Mental Health

Self Improvement

Mandy Kloppers

How to make the most of life

Life is short and many of us spend time wastefully. Some of us behave as if we will live forever and forget that life can quickly pass by. I sometimes look back and wonder where the time has gone. When a friend recently passed away, it served as an important reminder that all we really have is now. Here are my tips to make the most of life now.

Don’t dwell on the future – learn to let go

Whilst it’s a good idea to make plans and goals, spending too much mental energy thinking about the future will only serve to make you anxious and miserable. I am referring to the way many of us worry about the future. No one likes uncertainty yet no one has the luxury of 100% certainty. Accepting that we can’t predict the future, it’s very useful to focus as much as possible on the present moment. Noone can tell what they will be doing five years from now. You might have an idea but there is no certainty. Worrying about the future by thinking things like, “What if I am ill?” or “What if I don’t have enough money to retire?” isn’t something you can control right now. When you can’t control the future, learn to let it go. You can problem solve and put things in place but once you have attended to what you can control, worrying about what you can’t is a waste of energy and precious time. Learn to let go.


Savour the present moment

Get out of your head – it only causes trouble – your mind plays tricks on you and allows you to worry senselessly. When you are in your mind, you are in enemy territory. Common themes includes being self critical, worrying about how we come across to others, worrying about how others seem more successful than us and other nonsensical issues that just sap the fun and joy out of the present moment.  Remember that thoughts aren’t facts – you can dismiss the thoughts. They will keep coming but you don’t have to agree with them. The easiest way to get out of your head is to focus your senses on what you can see around you. What can you see, hear, touch, taste and smell? Our brain doesn’t have the capacity to take in the scene around us (using our 5 senses) and worry at the same time. This does take practice to focus on your surroundings and is known as mindfulness. Repeat if necessary but the more you do your focus training, the better you will get at it.


Have a few close people in your life who you can be yourself with

Just one or two people can be all you need. We all need to feel connected, it is part of our biology and in cave man times, if we weren’t part of the group, we were unlikely to survive. That’s not the case nowadays but we still need to have someone to talk to. Bonding with others (and animals) increases our oxytocin – it’s called ‘hug’ hormone and it makes is feel good. It has a similar effect to dopamine but it is longer lasting.


Find a sense of meaning and purpose

We all want to feel we have left our mark in some way. An easy way to do this is to leave the planet in a better way than how you found it. Be kind to strangers, give to your favourite charity. Through those acts of altruism and kindness you will have left your mark. There are many other ways to live with meaning and purpose of course – you can be creative as you like. Find something in line with your values and interests.


Keep your sense of humour

No one is getting out alive so it makes sense to try to see the funny side of life. You can live your life worrying about everything and engaging with your anxious thoughts and feelings or you can tell yourself that it’s okay to lighten up. See life as some sort of crazy experiment. Studies have shown that those individuals who have a good sense of humour tend to be healthier and happier.


Don’t let fear stop you from trying things

Fear stops people from living their best lives. Of course, fear has it’s uses and it tells us when to be cautious but this signal can get over used and lead to us living a ‘smaller’ more cautious life than we need to. Break free from your self imposed rules and fears and just go for it. Do a standard risk assessment of course (don’t jump off a building) but then hold on tight to your sense of humour and get on with it. When people in their older years were interviewed, they all wished they had worked less and tried more things.


Care less about what is ‘expected of you’

Stuff that. It’s okay to be selfish. Social media has put enormous pressure on us to be a certain way and act like we’re supposed to. Bollards I say. If you want to go sailing round the world, ignore the naysayers and find a way. Care less about the resistance from others. As long as you are living in line with your values and you aren’t harming anyone else, I suggest you stop procrastinating and find a way to do it. Be brave. If others have expectations, that is their responsibility, not yours.

Be aware of your ‘rules for living’

You may find that you have these rules that you live by without being aware of them. Rules for living usually take the form of “If this…then that”. For example: If I don’t work late every night, people will think I am lazy” or “If I am single, I will be lonely”. These rules for living come from our upbringings and they aren’t always correct but they limit us. Self limiting beliefs can be automatic. Think about rules for living that you might live by. If you aren’t assertive perhaps you have a rule for living about having to be nice to people. Rules for living often need updating.

In order to live your best life, you have to go against the grain, go after what you want in the face of disapproval and not allow your worries to overwhelm you. Easier said than done but something definitely worth working towards.

Mandy X

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash