June 6th, 2022 – Huntington, New York
I feel like shit
I’ve been going to the gym 3-4 times a week for the last six months, walking 10,000+ steps per day, running three miles twice a week, doing yoga and stretching regularly.
Yet, here I am, feeling like shit.
Lately, I’ve been feeling more lethargic than usual – even requiring a midday nap, which has never been something I’ve needed. My allergies are the worst they’ve been in quite a while and I have had a non-stop stuffy nose for over 5 weeks and counting. Lauren and I just moved into a new home in mid-March but it’s an old home. At the moment we don’t have an oven or stove to cook basic meals on, so our diets have mostly been bread-based or microwavable meals. And the cherry on top is that now my hangovers (even after just 2-3 drinks) are significantly worse than ever before.
Present day – August 9th, 2022
I’ve made some adjustments since then. The best way to sort out any problem is to write it down. So, I grabbed my notebook and started to list out all of the things I do when I feel my best – my environment, my daily routine, my diet, the people I associate with, the actions I take and the things I avoid.
Where I struggled was in identifying what was making me feel so bad back in June. On paper, I was doing everything right. But one I took a closer look and examined my day-to-day, there were some big misses that I wasn’t recognizing.
I recently read a book called The Greatest Salesman in the World, which, despite the name, is actually not about sales at all. One of the key messages is about habits. The author writes, “In truth, the only difference between those who have failed and those who have succeeded lies in the difference of their habits… Thus, the first law [of success] is — I will form good habits and become their slave.”
Most of what is ailing you can be solved by removing bad habits and replacing them with good ones. Another point that author makes in the book is the importance of loving yourself. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s easy to forget this fundamental rule. He writes:
“And most of all I will love myself. For when I do I will zealously inspect all things which enter my body, my mind, my soul, and my heart. Never will I overindulge the requests of my flesh, rather I will cherish my body with cleanliness and moderation. Never will I allow my mind to be attracted to evil and despair, rather I will uplift it with knowledge and wisdom of the ages. Never will I allow my soul to become complacent and satisfied, rather I will feed it with meditation and prayer. Never will I allow my heart to become small and bitter, tather I will share it and it will grow and warm the earth.”
I’d say that’s a pretty good place to start…
How to Feel Your Best
I sought the answer for myself. What bad habits could I eliminate and what good habits could I become a slave to? This answer will obviously differ for every single person. You are not a machine. You are more like a garden. You need different things on different days. Sun today, a little water tomorrow. You have underdeveloped seasons and fruitful seasons. This is not a design flaw. This way of living is much better than constant sameness.
Step one is writing down all the things you’re currently doing or have done that make you feel shitty. This would include things like drinking five nights a week, smoking cigarettes, watching porn all the time, staying inside all day, ordering Seamless every night, and watching the news. For some, you can live life and be merry that way. But in most cases, I’d bet those habits aren’t positively contributing to your quality of life.
Now that you’ve established what makes you feel shitty, you can reverse course. Ask yourself the opposite:
What are the things I am doing when I feel at my best?
What are the feelings I feel?
What are the smells I smell?
What actions do I take?
What are the things I say and who are the people I’m with when I feel energized and light inside – when I feel like my whole body is smiling and vibrant?
This list will definitely be harder. Especially since the things won’t be nearly as specific. Try to write down ten answers for every question – even if you can only think of two, write ten.
The easiest place to start is elimination. Minimalism is typically the answer, and you can increase your daily joy simply by eliminating or minimizing certain things, people, or behaviors – alcohol, late nights, bread, tv, social media, candy, or drugs. Bruce Lee wisely said, “One does not accumulate, but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.”
When all else fails, there are five places to look – sleep, exercise, diet, mental state, and socializing.
- Sleep | Good Habit = Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule
In July, I didn’t drink for 25 days. I also made an intention to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – 10pm to sleep and 5am to wake. These two steps alone had a serious impact on my energy levels. No alcohol = no hangovers. Add a consistent sleeping schedule that allowed me to get more sleep which ultimately = more energy.
Obvoiusly you don’t have to give up drinking altogether. If you do drink, try to cut yourself off two hours before your normal bed time and switch to club soda or water. Your friends will make fun of you, but who gives a crap? You’re 30 years old. Hangovers are two day events now.
Sleep | Bad Habits to Eliminate = Eating two hours before bedtime — hitting the snooze button every day — not hydrating before bed
2. Exercise: More Walks and Daily Sweat
The bare minimum for exercise is walking 10,000 steps every day. I say the bare minimum, because you should really be aiming more towards 15,000 steps. Walking, in my opinion, is the most under-utilized form of exercise out there. If you don’t have the energy to lift weights, go on long walks. Call you friends, listen to a podcast or audiobook, or just raw-dog it with no headphones.
The next best thing is setting a rule for yourself to sweat every day. Doesn’t matter how, just try to sweat anywhere from 15-20 minutes minimum. This could be a bike road, a yoga class, a gym session, shooting hoops, whatever. Try to sweat
Exercise | Bad Habits to Eliminate = Sitting all day without walking 10,000 steps — not having a set time to exercise each day/
3. Diet: Eliminate Domino Foods
The simple adage for diet is EAT REAL FOOD. Only shop on the perimeter of the grocery stores – fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, dairy. If it has a logo or intricate packaging, lose it.
My diet is usually pretty healthy. The main thing for me is really just to limit the amount of bread – so as long as I can cut out pizza and sandwiches, I can make pretty good choices. That just means choosing a bowl vs. a burrito at Chipotle, or getting a burger without the bun and a side salad instead of fries.
It also means less snacking. I can get into a bad habit of habitually snacking on pretzels, crackers, or chips. For me, the best strategy is simply “out of sight, out of mind.” Keep them out of the house. Or, if someone offers you a bite or small piece, just say no altogether. These are what I call “domino foods.” As soon as you have one, it’s impossible not to have ten or one hundred (fries, potato chips, etc.)
If you go out to dinner, set a rule. Bread, Alcohol, Dessert. You can only have one of the three.
Diet | Bad Habits to Eliminate = Drinking your calories (juices, Gatorade, soda) — sugar in your breakfast, replace it with healthy fats (eggs, avocado, olive oil, feta cheese, bacon)
4. Mental: Positive Affirmations
On the face of it, I completely understand people who cringe at the thought of things like “positive affirmations” or the “law of attraction.” But after years of applying it to my life regularly, I can say with confidence that it works. Your brain is a follower not a leader. Imagine riding on the back of an elephant. Yes, it’s going to take some effort to get the elephant to move, but if you instruct it with enough conviction, it will listen. Your mind is the same way.
If you consistently tell yourself every morning and night things like, “I am successful. I am happy. I am abundant,” your brain will start to believe it. As stupid as that sounds, subconsciously you will put yourself in situations that affirm your statements. I promise if you do this consistently, your headspace will change. But you have to truly believe it and say it with conviction, or else your just quoting things. Do you think Michael Jordan’s self talk was “Well, what if I’m not good enough? What if I miss this shot?” Of course not.
The best approach for a good mental state is to understand what you can control and what you cannot. Only worry about those things you can control at this moment. Everything else is a waste of brainpower.
Mental | Bad Habits to Eliminate = Worrying about things outside of your control — Negative self-talk — Consuming too much media (news, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, etc).
5. Social: See Friends & Family Regularly, but Schedule Some Time for Yourself
I’m perfectly happy by myself.
I actually prefer to spend a weekend alone doing the things that give me leisure. I get impatient waiting on other people, scheduling, and trying to coordinate things that I’d rather just do it quickly and efficiently by myself. But I also realize when I don’t see my friends or family for a while, I can get grouchy and reserved. My friends bring out the best of me. They challenge me, teach me things, and share memories with me. I know I have to make the effort to schedule something with my friends or family at least once a week in order to feel my best.
Social | Bad Habits to Eliminate = Frequent isolation — Not trying new things — looking at your phone at a party
So, those are the five buckets for feeling good. At any given moment, one of those legs can give out. Just remember to revisit your notes. You’ll find your way back to feeling your best self. I know it.