5 things to add and subtract to be healthier and happier
Written: 08-24-2017

On my walk to get coffee this morning, I was listening to the James Altucher Show as he interviewed Noah Kagan. James was sharing how he completely eliminated every material thing in his life other than three sets of clothes, his laptop and a kindle. It sounds like he’s living a pretty excellent life moving from Airbnb to new Airbnb each month, but then Noah asked “How does this related to the person in Ohio?” It’s a fair question, as most of us don’t have the desire to get rid of everything, however we might benefit from evaluating the excesses in our life.

The minimalist movement is not new. There are Netflix documentaries, a book section on amazon and the entire tiny house movement. One of the books that continuously comes up is, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” When I moved several months ago, I spent the time thinking through the value that items had or didn’t have. I felt like I got rid of many things, however on moving day I realized there was still a lot of stuff.

The conversation between James and Noah got me thinking, what are five things a person could remove from their life today that would make them happier and healthier (a guidepost for my decision making). It also sparked the question, what five things could they add to be happier and healthier?

I did not limit myself to material items, here’s what I came up with:

Eliminate:

1. Daily news from television or radio. This is something I did years ago now and it has paid me back exponentially in terms of happiness. The reality is that it’s impossible to hide from all news stories, but that was not my goal. I simply wanted to avoid the heightened state of anxiety the 24 hour news cycle tries to keep us in.

2. Alarm clock. This may not be possible for everyone, but sleep is a major factor in one’s journey to health. The alarm clock was not created to help us sleep better.

3. Push notifications on your phone. I will admit that I have not done this yet. As a product manager and creator, I know the value that push notifications can provide to positively influence behavior. However, I’d argue that the majority of push notifications you get are interruptions and not helpful, nor supporting your health.

4. Daily Commute. The research is pretty clear that the longer your daily commute, the less likely you are to be happy and the more likely you are to have depression. There are multiple strategies to limit or eliminate your required commuting, so before you say it’s not possible, at least spend some time thinking creatively.

5. Storage units and junk closets.  It’s easy to allow our things to grow into the spaces we give them. If we have storage units and junk closets, it’s likely we have a lot of junk. I still have a storage unit that is hopefully going to be cleaned out in the next week. Sadly, I couldn’t tell you what is in it. I clearly don’t need anything that’s in there.

Addition:

1. Walking without the requirement of exercise. I believe that movement for the sake of moving, along with the ability to take the opportunity to enjoy the interesting things you discover is one of the most beneficial things we can do. I love to exercise and also think it’s critical for your health, but this is different. Exercise invokes purpose and expectation, I’m simply talking about going for a walk.

2. Pomodoro Timer. It’s one of the best additions to my day in the past year. It’s helped productivity and breaks me from getting stuck in long durations of sitting.

3. Social engagement. There are many studies that show a healthy and connected social life is predictive of longevity. While it’s hard to create this in a day, it’s possible to commit to an activity where you will engage with others. I get myself out and work in a co-working space, but you could also try meetup.com to find a place to start. This does not include social media engagement, which I know would feel much easier and be less scary.

4. Food you could grow. Eat something today that you know you could grow yourself, if you had the time and desire to grow it.

5. Therapy. I used to have a stigma associated with therapy. The saying, “you need to see a shrink”, was never a phrase shared with empathy or kindness. However, seeing a therapist is one of the best things I’ve ever made the decision to do. I have friends and family that are there for me, always willing to listen if I want to share. But, the value of having a completely non biased person listen to me verbalize my thoughts without judgement or agenda, is invaluable. As long as I can afford the service, I will keep it in my schedule.