Top 5 Ways to Start Living Better Today

Sometimes small, seemingly inconsequential changes can drastically improve your day to day life. If you're ready to give things a jump start implement these 5 easy adjustments and start living better today.

Is your life missing something? Something other than those 90 seconds between the time that you take off your pants at night and the time that you fall asleep? Do you sit around all day eating (delicious) Cheez-Doodles? Watch marathons of “Deadliest Catch” or “Man Vs. Wild” all day even though you've already seen every episode? Twice?

Don't worry, this article is guaranteed to get you off your butt and spruce up your life in no time at all (or at the very least give you something to read while sitting on your butt for the next 10 minutes). So stop talking trash on your Fantasy Football message board and listen up!

Get in Your Kitchen!

Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills, and cooking sure as hell is one of 'em. Sure, I could be like every other better living article out there and tell you to simply go on a diet, but I'm far too attractive to say something as bland as that. It also happens to come with its fair share of advantages. One, you can eat healthier choices that taste as good as, or better than, the usual take out for a fraction of the price. Two, home cooking almost always makes great leftovers (unlike chicken nuggets). Three, you aren't living by a strict diet so you can still enjoy your favorite junk foods (in moderation, of course). And we must remember the ladies, lest we forget their undying love for a man who knows how to handle a nice bain-marie.

So, this Thanksgiving, why don't you ask your mom for the recipe of that apple pie or pick up an early Christmas present and get yourself a book by Rachael Ray. You get good enough and cooking may actually start to become such an enjoyable experience you won't mind washing dishes at the end of the night.

What Happens in the Gym Shouldn't Stay in the Gym

Yeah, yeah, yeah, so you go to the gym four days a week and can bench 200 lbs, good for you. But other than spending your time getting huge at the gym, what else have you done lately to keep off all those calories from the two boxes of “ho-hoes” you've been eating a week? Huh, fatty? There's plenty good that can come from a healthy, educated gym workout, but it's not the only good thing you can do to keep your body in great physical shape.

I notice when I'm at the gym that there are two types of people that rarely meet: runners and lifters. The problem with this is that neither of these groups of people are really getting a full workout. I'm not saying you need to make sure you go running every time you go to the gym to lift or vice-versa. I never run at the gym, but that's because I prefer to run outdoors. All you need to make sure is that you get both forms of exercise into your weekly regiment. If you are foreign to running, make sure you start out easy; you don't want to kill your muscles for the whole week because you wanted to move faster than the chick on the treadmill next to you. After a few weeks, try to work a 5k (3.1 miles) into your workout three days a week. It'll help with your endurance in weight training and your energy throughout the day.

Also, try to get in the habit of a morning warm up workout every day when you get up. I prefer to do mine after I get out of the shower and stretch so my body is warmed up some. Just a simple combination of crunches and pushups with a few lifts mixed in should be plenty to get you looking nicer for the ladies than ever before.

a man stretching
Photo by Aye Shamus

Stretch Every Morning

Your muscles require oxygen to function. When you stretch you increase the amount of oxygen that is able to reach them (also what happens when you yawn, just a little FYI), making you feel stronger and more energized. Don't worry about not knowing about any good techniques, five minutes of searching the internet can solve that. But you should remember to start with some stationary aerobics to warm up your muscles a little before you begin stretching them (jumping jacks, squats, and improvised dance routines all among viable options).

Of course, you will probably have to adjust your morning schedule in order to save enough time (at least 15 minutes) to fit a proper stretch session in. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and trust that you are in fact eating breakfast every morning (if not than that is definitely #1 on your list of how to start living better), but just getting up earlier in general can actually help to boost your energy for the whole day.

Obviously, if you are up until 2am every night, getting up three hours later isn't very realistic, but if you don't actually have anything to do on a given night try getting to bed a little earlier and getting up sooner. You'd be surprised the sort of energy you can give yourself! Even if the whole idea of getting up before the rooster doesn't appeal to you, don't pass up the chance to get a little stretching in. It's worth getting up 15 minutes earlier to feel better all day.

Leave the Wild Parties in the Frat HouseLiving Inset

You still drink a six pack a day and smoke cannabis habitually? STOP IT! If you still actually live in a frat house and are reading this, you might not have to listen quite so closely, but for the rest of you who have moved beyond your “John Belushi years” it is time to look for healthier, slightly more constructive ways to spend your evenings. It's completely fine to go out and drink it up with your buddies every once in a while, just try not blacking out 2 or 3 or 6 days a week like you did back in the golden days. If you manage to stay sober long enough you might even find that there are some incredibly fun and interesting things you can do with your free time. I'm not telling how to spend your Friday nights. I'm telling how NOT to spend every night. So go to happy hour, just remember: it's “happy hour” not “Happy-all-night-long-into-early-morning-hour(s).”

Get a Constructive Hobby and Commit to It

The first part of this tip is only useful if you make sure you actually follow up on the second half as well. Anyone can buy a guitar. It takes a lot of drive and dedication to actually learn how to play it (believe me, three months in and four nagging calluses later you'll know what I'm talking about). As someone who plays three instruments (guitar among them) I have few quick words of wisdom for those out there who are actually thinking of picking one up. One: take lessons for at least three to six months. They're vital for learning the basic fundamentals and avoiding bad habits that would make it very difficult for you to actually ever be any good. Two: don't spend too much money.

First of all, no one likes the guy who owns a Gibson Les Paul and doesn't know how to play it. Second, instruments are expensive and a lot of work, you don't want to spend more than around $150 on something you might not touch ever again after a few months whether it is a guitar, keyboard, harmonica, or whatever.

But an instrument isn't the only way to expand your personal horizons.

There are plenty of other great hobbies you can pick up to give yourself something more constructive to do instead of watching that episode of “Mad Men” for the third time or just staring at your fantasy football roster for hours a day because it is so freaking kick ass (like mine). You might try picking up a second language or just keeping a journal. Learning a new language isn't just for bored high-schoolers, it's a practical and very rewarding way to spend your free time. Much like the instruments, it isn't for the casual man, but it is one hobby that you can really use in the professional world and one that can get you to finally make that trip to Paris or Rome you've always wondered about.

Keeping a journal is definitely a lot less of a mind consuming commitment but watch out, it is also the easiest to lose track of. Just set aside one half hour every few nights and just write about something, anything. Stick with it and you'll notice that you will not only start to have a better understanding of what is going on in your life but you'll also start to improve as a writer, and who knows where that could take you!

Other Quick Tips to Live a Fuller Life:

Put Down the Coffee – A glass of water when you wake in the morning and an apple for a mid morning snack are both great natural and healthy energy boosters.

Pick Up a Book – A great way to make sure you are still literate. Some great reads I'd recommend: High Fidelity, Catch-22, The Road, and The Great Gatsby.

Sentence Yourself to Community Service – Be a rec baseball coach, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or join Meals-On-Wheels. You're not only helping others, you're helping yourself.

Kevin MacLean

Kevin H. MacLean currently resides in Brooklyn, NY where he enjoys people watching, writing, and dominating all comers in four-square. You can keep tabs on him at his blog