You and I have spent the better part of our lives pursuing success, but we can’t change this eternal truth: The best things in life are (nearly) free. Good health, time with loved ones, relaxing with our pets, and the simple comfort of a cup of coffee at the kitchen table on a quiet Saturday morning…you don’t need to live in a palace to appreciate these things. It truly is the little things in life that matter the most.
There are also many things money can’t buy. For example, some of us have health issues, due to misfortune or genetics, that can’t be fixed no matter how much money we throw at them. Some mornings we get up on the wrong side of the bed. Murphy’s Law applies to us too. Yes, even ETR readers have struggles.
On those days we must turn to the scientifically proven rituals that are within our control and guaranteed to improve our well-being. Here are 5 habits to do every day for a better life, and none of them cost more than a few dollars to get started.
1) Give Gratitude
Being grateful should not be limited to Thanksgiving. As The New York Timesreported, “having gratitude has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners.”
It’s tempting to let one’s cynical nature reject the idea. I almost did. I grew up relatively poor on a farm just outside of Stratford, a small city in Ontario, Canada. We lived frugally, wore hand-me-down clothes, and clipped coupons for groceries. This upbringing left me with a scarcity mindset until my early thirties. When I was first introduced to the concept of gratitude, I was skeptical and wanted to reject it. But I gave it a try and added daily gratitude journaling to my habits. It’s become one of the most important parts of my life, and will add to yours as well.
If you don’t already have a copy of the Gratitude Journal we created, please get one here. It takes just a few minutes to fill out. You’ll simply list the people, things, and activities you are grateful for, and the achievements you made each day. If you are going through any type of health, financial, or marital struggles, I promise gratitude journaling will give you the right perspective on life.
2) Meditate for Minutes
How much would you pay for a pill that promises less anxiety, more focus, improved patience, greater creativity, and a better memory, all without side effects? All of these benefits are freely available to you through meditation.
It does not take long, nor is it difficult to experience the benefits. As little as a minute of slow, deep breathing calms you down and lowers blood pressure, and just a few minutes per day delivers an incredible return on investment. Click here for a 3-minute meditation program.
Admittedly, it’s not an easy habit to keep. I started and stopped several times before finally making meditation a daily habit in 2013 and it’s now been almost 1,000 days in a row I’ve meditated for at least 5 minutes. The secret is to effortlessly incorporate it into your daily routine, and that will likely mean doing it within the first thirty minutes of waking up.
Sit comfortably, either in a chair or on the floor (with your hips elevated on cushions to make it comfortable). Bend your arms, palms up, touch your index finger to your thumb, close your eyes, and breathe slow and deep. It’s okay if your mind races. If that happens, return your focus to your breathing. When I began meditating, I counted the number of breaths, and tried to do one more breath each day. Do whatever it takes to get started, and eventually you’ll come to love the internal benefits of feeling calm and being better able to control your emotions.
Start with just a minute for the first few days. If you can go longer, that’s fine. Next week aim for two minutes. Build up to at least five minutes, and preferably 15-20 minutes per day. It will make a world of difference in your physical and mental health…for free.
3) Write a Thank-You Card to Someone Every Day
My father, whom I loved dearly, was a bitter, jealous man, and I’ve fought all my life to escape the shadow of his demons. A few summers ago I found myself jealous over the success of a good friend. Feeling ashamed of these thoughts, I decided to turn bitter into better. Instead of envying my friend, I wrote him a note thanking him for being an industry leader and congratulating him on his success.
Writing the thank-you card was a big mental breakthrough. It lifted a burden of guilt from my heart. A big smile crossed my face as I dropped it in the mail knowing it would arrive as a surprise. Now I write a thank you note every day because this little act of appreciation has made a big difference in my life.
4) The 3 Es: Exercise, Eat Right, & be Early to Rise
We are incredibly fortunate to eat whatever and wherever we want. One of the greatest meals I ever had was a rich, five course lunch at the Antinori winery in Tuscany. But tempting as it might be, we can’t eat like that everyday. It’s fine to enjoy one or two meals of your favorite food and drink in moderate amounts each week, but history proves a rich diet is a recipe for gout, diabetes, and an early death. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to eat delicious meals made from nutrient dense, organic foods.
When it comes to exercise, you don’t need a $5,000 treadmill or $2,500 weight machine set-up in a dedicated home gym. You’ll look and feel better – and younger – from a simple program of walking and bodyweight exercises.
Finally, it pays to be Early To Rise. My longtime mentor and ETR’s founder, Mark Ford, shared one simple tip for giving me more energy. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. When I took Mark’s advice on this, after ignoring him for years, it was like finding the missing piece of my daily energy puzzle. Gone were the 2 o’clock energy slumps, the Monday morning blahs, and the desire to hit the snooze alarm. It’s so simple, yet so effective.
5) Think Big
You don’t have to be told this twice. As an ETR reader, you’re already successful, and you’ve been thinking big since the day you were born. But there are benefits to formalizing your big thinking.
James Altucher, best selling author of Choose Yourself, suggests writing down 10 big ideas every morning. I recommend doing this before or after your morning meditation session. All you need is a journal and a pen. Add this exercise to your day to ward off the complacency that might be creeping into your life. It will help you make big breakthroughs on any problems in your business and personal life.
These five activities remind me of my great fortune every day, give me the energy and enthusiasm to keep on pushing on during trying times, and form the foundation of my spiritual and physical wellbeing. I am a lucky man, fortunate to count you as a friend and to have had success in business, and these five habits remind me of that everyday. Add them to your daily routine and I know you’ll get as much from them as I do