What are some of the biggest keys to long-term health and happiness in life? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Long-term health and happiness don't just happen. They're things we have to work toward, but they are achievable goals. Following these tips will put these goals well within your grasp.
1. Take time for introspection. It's incredibly easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine and have life simply pass by. Choosing how to spend your time requires introspection--time to think about what's working and not working, what we like and don't like, and then change how we spend our time.
In school, there's a semester or quarter system that catalyzes this introspection. At the end of each semester, you need to think about which classes you liked or didn't like, because that informs which classes you choose next. In life, there are no quarters or semesters unless you create them. This time for introspection can be weekly (i.e. by going to a favorite park every Sunday), quarterly, or even annually. Use whatever cycle makes sense for you. The main thing is having a structured, deliberate time where you take a step back and think about how you're spending your time.
2. Define what happiness or success is for yourself. This is also a deeply personal process because there is no right or wrong answer. In school, there were grades and it was clear that an A was better than a C. In life, there are no grades. It isn't better or worse to be on one career path vs. another. It's a personal journey of discovery and the journey itself can matter as much as the perceived destination.
If you don't take time to think about what success looks like for yourself, then society will give you a rubric: how much money you have. But this doesn't equate to happiness. There is always someone who has more money than you and it's a quick path to feeling inadequate and unhappy.
The important thing is letting go of the fear of missing out (FOMO) and taking the time to understand what you care about. Talk with people you're close to, read books, try different things, and ask yourself what you've felt most proud doing.
There's a simple rubric I use when talking with folks about work. When someone is doing something a) they like, b) they're good at, and c) that's needed and valuable, and it's with people that have shared values and motivations, then it really isn't work anymore. It's simply a part of life.
3. Long term health ties to understanding all parts of health. When people think of health, they usually focus solely on the physical aspects. But there are many types of health--there's mental, social, spiritual, physical, and more. To really understand the way these are interconnected, you need to set aside time for reflection. Think about where you are on each of these dimensions, whether it matters to you, and if you want to make a change, how you will do that.
For me, the two things I do most often to stay healthy in mind, body, and spirit are going into nature and exercising. Nature is my place of quiet and peace. It's where I can clear my head, think about something, or simply watch nature change around me. When I exercise, the repetitive motion is calming and helps me clear my head. I'm also a competitive person and I like setting a goal and then hitting it. When I go on a run or lift weights, there are countless small goals I create.
Above all, keep growing. Don't become complacent. Keep improving yourself or learning something new. Challenge yourself and through the experience, understand yourself better. It's a wonderful feeling to overcome an obstacle and get better at something. It's also really powerful to conclude you don't like doing something and have no interest in revisiting it. Both outcomes help you focus in life on what you do want to spend time doing, and that's what is most valuable.
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