14 Things You Should Spend More Time On
In our rush-rush, hurry-hurry world of multitasking and automation, we’ve managed to cram more into an average day than ever before.
But there are some things that shouldn’t be left to an app, condensed to an audio book, or squeezed in between yoga class and clearing out your DVR. Yes, you heard me…there are still some things that require your full and undivided personal attention.
Now, things such as your health and your money go without saying, and I doubt that you need any convincing on those points. For that reason, the obvious priorities have been left off this list — instead, you’ll find aspects that are easier to overlook. (See also: 25 Healthy Changes You Can Make Today)
1. Your Teeth
We’re all aware of the importance of having a bright and shining smile, but the cosmetic benefits are only the tip of the iceberg. And according to a 2009 survey of dentists, we’re not taking the care we should when it comes to our teeth.
A healthy mouth prevents bad breath and tooth decay, but it also helps prevent gum disease, the leading cause of tooth loss and a contributing factor in heart attacks and strokes. To get the benefits of a healthy mouth, however, you need to spend at least 10 minutes a day practicing good oral hygiene and make regular visits to your dentist for a deeper cleaning.
2. Your Home
They say that your home is a reflection of what’s going on in your life, so if things seem chaotic or “out-of-sorts,” that sensation is then mirrored in the design and decorating in your house.
But sometimes, the opposite is true. Your home also influences your mood, so if your study is cluttered and messy, for example, you’ll likely feel frustrated and agitated whenever you enter the room. Likewise, an unorganized kitchen can make cooking a pain, encouraging you to eat something fast but less-healthy to avoid spending time in the room.
And now, new studies show that clutter isn’t the only factor to consider. Dubbed neuroarchitecture, research shows that lighting, color, space, and general décor have the ability to actually enhance our mood and even improve our performance.
So, the next time you’re feeling stressed or blue, take a look around at your environment…it may be time to redecorate.
3. Family and Friends
While there’s much to be said for alone time (see #5 below), we are still very much social creatures at heart and our relationships are an important component of our self-esteem.
Unfortunately, our busy schedules can make quality time with family and friends difficult to achieve, meaning that you have to work at it if you want to see some positive results.
And if an improvement in mood and outlook aren’t enough to motivate you to connect with others, check this out — a 2003 Study at Ohio State University (PDF) suggests that illness and injuries actually heal faster when we’re surrounded and supported by those we love.
A while back, I wrote about ways to improve your memory and possibly stave off dementia and other degenerative diseases of the mind. Since that time, I’ve added daily lessons of Spanish and French in my household (as well as my mother’s), and I’m also relearning algebra as well.
The results are noticeable. Nevermind that I feel a little smarter; I’m also finding it easier to recall information and talk intelligently without struggling for words along the way. And what I realized was this — we spend our school years cramming and memorizing and studying a wide variety of subjects, but once we enter the “real world,” we tend to specialize in our profession and that constant challenge of learning new things seems to stop.
Is it any wonder, then, that our minds begin to deteriorate?
Now, the good news is that you don’t have to restrict yourself to language and math. You can memorize the presidents, study geology or history, rekindle that love of science, or dive into the crazy world of politics. The point is to keep learning…and the more you learn, the more new pathways your brain will create.
There’s nothing wrong with craving the company of others, and if you read #3 above, then you know that I’ve already established the importance of reinforcing and nurturing those human connections.
But solitude is important too…so much so that several recent studies suggest that there’s definitely some benefits to going solo on a regular basis. That alone time allows you to clear your head, balance emotions, process and memorize information, and even tap into your own “meaning of life.”
6. Your Beliefs
One of the things I enjoyed about my college debate class was that my professor often asked us to argue the opposite point of view.
This forced us to set aside our own personal belief systems and — to the best of our abilities — find a way to justify an opposing opinion. Granted, some topics were easier than others, but the result was always the same — we found that we understood more about the other side than we might have previously been willing to admit.
Now, imagine what kind of progress we could make if we employed that tactic all the time?
7. Your Wardrobe
In the corporate world, it’s widely known that what you wear can have a direct effect on your confidence level. People tend to take you more seriously when you’re dressed for success, and the mere knowledge that you look good is enough to make you feel empowered.
So why should that practice begin and end with the boardroom?
Like our homes, how we dress is a direct reflection of how we feel, meaning that t-shirts and sweats are OK, but if they make up the majority of your wardrobe, you’re doing your self-confidence an injustice.
No, power suits aren’t required for everyday attire, but some bright colors can do wonders for your mood and more importantly, your self-esteem, both of which can improve your negotiating skills, productivity, and outlook on life.
8. Your Memories
I’m a genealogy junkie. What started as a curious search for my great-grandmother’s birthplace has turned into a full-blown obsession to discover everything there is to know about my ancestors and their lives.
This obsession, however, has also made me realize the importance of preserving the memories I’m creating along the way…not just photographs, but stories and thoughts that will tell my grandchildren (and their grandchildren) exactly who I was and what mattered to me the most.
Creating a scrapbook of your life also allows you the opportunity to take those walks down memory lane and discover some life lessons you might have missed along the way. It’s therapeutic, it’s comforting, and it has the potential to be eye-opening.
9. Creative Expression
We spend quite a bit of time doing what has to be done, whether it’s paying bills or washing dishes or going to work.
Making time for creative expression gives you the chance to use a different part of your brain and focus on something that comes from deep within your own psyche rather than our usual day-to-day grind. Studies show that regularly dabbling in something artistic improves problem-solving skills, relieves stress, and lifts your mood — three good reasons to make art class high on your list of priorities.
10. Your Manners
We’re all quick to talk about morals and values, but whatever happened to manners?
Somehow, it’s become acceptable to be indifferent (or worse, downright rude) if it serves our cause or ensures our success. I see kids acting in ways that I would never have behaved growing up, and I see adults acting with the same belligerence and discourteous mannerisms that we used to chalk up to the younger generations who didn’t know any better.
Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m all for a good debate, and I’m the first in line when it comes to standing up for a good cause. But I think we lose something very vital to our society when getting our way means that we forget our manners.
Call me old, call me out of touch…just be sure to say please and thank you when you do.
11. Your Dreams
When you were young, what did you want to be? A firefighter? A doctor? An astronaut? A princess? It’s easy to have big dreams when we’re little because there was nothing to force us to think otherwise.
Of course, as we grow older, reality sets in and we learn to settle for something that will pay the bills rather than seek out that thing that makes our heart sing.
But your dreams are your dreams for a reason — they represent your passion, that thing that makes you tick, and if you don’t give them some attention now and then, dreams tend to wither away and die.
The good news is that you don’t have to quit your steady accounting job in order to explore your notions of becoming a cowboy. Small steps and small changes are often all it takes to revive those dreams and set you on a new and potentially more satisfying path.
12. Your Fears
I recently wrote an article about getting things done and noted that “fear” was actually our biggest motivator and also our biggest obstacle. Fear makes us behave in ways that are unbecoming to such an intelligent species, and it also keeps us from pushing the envelope and discovering what we’re really capable of achieving.
The bottom line — if your life isn’t exactly what you want it to be, look at what you’re afraid of. Chances are, fear is holding you back from your true potential.
13. Your Strengths
Self-improvement experts have always taught us that we need to work on our weaknesses if we want to improve them.
But instead of spending so much time focusing on the things we despise and don’t do well, why not spend more time focusing on areas in which we excel?
Using this mindset, we’d spend more time doing things we love, things that come naturally to us and that we have a talent for mastering. Imagine what a wonderful world we’d live in if everyone spent their days doing the things they love the most?
14. Your Unchartered Territory
I’ve already mentioned fears, dreams, and beliefs, but I want to take things one step further before we call this article “done.”
Taking risks and venturing out into the unknown is something we don’t like to do…and we don’t like it because it requires us to change. But if there’s one thing constant in the universe, it’s the fact that everything is changing and will continue to do so, regardless of whether we’re changing with it or not.
So if there’s one thing you take away from this article, let it be this — you don’t know what’s out there until you look. You don’t know if you like something until you try it, and you don’t know if you’ll succeed unless you’re willing to take a chance with the possibility that you’ll fail.
Life is what you make of it. Choosing to live it inside a safe but predictable bubble won’t get you to where you really want to go, and you’ll never know what kind of amazing surprises were waiting for you in that unchartered territory.