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March 31, 2010 8:54 PM   Subscribe

What one change I can make in my life for one month will have the greatest positive effect?

Imagine me as a typical American, whatever your conception of that might be. There's a certain lifestyle and set of habits that goes along with that, imho.

Now: You get to make one rule for me to follow for one month. The goal is to improve *my* quality of life, not to make the world a better place. (Sorry.)

What would the rule be?

(I realize this is a broad question. But I'd love to see a broad set of answers. It is my intent to pick some and try them over the next few months.)
posted by joshjs to Society & Culture (68 answers total) 248 users marked this as a favorite
 
go out of your way to think the best of everyone you interact with. it's the secret to happiness.
posted by 256 at 8:57 PM on March 31, 2010 [21 favorites]


Walk for an hour every day.
posted by zadcat at 8:59 PM on March 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


Completely eliminate all processed/restaurant food.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:02 PM on March 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Drink more water.
posted by Marit at 9:05 PM on March 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sleep as much as you need to, every night.
posted by jessamyn at 9:10 PM on March 31, 2010 [32 favorites]


Don't take shit from your boss.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:13 PM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Aerobic exercise a few hours per week (something you enjoy): running, biking, etc. Your QoL may change in the long run but not immediatley.
posted by Wolfster at 9:14 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
posted by sallybrown at 9:14 PM on March 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Don't eat ANY sugar (or anything made with sugar) for the entire month. Your tastesbuds will be totally different at the end of the month.
posted by MsKim at 9:15 PM on March 31, 2010 [15 favorites]


Read something challenging for an hour per day--literature, poetry, philosophy, whatever. Brains need workouts too.
posted by sallybrown at 9:23 PM on March 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


Lift weights. The aerobic exercise suggestion is good (I personally love roller skating) but the changes that you see in your body from good strength training are way more satisfying. Although, you should add aerobic exercise too.
posted by lexicakes at 9:25 PM on March 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Every time you communicate with another person -- phone, e-mail, just looking at each other, or talking in person -- try to do some small thing, or contribute some small words or gestures, to make that person's life better;

-- or --

Make a list of everyone in your neighborhood to whom you've spoken more than three times in the past year. Every day for a month, talk to one neighbor who's not on that list;

-- or --

On Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, have conversations with people with whom you disagree about some important issue, making an effort to really listen and make sure they don't feel judged. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are days to communicate with people (or just read articles) with which you agree, so you don't go crazy or get too angry. Saturday's for fun.

-- or --

Every day, get rid of one or two things in your house in a responsible way (so you don't feel guilty about wasting it). Take photos of that odd Rubbermaid lid & post it on Craigslist or sell it somehow, or figure out how to recycle it.

-- or --

Every day, clean or fix something in your life so that it's like new again.
posted by amtho at 9:29 PM on March 31, 2010 [10 favorites]


Avoid using any form of the verb "to be."
posted by bac at 9:37 PM on March 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


Seconding "sleep", will also accept "eat a well-crafted vegan diet" or "exercise regularly." The important thing is that if you take very good care of your body for a month, you'll feel better, have more energy, be more pleasant, and so on, and lots of other benefits will come from that.
posted by davejay at 9:38 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you're a typical American you're a consumer of goods & services. In exchange, you perform service for only one person/legal entity - your boss.

Think of all the people who were involved in putting dinner on your table. Farmers, truck drivers, produce wholesalers, the people who printed up the flyers for the restaurant or grocery store, etc.

Think of how disproportionate what you put in to the world is compared to what you get from the world.

Change that. Become a producer. Provide value to not just your boss, but to a large group of people - to a wide & diverse group of people.

Master this skill and you will never starve, never be lonely, and never wonder what you should be doing with your life.
posted by MesoFilter at 9:45 PM on March 31, 2010 [32 favorites]


Don't eat any meals you haven't made yourself - no restriction on healthiness here, just that you make it yourself.
posted by sanko at 9:50 PM on March 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Unplug the TV.
posted by buzzv at 9:52 PM on March 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


Floss all the teeth you want to keep.
posted by maudlin at 9:53 PM on March 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Do/read/watch something that makes you laugh out loud at least three times a day.
posted by corey flood at 10:10 PM on March 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Talk as little as possible. Listen as much as possible. Don't offer your opinion; every time you want to offer an opinion, ask for someone else's, and then don't respond to their opinion except to thank them for sharing it.
posted by fatbird at 10:18 PM on March 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


Put away $1 a day..
posted by sammyabdu at 10:21 PM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Check out this book from the library (or buy it) and choose one of the many, many things you can do to potentially increase your happiness. I enjoyed the book, though some think it a bit pollyanna-ish.
posted by np312 at 10:28 PM on March 31, 2010


Go without your cell phone. Other people will end up running on your time and you don't have to be harried about bustling every which way!
posted by astapasta24 at 11:18 PM on March 31, 2010


No TV and Internet equivalents?
posted by themel at 12:35 AM on April 1, 2010


Every day, do something you've never done before. Try a new food. Take a different route to work. Seek out and listen to music from an unfamiliar genre. It doesn't necessarily have to be a grand gesture, just something to break old habits and reintroduce the joy of discovery into your life.
posted by googly at 1:19 AM on April 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Look at a list of the world's countries. Each day choose one that you know least about and take a few minutes to read an online newpaper which originated there.

To start you off: Svalbard
posted by rongorongo at 3:50 AM on April 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Don't eat ANY sugar (or anything made with sugar) for the entire month.

Out of interest, how difficult would that be? I just looked at some of the stuff I was planning on eating today and pretty much everything contains sugar.
posted by alby at 3:52 AM on April 1, 2010


Travel outside of the US, alone, if possible.

Pick a continent, plan your route, arrange cheap accommodations at couchsurfing.org and learn a little about the rest of the world outside your tiny part of it.

It's done wonders for me.
posted by syzygy at 4:27 AM on April 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh yeah - you may find yourself staying abroad longer than you initially planned to. I originally came to Europe with a plan to travel for 6-12 months and look for a job that would allow me to stay for another year.

That was in 2000, and I'm still here...
posted by syzygy at 4:29 AM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Kill your television.
posted by rahnefan at 5:31 AM on April 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Replace the time you spend watching television and surfing the internet with exercise and reading books.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:35 AM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Focus on conversations and try to smile while talking, even if you don't feel like it. Show real interest in those that you interact with.
posted by mcarthey at 5:50 AM on April 1, 2010


Stop looking to outside sources (your TV, your computer, your phone, etc) for entertainment. Stop using these devices to help you pass time. Stop expecting to be entertained. Fill the inevitable gulf of boredom and aimlessness that opens up by accomplishing things instead. Create new things as your entertainment, or just do things that need to be done.
posted by itstheclamsname at 5:53 AM on April 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Stop judging other people.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:33 AM on April 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


In keeping with what has been said just above my comment:
sit still for 15 minutes, with no sounds in background, no distractions, no music etc...just sit.
posted by Postroad at 6:33 AM on April 1, 2010


Follow the "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it" rule.

Fix the minor annoyances that are within your control; learn to keep the ones out of your control from getting to you.

Spend at least 30 minutes outside every day.

Spend half an hour of your usual TV/internet/video game time doing something that engages your mind and/or hands.

Get things done as soon as you are able, instead of procrastinating.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:45 AM on April 1, 2010


Say yes to everything.
posted by troywestfield at 7:14 AM on April 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Work every day on something you've always wanted to do/make/learn but have been putting off.
posted by spinto at 7:23 AM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I once read a piece of relationship advice that I've turned into wholesale life advice. "Be the spouse you want to have." I try to remind myself rather often to "be the one." Why doesn't somebody X? Be the one. I wish more people would Y. Be the one. On inauguration day when Obama said that "we are the ones we've been waiting for" it struck home. Things only get better when we do the work to make them better.

Some days these are big things like challenging bureaucracy. Other days, it's the little niceties that brighten people's days.
posted by advicepig at 7:28 AM on April 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


Join a Crossfit gym for a month and go at least 5x per week for 60-90 minutes. You will definitely see results after only 30 days. Find your local affiliate here.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 8:12 AM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


EAT MOR CHIKIN
posted by Doohickie at 8:18 AM on April 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mary Schmich's advice has a lot of gems.

Also, deep breathing.
posted by asuprenant at 9:22 AM on April 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


These suggestions are all fantastic, but I'm going to second the food (try eating Paleo), the sleep, the exercise (CrossFit) and the stop-watching-TV-and-procrastinating-online ones in particular.
posted by loveyourfellowman at 10:15 AM on April 1, 2010


Host a party every Friday night and invite everyone you know (no exceptions!)
posted by nomad at 10:16 AM on April 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Put away $1 a day

If the OP makes at at least $36,500 per year, that's like 1% of his income. I would hope we're saving more than that!

My suggestion: lift weights.
posted by !Jim at 10:29 AM on April 1, 2010


I want to nth the no tv and limint internet time to 1 hour. Once you do that other things (like excercising or reading more) will automatically fall into place because sitting on the couch starring at a wall is really boring, so youll just naturally find other things to do.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:41 AM on April 1, 2010


Say yes to everything.

Say no to everything.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:49 AM on April 1, 2010


Completely eliminate all processed/restaurant food.

I'd take this a step further, since it's only a month. Eat a raw diet (90% or more) -- you'll learn more about eating, food, health, and your own preferences and limitations that any other diet type. Also, it tastes good! (but personally, I need some hot food every once in a while.)

On the other hand, going vegan or vegetarian will teach you to cook great meals, if you don't already know how.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:27 AM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mary Schmich's advice has a lot of gems.

That thing gets passed around a lot as Vonnegut, or Dave Barry. I'm glad to see its source. Thank you!
posted by DigDoug at 11:43 AM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Smoke pot every day.
posted by grobstein at 11:47 AM on April 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


I like the cook everything yourself suggestion too. Try making as much of it from scratch as possible. Bake your own bread (take it even a step further by getting a mill to grind your own wheat), make your own salad dressing, ketchup, or mayonnaise, roast and grind fresh spices. And since it's the right time of year, I'll add plant a garden.
posted by lexicakes at 12:09 PM on April 1, 2010


Every day, pick one issue, or news item, that you feel you don't fully understand, or where you're completely lost. It could be anything - the genocide in Darfur, the prospects for financial reform, the recent diplomatic tension with Israel on the East Jerusalem settlements...anything.

Then, set a timer for 30 minutes, and dedicate that much time to learning as much about the issue/article as you possibly can. (Just 30 minutes, though of course you're free to go longer.) Wikipedia is a good place to start, primarily because its hyperlinked nature means that you can dig in on any given point you don't comprehend, and/or where you want more background.

For example, you might see Afghan President Harshly Rebukes West and U.N. in today's New York Times, about Karzai's allegations of tampering in the most recent Afghan elections. So, you wonder, when were those elections anyway? Wait - who exactly IS Abdullah Abdullah? Okay, so he was affected by the Bonn Agreement...let me check that out...

By searching out your own context, and answering your own questions, you'll both learn more than you would with the initial Times article, and, in a scant 30 minutes, know substantially more about Afghan politics than the theoretical 'typical American' we're thinking about here.

Do this for a month, and you'll (unfortunately) be heads and shoulders above the typical American in terms of understanding what's going on in the world. You'll find your curiosity more easily piqued. You'll have a little more to contribute to conversation. You'll pick up more easily when a commentator or political official is obfuscating, or, for that matter, telling the truth.

And if you find an issue or two out of the lot that interests you enough to read more deeply, then you're doing even better.
posted by Ash3000 at 12:25 PM on April 1, 2010 [18 favorites]


freely give compliments
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 12:43 PM on April 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Pick a sum of money and doll it out to charities or things for the common good. Not to make the world a better place but to make you a better man.

For one month if you picked $150 as your amount, that's $5 a day. Pay someone's parking meter, donate some for an electric bill for the needy, buy a homeless guy a shirt, get a stray cat spayed, buy some garbage bags and fill them with trash from the street, buy a book for a library, buy the person in line behind you a coffee, bake a cake from scratch and give it to your neighbor, send a postcard to Afghanistan, donate to a charity (but write a letter with your donation).

See what the maximum benefit you can get done for $150. Blog it all.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:51 PM on April 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Do not speak at all for one month. Most people think that this is impossible for them (job, usually). It's probably not.

Failing that, or maybe even better, don't use any first-person personal pronouns.

In either case, you'll need a negative reinforcement system. I've heard of keeping a rubber band around your wrist that you snap hard if you slip up. For me, I would slap myself in the face (again, hard), bite my thumb, or the inside of my cheek depending on the situation.
posted by cmoj at 1:59 PM on April 1, 2010


Don't eat ANY sugar (or anything made with sugar) for the entire month.

Out of interest, how difficult would that be? I just looked at some of the stuff I was planning on eating today and pretty much everything contains sugar.


Apples have sugar. That doesn't mean you shouldn't eat apples. So just cut out anything with ADDED sugar. And any processed foods if you want it to take it a step further, which are the foods that have sugar added anyway.
posted by lachnessmonster at 5:13 PM on April 1, 2010


Spend a few hours a day without electricity.
posted by talldean at 7:22 PM on April 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Accept yourself as is. Stop beating yourself up to constantly improve. Goof off without self-recrimination.
posted by 26.2 at 12:51 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Breathe. Notice your breathing a lot. Pay attention to it. A lot.
posted by fcummins at 8:02 AM on April 2, 2010


Exercise an hour a day. By the end of week 3 you will feel a lot healthier.

This was my 2010 New Year's Resolution, along with eating better (I cut meat and carb intake, increased fruits and veggies). I walk every evening, now up to 3.5 miles. I can really tell a difference, plus I have lost a lot of weight.
posted by I am the Walrus at 9:58 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


You asked for the greatest positive effect. I suggest taking time at the end of the day to reflect on the things that you're grateful for.

I'm sure that your days will get better and better.
posted by fiTs at 1:43 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Practice mindfulness. Be in the moment. Take note of the sounds you hear, the sights you see, the textures you feel, etc. at any given moment. Let go of all regrets of the past and anxieties of the future, to instead focus on what is wonderful or just plain nice about this moment in time.

When you think about it, the present moment is all that really exists. The past and future can only be imagined. So since you'll be spending all of your time in the present moment anyway, you might as well take notice of it and appreciate it from time to time.
posted by Ryogen at 7:44 PM on April 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


Learn and practice empathy, learn and practice empathy, learn and practice empathy!
posted by iNfo.Pump at 5:44 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eliminate passive media from your life. Have a goal in mind like 'I want to watch movie X', 'I want to listen to this CD', or 'I want to achieve the following goal on the web', rather than watching random TV, listening to whatever is on the radio, reading People magazine, or grazing on the web.

This should also cut down on the amount of advertising you see, but I'd also install Adblock Plus to remove most of that. After a month regular TV will seem like a barrage of hyperactive scams.
posted by benzenedream at 11:41 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Start keeping a personal journal - keep it with you for a month, write down everything you learn/feel/think/reflect upon. Get up early or stay up a little later to write in your journal.
posted by alfanut at 6:10 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eliminate passive media from your life. Have a goal in mind like 'I want to watch movie X', 'I want to listen to this CD', or 'I want to achieve the following goal on the web', rather than watching random TV, listening to whatever is on the radio, reading People magazine, or grazing on the web.

I place videogames. A LOT. And I do it freely and without guilt because I realized that I'm participating in one of my favourite artforms. I can appreciate the level design, the art and music and thought that went into making a good game. When playing Eve Online I'm interacting with my friends and making plans. I used to beat myself up about "wasting time", now I realize that it makes me happy, hurts nothing and allows me some art to comment on, discuss and enjoy.

So, do what you want... As long as you can think about it constructively.
posted by Quadlex at 5:43 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, do what you want... As long as you can think about it constructively.

Agreed. As long as you actually decide what you want to play and why you want to play, playing games isn't passive entertainment.
posted by benzenedream at 6:25 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


meditate for 30' to an hour
posted by dougiedd at 5:58 PM on April 9, 2010


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