million bucks!  Being pleasant to other people is a great mood-booster.  

17. Say thank you.  See above.



18. Let people help you.  Don't try to be polite and say, "No, it's okay".  Life is tough, and if people [angels] are there to help carry your burden, let them.  It's just as much for them as it is for you, since many people live an existence where they feel their life is purposeless.

19.  Write down the things and hobbies that bring you joy and make time to do them.  Like crafting?  Cooking?  Reading?  Find a group to join at the local library or community center.  Also consider using community resources like MeetUp or Couchsurfing.

20.  Don't displace your anger onto others. Anger is almost always an emotion for people who wish to control others while simultaneously failing to control themselves.

21. Demonstrate healthy conflict.  People often fight to be "right" and to prove their point, rather than trying to work toward a solution.  If conflict is dealt with respectfully and if it helps to solve problems, relationships can be strengthened.  This is especially important when it comes to arguing in front of your children.  Putting each other down, name calling, being disrespectful, etc. undermines your authority as parents, creates negative and unpleasant energy for the household, and has long-lasting effects on the child's life.  Also, quite simply, it is not healthy for children to witness their parents yelling at one another because it can be scary for them.

22. Don't use sarcasm with children. They don't understand it and they don't enjoy it.  Kids are literal all of the time.  Also, refrain from engaging in any offhand commentary about family friends, relatives, their teachers or their school.  They will repeat everything they hear! Also, if you don't demonstrate respect for others, they won't either.

23. Offer love unconditionally.  Don't just love people when they love you back.  Love people even when they're most unlovable.

24. Trust in the goodness and kindness of people on this planet.  I promise, I can say with confidence that when you radically trust people, they become your allies, your friends and your family.

25. Move beyond fear.  Hate is fear.  Many people hate what they don't know.  Don't be afraid to try new things, meet new people, and keep an open mind.  The most freeing intention you can set for your life is, "I shall judge nothing that occurs".

26. Instead of talking about people you hate, focus your energy on people you love. 
Many of my friends are getting married and starting families of their own.  With that, comes the happy (or sometimes unhappy) reunion of in-laws and extended families.  It seems that many times it's easier to get hung up about what the sister-in-law said, or what the father-in-law didn't do, than it is to focus on strengthening the love and bond that brought the husband and wife together in the first place. Treasure and protect the relationships in your life that bring you peace and joy and tune out the noise of all the rest.

27. Nobody likes a keyboard warrior.  Refrain from engaging in online arguments, whether it be with a colleague via email or with a stranger via Facebook.  People act really tough behind the safety of a screen.  Arguing online is so emotionally draining and pointless.  In the case of politics, if you really feel passionate about something, volunteer with a local politician and take your message to the streets.

28.  Choose to express gratitude, grace and love in every moment possible.  Again, it's easy to get over-emotional when the train is late, when people don't act in the way we want them to or when things don't go our way.  Happiness is being able to feel gratitude, grace and love throughout the entire day, throughout the entire year and throughout our entire life.

29. Ask your spouse, "How did you feel loved this past week?".  Their answer may amaze you.
Sometimes it's the smallest things that make the biggest impact.  It's important to know what they find meaningful, so that you can continue loving them in the way that they appreciate. Along the same lines, if you don't know each other's love language yet, check out this resource!

30. Throw away/donate things and trash digital files that don't bring you joy.  Even though I am the queen of throwing things away (I hate clutter and disorganization), I took things one step further and recently got rid of almost everything I owned.  All of my worldly possessions now fit into two suitcases and two small cardboard boxes.  Without those extra items weighing me down, I feel more refreshed and ready to take on a new year of life.

31. Don't internalize the feelings of others.  If somebody says something about you and it hurts you, then it means that you're holding a similar judgement against yourself.  It's like flicking the scab of how you already see yourself.  If other people's comments resonate with you, it means you believe it too on some level.  If you can detach from that, then you can't really be hurt by external things.

32. Let yesterday go.  Forgive, forgive and forgive some more.  If you've totally forgiven and accepted yourself and the people you chose to have in your life, then you can't be stopped.

SOCIAL HEALTH

33.  Friendships develop best without the distraction of iPhones, iPads, iPods, etc.  This year, really try to refrain from using a device while other people are talking or while eating a meal.  Yes, even if you're eating by yourself in a public place.  You'll never know who you'll miss out on, if your face is buried in a device.

34.  Give joy.  Help children develop social skills (even if they're not your own kids).  Children who are respectful to adults, cooperative with their peers and empathetic to others will grow up to be productive contributors to our world.  A lot of times, children who don't have a lot of interaction with parents, aunts and uncles or grandparents are awkward around adults.  Mentor a teen and help them become more socially competent.

35. Think for yourself.  Avoid temptation with "proactive avoidance" instead of attempting to boost willpower in a trying situation.   If your social circle is always eating at fast food places and you're trying to be healthier, it's a lot easier to skip the visit to the drive-thru with them, instead of resisting the urge to order something in the moment.  This also goes for alcohol and drug use in a social setting.  Like the old saying goes, friends don't let friends do drugs.  If you're hanging out with friends who don't respect your decisions and feelings on becoming healthier, it's time to find new friends.

36. Surround yourself with people who share the same goals and passion.  They say a person is the average of the five people they spend the most time with.  Are you spending your time with people who inspire you?  Motivate you?  Believe in you?  I love the quote from the movie, "Burlesque", when the main character says she left her small-town "because I looked around and realized there wasn't one person whose life I wanted".  If you feel stagnant in your growth, it might be time to look for greener pastures.

37. Introduce your new friends to current friends by "bragging" about them.  Someone I knew in Shanghai did this the first time I went to meet his friends, and it always stuck with me.  "Here's Charlie, he's exceptionally talented at design, you should see the shoes he's been working on.  Here's Claudia, she's a wonderful artist.  She has an exhibit going on right now." I thought it was a really generous and thoughtful thing to do.  It will take practice to be able to sum up my friends' talents in just a few words, but I'm determined to try to do this.

38. Be unique. It's no fun being a carbon copy of all of your friends.  Your life is your own, not theirs.  So if you decide to travel down a different path than your friends, that's perfectly normal.

39. Accept adventure.  You're never going to remember all those nights you spent at the same dive bar once you're old and gray.  When opportunities present themselves to you, take them!


40.  Host a potluck dinner or brunch.  Ask all attendees to bring a new friend.

41.  "You ought to make an effort and go visiting everywhere you are asked.  Then you'll have plenty of friends, and pleasant places to go to. Never mind being bashful. It won't last long if you keep going." from the book, Little Women, written by Louisa May Alcott in 1868.
See?  Social woes are not a new thing!

42. Join a running group like Hash.  But don't be alarmed if their focus is more on having fun than hard-core fitness. I did a few runs with the Hash group in Shanghai and it was a lot of fun.

43. Don't be afraid to make friends in random places.  I think this happens more as an expat, but I've made new friends at the supermarket, in the hair salon, at Starbucks, and in my university's library.  Somehow this happens just by complimenting someone, and the rest is history.  

44. Ask a friend to introduce you to their contacts when you're traveling.  Personally, I love traveling alone so I can always do my own thing.  But it's nice to meet up with other people for dinner and nice conversation.  Sometimes they even have space for you to crash at their apartment.

45. Don't let age hold you back.  People of all ages like to have friends.  Even if your neighbor is elderly, you can still talk to them and share a meal once in awhile.

46. Be friendly with your partner/spouse's friends.  Even if they do drive you crazy, or you have nothing in common with them.  It means a lot to your partner that you're kind to their friends.

47. Be kind to animals.  Volunteer at an animal shelter and make a new furry friend.

48. Visit people in a nursing home or hospital.  They will be forever grateful for your kindness and friendship.

SPIRITUAL HEALTH

49.  Express gratitude every day.  The opposite of "never enough" is ENOUGH.  At the end of each day, write down five things you are grateful for.

50. Be a person of good character.  Demonstrate trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship, DAY IN and DAY OUT.  Yes, it's hard; might even seem impossible.  Yes, maybe you will end up giving more than you receive.  But children are always watching and modeling the behavior of adults.  Lying is such a commonplace practice in an adult's life that sometimes adults may not even realize they're doing it.  So if you teach your child to lie about paying a subway fare and that it's okay to sneak under the metro turnstile, you're inadvertently teaching them that their needs are more important than the greater good of society.  

51. Nothing is impossible.  Maybe difficult, time-consuming and expensive to achieve, but nothing is truly impossible.

52. Just breathe slowly.  Meditate when life gets overwhelming.  Sometimes all it takes is a few moments to just BE. Inhale for 5 counts, exhale for 5 counts, for as long as you need to.  

53. Be Awake and Aware. Remember that you too are a spirit, not just a _______ (wife, husband, mother, father, woman, man, daughter, son, worker, friend, body).  You are every part of this planet just like the trees, flowers, animals, clouds, etc. Protect your spirit and let it be at peace.  Radiate this peace with a simple smile.

54.  Have the courage to accept whatever comes or goes with a big smile.  Detach from outcomes and be grateful for experiences or relationships that were once a part of your life.

55. Intentions for Peace: May this practice heal and nourish me. Breathe in to receive peace, breathe out to relieve tension.

56. Intentions for Grief: May this practice promote healing.  Breathe in to receive warmth and compassion, and breathe out to relieve sadness.

57. Intentions for Anger: May this practice free me from anger's control.  Breathe in to receive mercy, breathe out to relieve pain.

58. Intentions for Kindness: May this practice recover my open heart and generous spirit.  Breathe in to receive patience and breathe out to relieve criticism.

59. Intentions for Forgiveness: For any harm others have caused me, intentional or unintentional, I offer forgiveness.  May this practice bring me wisdom and peace. Breathe in to receive understanding, breathe out to relieve resentment.

60. Intentions for Jealousy: When I walk the path of envy, I only hurt myself and others. When I walk the path of acceptance, I generate kindness for myself and others.  May this intention help me experience kindness and non-judgement towards others.  Breathe in to receive empathy, compassion and unity, breathe out to relieve anger, hatred and separateness.

61. Intentions for Love: May this practice feed my heart and spirit.  May I be happy, may I be safe, may I be well. Breathe in to receive peace, breathe out to relieve tension.

INTELLECTUAL HEALTH

62.  When was the last time you did something for the first time?

63.  Listen to a podcast.  We're over-exposed to visuals in this day and age.  Practice and improve your listening skills with an entertaining podcast.  I like listening to them on the metro or while cooking dinner.

64. Use Pinterest to get ideas for everything; new outfits, new recipes, new decorations, new workouts etc.  It will help you up-cycle whatever you currently own, reinventing it to something new, without spending money.

65. Stay curious.  Without curiosity, life is dull.  Listen to a different genre of music or try a new skill, just for the fun of it.  Like the time Monica tried tap dancing.  Or go salsa dancing.  Most of the time, salsa clubs will have live music and an instructor there to give informal (and free!) lessons in a line formation/style.

66. Get focused and escape from dead ends quickly.  Don't be afraid to fail.  Ask for help.  Learn from your mistakes.  Take 10 action steps every day to get you closer to a goal, whether it be a relationship goal, career goal, parenting goal, etc.  I loved the hustle in Shanghai.  People are so hungry to achieve their goals.



67. Every expert started out as a beginner--just like you.  Be patient with your progress in any goal you are attempting to achieve, and learn as much as you can, as efficiently as you can.

68. Reach for growth.  Practice is how we learn.  Not just any practice, but perfect practice.

69.  Read everyday.  Preferably offline.  Maybe even to a child or older adult who can no longer see well.  I always have a book with me wherever I go.

70.  Dreams need energy.  They don't happen by accident, so you need to fight for them, with every ounce of your being.

71. Make sure that your children are developing their intellectual health.  Too many kids know how to jump through hoops and answer questions.  Many don't know how to ask questions and demonstrate genuine curiosity, because unfortunately, that is a skill that is underdeveloped in most school settings.

72. Take advantage of free museum days and art exhibits in your city.  Most city websites have this information posted.

73. Go to the library, especially one sponsored by an embassy or cultural foundation.  I used to go to the Instituto Cervantes in Shanghai, not to take Spanish classes (although they did offer those), but to read books in Spanish, talk to Spaniards and look at travel guidebooks.  They also hosted free events, like Flamenco dancing exhibitions.

74. Try something new with your family.  Especially as my friends and I are getting older and having our own families, I realize how important it is to include our extended families in our fun plans.

75.  Create public art.  There are many organizations from all over the world working to turn ugly urban spaces into relaxing, contemporary art spaces.

76. If you prefer to create art in private, get yourself a coloring book. They're all the rage.

77.  Start an urban garden project.  Lots of inspiration on Pinterest.

78. Along the same lines, learn how to compost.  It's the smartest way to reduce food waste and help grow beautiful gardens.

79. Be an explorer and travel out of town for the day.  Pack a healthy picnic for the ride.



80. If your city has a metro, get off at a station you've never stopped at.  Maybe something awesome awaits.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH

81. Can you answer this question?  What is your purpose on this planet?  Do you seek to serve or to be served?

82. Contribute to the greater good.  Perhaps that means spending a few hours volunteering in your community or spending some time with an elderly neighbor.  New York Cares is a wonderful organization to volunteer with, if you're in the NYC area.  At home, it is vital to teach children that "many hands make light work".  Even if you have the financial means to pay someone else to make your child's bed or tidy up their room, don't do it!  That also goes for paying children to do their own chores; don't do it!  Children need to be intrinsically motivated to contribute to the household, so this same sense of citizenship will come naturally to them as adults.

83. Contribute to the greater good when you're on vacation.  Yes, you read that right.  Pay your good fortune forward when traveling by donating clothing, medicine, or toiletries or by volunteering for an afternoon at a local school or orphanage.  Hotel concierge employees can usually direct you to local, reputable organizations.

84. Have high expectations for yourself.   Given the fragile state of job markets all around the world, most people feel grateful just to have a consistent paycheck.  However, everything comes with a price.  Are you exploiting your body, sacrificing your self-respect, or working in unethical conditions?  No one deserves to be mistreated in their place of employment.  Take action to protect yourself, and know that you deserve to have peace in the workplace.  Never take solace in these words, "it could be worse".  Remember, it could be a whole lot better.



85. Make waking up for work easier.  Have you tried a wake up light alarm clock?  It's on my to buy list.  I'm dying to try it out.  In the meantime, you can download an app called SleepTime to gradually wake you from your sleep.

86. Don't say I wish, I should, I'll try--say I WILL.  I will ask for a promotion.  I will ask for a raise.  I will take a new course to improve my career prospects.  Nobody is stopping you except you. When you change what you believe, you change what you do.

87. Change is constant.  Co-workers leave, bosses move to a new location, and jobs are eliminated. Expect change and be prepared for it.

88. Networking is awkward for everyone.  But you still need to do it, even when you have a job you enjoy.  See above.

89. Don't engage in workplace gossip.  Gossip is really the world's worst germ.  If you feel like you're going to engage in gossip, cover your mouth!  It's so unprofessional and it zaps you of all positive energy in the workplace.

90. Interact with others and exchange ideas as much as possible.  In Shanghai, I felt very fulfilled meeting with other PE teachers during our "Shanghai PE Professionals" meet-ups.  It was a great way to continue to grow as a professional and receive mentorship and guidance.

91. Promote other people's work. Managers really appreciate this act of kindness.  Ask other people to promote your work in return.

92. Ask people how their projects are coming along, with genuine interest.  Ask follow up questions to demonstrate that you sincerely care about your colleagues and managers.  It doesn't take much to make a person feel valued.

93. Help other people connect.  I'm kind of a nerd about this one.  Nothing makes me happier than "connecting dots".  I've introduced countless acquaintances to each other who end up becoming business partners, colleagues, travel buddies or friends.

94.  Help teens develop a strong work ethic, preferably by working in customer service.  I had the best time working in a bakery growing up.  It was a great place to learn to socialize with adults, to serve and to connect with people, but it also helped to learn early on that life did not revolve around me; often when you’re young you’re only focused on what everyone does for you.

95. Give thanks to your mentors.  My mentor in Shanghai passed away last summer, and I only hope that I expressed my gratitude a sufficient number of times during the time we worked together.

96. Keep in touch with everyone.  Call me old fashioned, but I especially like sending Christmas cards.

97.  Maintain clear and accurate records. At all times.  Always leave a paper trail and stay organized!

98.  Take people seriously when they ask for help.  Most people want to do a great job at work. Don't make their lives harder by ignoring their requests for help.

99.  Appreciate the one wild and precious life you've been given.  Appreciate all that you've experienced and learned in life up to this point.  Life happens now!

100.  Have regular hours for work and play, make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success. -from the book, Little Women, written by Louisa May Alcott in 1868.

Be well, everyone!  Until next time...

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