Let’s start with the basics: what does it mean to “live your best life”? That phrase is thrown around a lot, in various contexts, but I see it most often to justify when someone is doing exactly what they want, when they want.
I’m here to tell you – you don’t have to justify making choices that bring happiness, contentment, purpose, or meaning to your life.
I certainly don’t.
If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know that Logan and I try hard each day to “live our best life.” That is, we do what we can to live in line with our values, make choices that we are proud of, spend time with people who enhance our lives, and use our free time to engage in activities we enjoy.
We do this because we find that we are overall happy, healthy, and content when we live this way.
However, many people don’t live this way, and often times I hear or read, “I don’t have time.”
But that’s really just an excuse, isn’t it?
Whether you have just five minutes a day or five hours, you can and should be creating the opportunities to live your best life.
Or maybe your struggle is you don’t know what it means to “live your best life.”
Okay, I hear you. That’s fair…for now.
I didn’t figure out what “living my best life” means overnight. It’s taken time to figure out what brings me contentment. I’ve learned to pay attention to my moods and connect them with my actions and activities. I’ve also taken note of where my attention gravitates in my free time and why. I’ve explored the concept of values (i.e., what’s important to me) and then tried to live my life in line with those values.
But it’s not a static thing. My wants, needs, likes, dislikes have evolved over time, as I have. That’s normal! It’s important to check-in with yourself periodically to make sure you are doing what you can to live your best life because that’s when you’ll be the happiest, healthiest, and most content.
If you’re still feeling stuck, take a look at my list and see if any of these resonate with you.
Cooking and eating healthy
This is a must for me (times 100)! I love to cook for so many reasons. I enjoy the creative part of it, but I also like knowing what I’m putting in my body because not all foods are created equal.
I’ve experimented to find out which foods work for me. I tried a low carb diet last year and learned that my body doesn’t react well with processed grains. Now I try to eat whole foods as much as possible, and eating food I make myself is one of the best ways to control what I’m eating.
(Side note: you can also invest in a food sensitivity test if you want more definitive answers, but I haven’t felt the need to go this route).
I also truly value my health and being healthy. As a psychotherapist who works in primary care, in addition to private practice, I have many clients with one or more chronic illnesses. This certainly helps to reinforce not taking my health for granted and I try to do everything in my power to be as healthy as possible.
Still, I’m not perfect and don’t aspire to be. I love wine, chocolate, french fries, chips, and cheese puffs (I could go on…), but I do my best to consume them in moderation.
Being hydrated is super important to overall health. I drink at least half my weight in ounces of water every day (but typically more). This is not something I’ve always done, but I’ve realized that I have more energy, less food cravings, and my body feels more regular (if you know what I mean) when I drink plenty of water.
I became even more diligent with drinking water when I started intermittent fasting. Logan encouraged me to reach for water in the morning, which helps a ton with reaching my ounces minimum for the day (which is at least 65 oz but typically wayyy more) because I typically drink about 45ish ounces of water before I eat anything.
My typical morning routine looks like this:
- I drink about 14 ounces of water first thing when I get out of bed. I always fill a glass of water before bed and put it on my nightstand so it’s ready to go when I wake up. This way I never miss a day.
- Then I have coffee with a generous splash of half-and-half.
- Once I’ve finished my coffee I start to work my way through about 20-30 ounces of water before noon when I typically eat my first meal.
- Then in the afternoon I work my way through another 20-30 ounce because most days I exercise and know I’ll lose a lot of water through sweating. I’ll typically have a 16 ounce glass of water right after my workout (not quite full, so probably about 14 oz) and then another glass during or after dinner.
Drinking this much water throughout the day really helps cut down on snack cravings. I don’t deprive myself of a snack, but I’ve become more aware of the times when I’m reaching for a snack as a distraction instead of actually being hungry. By reaching for water instead of food, many times I realize that I’m not actually hungry.
I haven’t always been consistent with exercise. In fact, when I was young, I wasn’t very active and had no real desire to be.
As I got older, I realized that I had a slow metabolism, and I didn’t like how I looked. I felt lethargic but had low motivation to make a change.
I am a big advocate for exercise because it actually gives you energy (instead of taking it away), and it produces endorphins which improves your mental health including reducing stress, which 99% of us need better control over.
Basically, I just overall feel happier, healthier, have more energy, and feel better about myself when I’m exercising consistently.
Over the years, I’ve had to figure out a self-care regime that works for me. It’s been more of an art than a science and requires checking-in with myself regularly to make sure that I’m devoting enough time to taking care of myself. This for sure can be hard at times when life gets busy.
Take this weekend for example: I have three full days of training (Friday through Sunday) and then a full client load on Monday. I will have very little time for self-care until next week. A colleague asked me how I will be balancing this heavy workload with self-care and I said I intentionally scheduled nothing for the evenings over the weekend and made no plans for next week after work. I’m just going to focus on recharging my internal batteries – mind, body, and soul.
If I don’t, I’ll burn out.
Here are some of my go-to self-care practices: reading, meditation/mindfulness, having a glass of wine (really!), listening to music, lighting a candle, putting on a face mask, baking/cooking, taking a walk, sitting outside in the sun (they say 10-15 minutes without sunblock on is great for your health and vitamin D absorption. If longer, apply sunblock!), and watching Real Housewives (and other shows on Bravo).
The key to any self-care practice is finding time just for yourself to recharge. Depending on your lifestyle (career, kids, etc.), it might be hard to carve out time for this, but don’t overthink it. Even if it’s only a few minutes, having a self-care practice (or multiple) is essential for good mental health and thus to living your best life.
As an ambivert, I need time for myself, but I also need to spend time with other people. I believe we all need time with others, to varying degrees depending on where you are on the personality spectrum (i.e, extroverts need more and introverts need less), because humans are hardwired for connection. That means we need it to live our best life!
In general, I make plans with friends one or two days a week and then spend most of the weekend with Logan. The rest of the time (when I’m not at work which is a lot of socialization as a therapist) I’m spending time with myself – doing self-care!
I find that this balance works for me. Like most things, it’s not a science. Socialization looks different for me week to week, and I think having some flexibility is a necessary part of life.
But I do notice that I start to feel “off” if I haven’t made time to see friends. Sometimes, I have more clients scheduled in a given week, so I might back off from seeing friends because I need the time to recharge.
I find that this is okay for a short time but if I let it go on longer, I start to realize that I’m missing that connection I get from my friends, and I need to get it back in my life!
Fresh air/getting outside
Fresh air is crucial for me to feel content, and this is something that wasn’t always the case. I grew up in Wisconsin and hated being trapped indoors for so much of the year, literally one-third of the year or more. At the time, that was fine with me because I didn’t know what I was missing and I just really enjoyed doing indoor things like reading, writing, and cooking.
But when I moved to San Diego at 18, I realized that I was just living in the wrong climate, and I actually love being outdoors. Now it’s something I’ve identified as integral to my health and happiness.
Logan and I just talked recently about how a cloudy day really affects our moods. Of course there’s nothing we can do to get rid of the clouds, but it helps to be able to identify why we might be feeling ennui that day. It normalizes it and reminds us how important it is for us to take advantage of the sunshine when it’s here (which fortunately is pretty often).
My go-to ways to get fresh air are hiking, going on walks around my neighborhood, and sitting outside in my backyard.
Logan and I joke that he is going to be the one to get up in the middle of the night with our future children because this girl needs her sleep! If I get less than 8 hours, I am exhausted. I really admire all you parents out there who are somehow managing to be happy, functional people with so little sleep. I worry about this for myself, but hopefully I adapt. Definitely not looking forward to it though…
And I understand why because the general recommendation for an adult is 7-9 hours of sleep a night. I for sure function best when I get between 8.5 and 9, whereas somehow Logan runs well on about 6 hours (or even less!). Good thing I have him to get up with our future kids 😉
When I prioritize sleep, I have a clearer head, am better able to focus, and overall feel more content and happier. So I’m going to take advantage of these kid-free years as long as I can and hopefully store up some zzzzzsssss.
My need for creativity is why I have this blog. I’ve always been a creative person (I’m also convinced we all have a creative side) and must be engaging in a creative project consistently to feel happy and content.
I’ve always been a writer, and that’s been my go-to way to express myself creatively. I find so much joy in writing in general and especially talking about relationships, self-development, and wellness – basically all the things to live your best life!
If I’m not writing, I notice discontentment in myself, and it’s taken me some time to recognize that I need a creative outlet to feel at peace in my little world. 🙂
So that’s it! What do you think? If you aren’t already living your best live, did this article give you some direction? I’d love to hear!