It can generally be agreed upon that life can be very difficult at times, especially in a time period such as 2020-1, given Covid-19 and a myriad of other issues. Although the going may be rough and tumultuous, know that there’s always the opportunity to better yourself regarding both health and achievement. Below are some methods concerning how to better your lot and to take care of yourself.
#1: Practice gratitude.
It’s easy in a competitive environment (and world) to forget the blessings you have. Although this is understandable, given how the process of natural selection that formed humans doesn’t select for well-being whatsoever (it in fact encourages ingratitude due to those seeking more tending to have better odds of survival and reproduction), this doesn’t mean that individuals should forget how lucky they may be. If you’re reading this, you’re doing it on an electronic device: this automatically makes you luckier than a vast number of other people, given how hundreds of millions of people today (more than 10% of humanity) are struggling just to survive. Though it is difficult for many people to come to grasp that they’re very lucky compared to all the humans beforehand, know that this is true (can you imagine living in the Dark Ages?). On a personal note, consider whatever accomplishments you’ve done so far. While you may not be surprised at what you have been able to do in hindsight, that only reinforces the idea that we should be mindful of ourselves and what’s around us. We all have things to appreciate, which is why we should cherish them and be motivated to not only help ourselves, but others as well.
#2: Give yourself time to relax.
Overwork and burnout are issues that many millions of people deal with. It manifests itself differently for every individual: for some it may be related to familial responsibilities, for others it can revolve around school, and it is likely to involve financial insecurity and personal issues. Overwork and burnout tend to slowly creep in over weeks, months, and years: the key to handling them effectively is a willingness to give oneself time to relax, for a constantly active mind is unsustainable given our current biology. When it comes to finding time to have leisure, any amount of time is likely to be helpful. Even if one is very busy, one should always take time to pause. For instance, you can give yourself a five-minute break for every half-hour of work, take power naps, or even decrease your workload so that you can do a better job at handling your other responsibilities. Concerning the idea of productivity, providing yourself with leisure will likely enable you to handle more, for the mind needs intervals where it can declutter itself and be rejuvenated.
(P. S.: for archive.org, you have to make a free account to access many of its resources: be assured, I’ve used it for months and have found it to be an invaluable resource).
#3: Be compassionate towards yourself.
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Buddha
As the quote by Sophocles (which came from his astounding Antigone) states, every individual as of yet, despite their potential intelligence and character, has made (many) mistakes. While it is easy to blame oneself for what has occurred and to sink into self-pity or even self-hatred, this course shouldn’t be undertaken, given how (1) it’s likely to make things even worse and (2) it doesn’t change the past. Individuals with tendencies to feel guilt should do whatever they can to rectify their miscalculations and failings and to move on with a better understanding of the world, not to dwell on moments that are beyond one’s reach. Moreover, if determinism is true (which I believe it is), then there is even less reason why a person should be hard towards themselves, for things had to be the way they were and couldn’t have been otherwise. Having compassion towards yourself (hopefully) means treating yourself like how you would treat others. As stated before, taking things easy and enjoying a holistic picture of yourself will most definitely better your life. I would like to end this section by citing Derek Parfit: personal identity may very well (and I believe it is) a myth. That is, the person you were some time ago is different from who you are now. You therefore shouldn’t feel shame towards who you presently are, for the individual guilty of the deed which troubles you wasn’t really you at all (at most, a less inexperienced namesake of you who didn’t have the capacity at the time of understanding that what they were doing was foolhardy).
#4: Stay connected with others.
“When we our betters see bearing our woes,
We scarcely think our miseries our foes.
Who alone suffers suffers most i’ th’ mind,
Leaving free things and happy shows behind.
But then the mind much sufferance doth o’erskip
When grief hath mates and bearing fellowship.”
– Shakespeare, King Lear 3.7.111-116.
One of the best remedies for virtually all of life’s problems is companionship. This could involve your friends, family, and pets. The value of cooperation and mutual care is the primary reason why Homo sapiens has survived so long, and it is what will redeem humankind if it is followed. As the common saying goes, “United we stand, divided we fall.” As the previous quote of Shakespeare relates, having good company is a fantastic way to bear hardship when it does occur and to actively enjoy life. It is no coincidence that Epicureanism and Stoicism, two rival schools of thought of Greece and Rome, were able to agree on the astounding value of comradeship and relationships founded on mutual trust, respect, and affection: without others, no being can survive. Every day individuals rely on various systems to maintain their existence. To name a few, there’re agriculture, government, transportation, news, and the electrical system. Einstein himself said that no matter what state an individual is in, their fates are interlinked with the others. Following this line of thinking, if you want to be well-off yourself as well as conducive to the interests of others, spend time with them and open your heart and mind while doing so, as no individual is all-wise.
#5: Be kind towards other beings.
“Use your voice for kindness, your hands for charity, your mind for truth, and your heart for love.” – Buddha
Scientists have definitively demonstrated that helping others does in fact boost mood: it is a fantastic way to release dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, chemicals that are vital for stability and happiness. Moreover, being willing to assist others provides one with meaning, not-mentioning how it is right in and of itself. As for who one should be kind to, the answer is every living creature. The Nobel laureate Albert Schweitzer put it as follows: “A person is only ethical when life, as such, is sacred to them, that of plants and animals as well as his fellow humans, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help.” While it is true that one can’t always be kind to everyone, decency should be the minimum: be kind and helpful by default, but decent and fair if the situation calls for it.
“And yet even in the hate and turmoil and distresses of the Days of Confusion there must have been earnest enough of the exquisite and glorious possibilities of life. Over the foulest slums the sunset called to the imaginations of men, and from mountain ridges, across great valleys, from cliffs and hillsides and by the uncertain and terrible splendours of the sea, men must have had glimpses of the attainable magnificence of being. Every flower petal, the vitality of young things, the happy moments of the human mind transcending itself in art, all these things must have been material for hope, incentive to effort. And now at last this world!” – H. G. Wells, Men Like Gods.
“Even darkness must pass.” – J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.
“The path to paradise begins in Hell.” – Dante Alighieri.
One of the best and easiest ways to be happy is to contemplate what wonders the future may have in store. Though dystopian novels and movies are prominent and the various conflicts, sufferings, and abominations the world contains may make one feel like there’s no hope concerning the future, there in fact is, for the accelerating rate of technology (especially in artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and genetic engineering), if things go even moderately well, may lead to a world of splendor and sublime beauty for all living creatures. When it comes to what happy things to ruminate on, just think about whatever makes you happy, be it spending time with friends, going to college or a vacation, learning new things, or relaxing. A life lived solely in the present and past is suboptimal, for one should have things to strive for.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
Aside from keeping you fit, exercise is a fantastic way to boost your mood, for not only does it exert the body, but it gives something to be proud of for the rest of the day. It also doesn’t have to be intense: aerobic workouts such as jogging, jump-roping, or walking can augment your quality of life, thereby making them worthwhile. Of course, exercise should be consistent, not short-lived, as that’s the whole point: it’s something you should be doing for your entire life. It should also be mentioned that the human body is not adapted to the modern era, for it was designed to store fat in the ancestral environment, hence why so many people suffer from ill health from overnutrition. And that’s another reason why one should exercise.
#8: Have a consistent sleep schedule.
“We dream in our waking moments, and walk in our sleep.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
Like exercise, sleep is essential for your health. Make sure to get a significant amount of sleep every night. When it comes to the problems of insomnia and oversleeping/drowsiness, you can deal with it effectively by having a schedule for when you slip into the world of dreams: that way, your body’s circadian rhythm will adjust to the next parameter.
#9: Learn something new.
“What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.” – Isaac Newton
“I would rather discover one true cause than gain the kingdom of Persia.” – Democritus
Learning (for me, at least) is wondrous and sublime: having one’s horizons expanded, understanding deepened, and vision furthered, has the capability of not only transforming an individual but doing so for the better, seeing how both love and knowledge are needed to make the world into a better place (perhaps into a paradise in due time). There are countless subjects to be explored, studied, analyzed, and ruminated on. Various individuals will be interested in various subjects: there’s no “right” or “wrong” field of learning to be engrossed in, so long as you genuinely are interested in it and are willing to learn. Personally, my main focuses are history, economics, philosophy, literature, and science, and I can say that they have drastically improved me as an individual, which is why every individual should be willing to learn. If nothing else, acquiring knowledge (even if only in the human sense) liberates one from oneself, thereby setting one free. To end with a quote from Einstein: “More the knowledge, lesser the ego. Lesser the knowledge, more the ego.” To which Epictetus may add: “No being is free who is not master of themself.”
#10: Live for others.
“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” – Albert Einstein
“The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.” – Bertrand Russell
“In my journey through Joseph Conrad’s heart of darkness, I’ve learned that a man is measured not by how much money he makes, but by how much he’s willing to give away, especially to strangers.” – Philip Wollen
“If you knew what I know about the power of giving, you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way.” – Buddha
A life lived for the betterment of others is, to my knowledge, the noblest aspiration to which an individual can strive for. This can take many forms, from working in a profession to directly help others to earning to give to conducting research. Though every person’s capabilities regarding helping others are different, that is in fact a blessing, for there’s a vast amount of talents that can be employed wisely to improve the world. Personally, I plan to become a lawyer so that I can earn to give: I hope to provide at least half of my salary throughout my career to eradicate poverty and to advocate for animal rights, seeing how countless other beings need it more than I do. As stated before, the way each person makes a difference depends on who they are, which is why assessing one’s skills is crucial. When it comes to how this deals with stress, refraining from being self-absorbed and being interested in others is a fantastic way to raise one’s own physical and mental health, as a much better mood following providing aid to others, combined with a sense of purpose and community, is something money can’t buy. As Uncle Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender put it, “Sometimes the best way to solve your own problems is to help others.” And indeed, what better arrangement between individuals could there be? Relationships can be wonderful, and the best of the best are almost exclusively those that are transcendental.