“Carpe diem! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think.” – Horace
There was a time in my life when every day seemed ominous, disappointment or bad news was expected and dreaded, joy and happiness felt impossible to attain. Rather than make the most of each day, I made poor use of the time. In short, I lived in the shadows, avoiding others except to find solace in the company of those who sought, like me, to eradicate the pain, forget failures, and numb the mind.
How did that all change? It didn’t come easy and it wasn’t fast, yet I did gradually move away from a self-destructive and unproductive way of living and looking at life to the point where I am today: loving life and living each moment to the fullest.
Note that this does not mean self-indulgence to the extreme or the use of alcohol, drugs or other mind-altering substances. What it does include is a blueprint or pattern that I’ve adopted that allows me to see the good and hopeful in everything, to discern the positive hidden in negatives, and the ability to make informed choices after thoughtful deliberation.
Here are my 10 tips on how to make the most of each day.
- Be present in what you do. While the recommendation sounds obvious, fully accepting this approach takes practice. What does it mean to be present? Being present requires paying attention to the moment, without allowing distractions to interfere. It’s being mindful in everything you do. For example, when I wash dishes, I am present. I feel the suds of the dish lotion bubble up and caress my hands. Instead of a distasteful task, it’s more involving and satisfying. When I must make a tough decision, instead of shying away from it, imagining all the negative outcomes, I immerse myself in the process, examine my options and arrive at a conclusion based on the evidence. I do this with full recognition and embrace of my actions in the present.
- Pay attention to what you eat. Making the most of each day demands sufficient fuel to get started. This requires eating right, getting enough nutrition in food and beverage choices. Just as a car won’t run without a source of power, the body can’t work efficiently when deprived of its fuel source. In addition, while you’re eating, be mindful of the process. Note all the senses involved: savor the taste, smell, touch, sight and sound of eating. Not only will you be more energized, you’ll also be more satisfied.
- Get some daily exercise. You don’t need to run to the gym every day, although if that’s part of your healthy routine, do it. Getting exercise daily is important because it’s good for your body and mind, helps you ready yourself for the next task or project, frames the day with positive energy. The endorphins released during vigorous exercise, such as a brisk walk, climbing the stairs, working out, swimming or playing a sport chase away feelings of anxiety, sadness, stress. What better way to add one healthier element to your day?
- Make progress toward your goals. Everyone has some things they want to accomplish. Whether it’s a short-term project you want to finish or a long-term goal to obtain a degree, it’s important to make incremental progress each day. This helps keep you motivated over long stretches and spurs you to completion if it’s more pressing. Knowing that you’ve gotten some work done on goals is both satisfying and productive. This proactive approach also serves to reinforce the point that you can accomplish what you set out to do.
- Look for the lesson in mistakes. No one is perfect, nor should perfection be a goal. Everyone does, however, make mistakes. Most of us make many of them. In my case, I tended to make mistakes more often than necessary. Maybe one reason was that I failed to take away the lesson each one contained. By learning to look for the lesson and taking heed of it, you’ll be less likely to see your actions as failures and more likely to view them as opportunities to grow.
- Forgive. Harboring a grudge against a family member, co-worker, neighbor, a merchant or manufacturer, friend or someone you casually know doesn’t bode well for your mental health and overall well-being. In fact, it does long-term damage to your psyche. Find it in your heart to forgive, not just those you feel are responsible, but also yourself. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone the behavior, however. It does allow that negativity to be released, allowing you to move forward with your life.
- Be generous to others. How does giving make you feel? Hold onto that good feeling, for it’s a key aspect of making the most out of life. Not only does the recipient benefit, so do you. Generosity doesn’t need to be repaid to work its magic. Consider the look of gratitude, the words of thanks as payment enough. Whether cash, donation in kind, helping someone who needs it or just lending support, your generosity to others will boost your self-esteem and add satisfaction to your day.
- Do what you love. Love to paint, jog, read, go to movies, dance, ski, spend time with friends? Carve out time each day to do what you love. This time is just for you, to help you relax and unwind, to be happy for the sake of happiness, a little gift you give yourself. By spending time doing what you love you also restore balance and harmony in an otherwise hectic schedule. You come back refreshed and ready to again tackle your to-do list.
- Tend to your spirituality. Another key aspect of making the most of each day is tending to your spirituality. Whether you find that involves meditation, prayer, yoga, walking in the woods or something else, nurture your spirit. It’s what makes you a whole person, adding that uniquely human aspect that contributes to the harmony and balance of mind, body and spirit.
- Keep a clean, clutter-free space. I intensely dislike clutter, dirty dishes, soiled laundry, a grimy stove, weeds in the yard, paint peeling and other items requiring maintenance left undone. I’m not a perfectionist and don’t claim to have all the answers. Nor am I a clean freak. I do, however, find comfort in keeping a clean and clutter-free space. Besides, those no-longer needed items can serve a useful and much-appreciated purpose when donated to a local charity.
- Sleep well. The human body needs sleep to function optimally. Just laying your head on a pillow isn’t enough to guarantee restful sleep. Take the proactive steps of keeping the bedroom cool, making sure there are no distracting blue lights from electronics, that the room is sufficiently dark, no intrusive noises from TV or radio, turn off the cellphone, mute the telephone, and adjust your comfortable pillow. Make your sleeping environment welcoming and then settle in for a good night’s sleep.
To the above I would add the following: Get help if you need it. Psychotherapy helped me sort out things when I was unable to do so on my own. Counseling helped me realize my strengths and gave me the insight to effectively work on my weaknesses. I found purpose and self-worth in the process and learned to overcome stress.
Whatever steps you choose to make the most of each day, look forward to the opportunity to learn and grow and live life to the fullest.