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Three Easy Steps To A Longer, Healthier And Happier Life

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Step One Continued: What Is A Simple Life?

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A simple life is more than just living on a small salary. You can be a millionaire and yet live simply, free from common worries. You can be the president of a big and competitive company yet live in complete simplicity. You can be a dogged salesperson targeting high sales quotas and still live simply.

A simple life is abandoning most unnecessary vanities. It means you will have to give up some things in life that you really do not need. A favorite smart term in business today is “prioritizing.” Abandoning is more than just prioritizing. Abandoning is like disposing of garbage because you do not need them. You do not include your garbage in your priority list — you throw them away for good.

A simple life is different from a meaningless life. The former implies simplicity, yet has a purpose. You must have a mission or a goal in life to live it to the fullest. The latter implies having no direction at all. Research has shown that many employees who retire, die 1 to 2 years later. Although stress is not in the equation, these employees might have lost something very significant – having a calling or purpose in life.

A simple life personifies the following:

Eliminate Self-Importance

Self-importance is the basic culprit or cause of vanity. Commercialism feeds on vanity. We don’t mean a disregard for your welfare. Welfare is different from vanity. The former is a concern for well-being that is having just enough of what you NEED. Vanity is craving more than what meets your DESIRE. The former is a responsibility. The latter entails selfishness and self-centeredness. It is mere egoism. It is mostly doing something to prove a point or to prove your self - to feed the ego.

As long as you’re out to prove something, you’re susceptible to pressure. Proving something means you are competing — with who is better or has something better.

If you grew up in a city, chances are, you’ve been raised in an environment of proving your worth. You have been exposed to competition. The usual city motto is “Not just at par—yours must be better.”

The “Standard”

“Standard” often means what is generally expected and accepted. “Generally” implies that the people took it upon themselves to impose on others what they expect and accept.

The “standard,” or what is generally accepted or expected, is often just the whim of some self-important people given authority also by other self-important people. If you join their self-importance, you will never be able to escape the cycle of vanity, and you will never live a simple life.

Standards, indeed, are necessary to gauge good performance and to establish right and wrong. However, they must be TRUE standards that are objective and unbiased.

Standards often times can be manipulated to serve a selfish end. These standards are subjective or biased, and are oftentimes false. They can be ruthlessly used for commercialism. Standards will serve us right as long as they are unstained by ulterior or deceitful motives.

If you don’t succumb to the general “standard,” how would you know if you are doing right or wrong? How would you know if you are improving or worsening?

The questions therefore should be, “Is what you are doing increasing or decreasing your self-importance? Is it promoting the cravings of your ego, or promoting simplicity in you? Is it reducing your pride? Is it making you meek?” This standard leads to a quiet, simple life.

Whatever you are doing, though it looks good to people and gains their approval, will likely lead you away from a simple life if it promotes your self-importance. Anything that feeds self-importance, or the ego, is unlikely to end up in a long, healthy, and happy life.

Eliminate Negative Stress

Necessary stress is called eustress. You need it to boost good performance. It works more like a challenge to give your best to a certain task. You can have this stress and still live simply.

What we don’t like is distress. It is having more stress than you need to accomplish a task happily. It is stress born out of stiff competition. Having to pay for bills incurred by things you really need causes eustress. Having to pay for bills incurred by materialistic desires, especially when the bills have mounted up, causes distress. Once desires are fed, they grow into devouring monsters.

Coping up with Stress

This is how the body copes up with any kind of stress.

Your brain has a nerve center called hypothalamus. Stress begins to affect you there. The nerves affected then activate your pituitary gland, which secretes or sends a hormone to excite your adrenal glands. This reaction produces “adrenaline” or the “emergency” hormone that makes you more ready to face a suspense or thrill.

Then your heart begins to beat faster, then wilder, sending more blood to the brain and muscles. You become doubly or triply aware of your situation and ready to jump at anything that moves. Breathing becomes faster and deeper; you may even start to gasp for air. This sends more oxygen to your body. Saliva and mucus (that slimy body secretion, especially from the nose) dry up to increase the size of your body tubes to your lungs.

You may find it difficult to swallow (no saliva), but your body will make up for the loss of saliva by perspiring to cool you down. Your intestines stop digestion for a while to conserve your energy.

When the stress is gone, all body systems return to normal. You will find that you feel much better after the stress reaction. You will regain oxygen in your body, good blood circulation, and conservation of energy. When you see what body functions are involved during a stressful situation, you will understand why stress, especially eustress, is necessary and even healthy. A good physical exercise and a healthy working environment use this type of stress.

Facing challenges calmly and positively also utilizes eustress.

However, imagine what would happen with distress, especially a prolonged one. The struggle in your body continues and increases at a stimulated level, badly affecting internal systems. After some time, the body becomes exhausted and abused. It becomes ill or susceptible to misjudgments that lead to relational conflicts (that produce more distress) or accidents.

Distress often results to fatigue. They are classified into:

  1. Physical fatigue – The body is overworked or becomes too exhausted, often leading to illnesses.

  2. Pathological fatigue – Body defenses (immune system) to fight diseases wear down.

  3. Psychological fatigue – Mental stress destroys mental calmness and sensibility.

  4. Psychosomatic fatigue – Both mental and physical parts are overworked.

Desire Less

Need is a word different from desire. Extreme desire often leads to unwanted problems. In a too commercialized world, people usually cannot accurately identify their needs from their wants or desires. For instance, a sales agent may not be able to reconcile his sales commission earnings and his lifestyle. Sales and marketing people often find themselves in a fashion struggle with their sales rivals.

The idea usually is that making sales depend largely on how fashionable you are - how you are fitted with the latest trend on wears and gadgets.

Take these cases.

  • CASE # 1: You may really want to be in social work, but the pay is too low to support your dream to have a car; so you sacrifice your real love and force yourself on something you really do not need. This causes much distress. Yes, you may have the money, but you will have to pay a big price for it.

  • CASE # 2: You may want to be a simple homemaker and focus on your children, but other homemakers in your neighborhood have joined the bandwagon of office work. You see that they are able to buy more than what your family can. Therefore, even if it is against your will, you abandon the care of your kids to a babysitter, start your heavy trek to the jungle out there, and look for a job.

The basic idea is to desire less materially. Do what you must do to fulfill a need. Work on it heartily, but do not impose on yourself a desired outcome. Make goals if you wish to — to inspire (not pressure) yourself to more productivity. If you hit your goals, be thankful. If not, so what? Forgive yourself then try better next time. Do not punish yourself for not hitting the goals.

You may not see this as a good work habit. You may even think that this work principle would accomplish practically nothing. Some may see this as destroying the healthy incentive in competition. But it’s either you win in stressful competitions all your life and have the enjoyment short-lived, or you live a simple but long, happy, and healthy life; though you may not look like a winner in people’s eyes. You cannot have both masters pleased; you can only choose one.

You may window shop in malls all you want and enjoy everything you see. Buy something you need if you can afford it. However, do not feel sorry or be anxious for things you want but cannot afford. Assume the attitude that says, “So what if I can’t afford it? I don’t need it anyway. And I won’t die if I can’t have it.”

Always remark “SO WHAT?” to things you want but cannot afford or achieve. Then really mean it. It does wonders to the soul — and health.

Laugh More Often

Laughing helps keep things simple. When a problem presents itself, you have two options: to worry, or to laugh some while dealing with it. Worrying often blows things out of proportion. Laughing makes even big problems seem easy to solve. We do not mean to treat problems lightly, but we need to neutralize an explosive situation with laughter, and then proceed calmly to deal with it. Once you eliminate the tension, you can assess the situation with clarity and ease of mind.

With a clear mind, you will find that the situation involves something you really don’t need, and that the permanent and REAL solution is to get rid of that unneeded “something” in your life.

One family was so bothered by how their DVD player always literally burned any disk they put in it. They had spent a big sum having it repaired, to no avail. They sought out the opinion of a friend — would they continue to have it repaired, or buy a new one? Continuing the repairs will seem a fruitless project, and they couldn’t afford to buy a new one.

The friend asked them though, “Will you die without a DVD player?”

The family stared at the floor for a while and then looked at each other. Then they broke into wild laughter. The friend asked them again, “Will you?” Then he added, “You know, there are lots of families out there who live happily just watching the TV.”

Many of your internal organs including your chest, thorax, abdominal muscles, diaphragm muscles, heart, lungs, and possibly your liver, contract when you laugh. After laughing, all systems return to normal. This results to less stress and lower blood pressure, as well as an all-around good feeling. Good, hearty laughter is constructive and releases tension.

WARNING: Don’t be negative though, and laugh at other people’s mistakes.

Overly formal people will not buy the idea of laughing at problems, much less, laughing at yourself when you err. Simple people are not bound by such self- imposed restrictions that feed stress out of bounds. Laughing at your mistakes or problems is a way of telling your emotions that, “Yes, I make mistakes; but I can forgive myself and give it another try.” This is a liberating attitude and helps to achieve simple living. This does wonders to your mental and heart health.

Come on, everything in life is designed to be enjoyed!

Do Not Be A Perfectionist

Being a perfectionist sounds good a reputation to earn, but it is actually just an ego booster that enlists you, as a permanent and fierce competitor in a useless competition of proving to all that you are the best. It only makes distress an everyday meal for you. Some would insist that being a perfectionist is a good attitude to have, to make sure that your work quality is always top of the line.

Again, if you submit to “standards” made by some people, and if you pursue to fit into that “standard” just to earn their admiration, you are locked into the trap of self-importance; and the “standard” you follow is a false one. In the end, all you get is an ailing body battered from an overdose of distress.

Strive to be perfect by all means, but only in character, especially on how to become more loving, forgiving, patient, understanding, meek, and simple. Do not be a perfectionist — trying to perfect your accomplishments to prove your worth, and punishing yourself doing it — that is, if you want to live a long, happy, and healthy life.

Striving to be perfect in character is a goal that actually takes loads of stress off you. In this case, you often just forgive and forget. On the other hand, a perfectionist assumes to possess something that he does not actually possess – perfection.

Perfectionists live a life of distress due to frustrations and undue pressure. They are usually the most discontented people and easy to disappoint. They always have plans they carefully think of. They feel that there should be nothing on earth to prevent them from accomplishing these plans, according to the details. They easily get angry when some details are ignored. These traits make for a short, unhappy, and unhealthy life.

Always be happy and thankful for what you have and for what you have achieved. Many things we do or achieve in this life will be set aside to oblivion someday. If remembered, they may be susceptible to evil application someday by unscrupulous future generations. The splitting of atoms was a perfect accomplishment. A perfectionist poured perfect attention into it. However, later generations used it to annihilate races and nations.

Love and good character are the only endeavors worth perfecting, and they are the only lasting memories that survive generations.

Love Everything

When you focus on love as the rule of your life, everything becomes simple. It becomes very easy for you to let go, to forgive and forget. Nothing in this life is as important as character. People living simple lives often have enough quality time to meditate on life and realize that this philosophy is true: That there is nothing more important and sublime than to love — love God or a Higher Being, love life, and love people around you.

Some will say they are perfectionists because they love. However, note that perfectionists love nothing except people’s admiration.

The adage goes that love conquers all and never dies. Love does not conquer in ways that perfectionists do. Most people, when they do an unsatisfactory task, will be frustrated even to the point of dire depression.

However, simple people who have mastered loving people will simply let go and think positively. They give everybody a chance to try better next time. The way they conquer is to always find something positive in everything, thwart unnecessary distress, and free everybody of pressure. They are serious in matters that deal with values and character.

Stop, Look, And Listen

While everybody else is busy running around beating deadlines, simple people make time to stop and watch life unfold each day. You may find them sitting by their doorsteps quietly watching people pass by, or enjoying how the neighborhood goes about its daily routine. Some of these people, being used to daily neighborhood activities, know what would take place at such a time in a particular spot in their street.

Simple people watch life unfold before them as a kind of meditation. They may also engage in leisure activities such as gardening, painting, photography, or simply writing a diary. Other people, who have the luxury of time and space (and money), leisurely walk through parks or forests to watch and enjoy nature. They sigh and rejoice at the wonders of creation.

To busy people, these leisurely activities seem nonsense and a waste of time. However, meditative moments like these calm the nerves and ease pressures that choke nerve points in the body, aside from taming the blood pressure. The human body, being a “temple,” as a popular eastern belief goes, actually needs quiet and tender moments like these. Scientifically, the mind needs rest as much as the body does.

Not even sleep can provide the mind the rest it needs, especially when schedules become too tight. Meditation adds considerably to the ease and relaxation that the mind needs. When the mind is at rest, the body follows suit.

The seven points above are just examples of what makes a life simple. The basic principle is that, the more you trim down your lifestyle — throwing away everything that does not help in building up good values and character, and getting rid of anything that promotes self-importance — the simpler it becomes. In some extreme cases, people who are dead serious about having a simple life actually quit their lucrative jobs or businesses and retire with their loved ones to their chosen haven.

The idea, according to them, is that a long, healthy, and happy life is the only thing worth living for.

It has been observed that rural folks live long lives mostly because they are free from the pressures of city life. Simple living often means less, if any, pollution – air, noise, and water. It also constitutes fewer things to worry about.

The exodus to the city from the countryside has been going on en masse, and people find it harder and harder to enjoy a peaceful, quiet, and simple life in the crowded cities.

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