Do Something for Charity
There are so many simple and gratifying ways to volunteer. VolunteerMatch.org allows you to narrow your search by cause, location, or by keywords. Plus, you can even volunteer virtually. So if you make time to shop online (surely not during work hours) and get all those mystery packages from Amazon, then you really have no excuses. The SF-Marin Food Bank is always looking for volunteers and all it takes is a three-hour shift to provide various local food pantries with over 100,000 meals a day. Signing up is straightforward: you can register, view, and select available shifts on their site. Not only are you doing something good for the community, you’re building your own community as volunteering is a great way to meet new (as well as generous and compassionate) people in a non-work/school/bar environment.
Lose Weight and Drink Less
Do you remember when you were a kid and relatives would wish you “good health” on your birthday? Didn’t you find that to be a complete waste of a wish? Your concerns were limited to who was going to sit next to you at the movie theater and whether or not your parents got you the right Lego set. But after losing loved ones and undergoing your own health scares, your mortality becomes more evident and the wishes for good health take on a different meaning. Eating pizza and drinking beer with reckless abandon (or after 10) comes with a price beyond the initial cash spent. Hangovers linger longer, as do reminders of that extra piece of cake you had — it’s OK, though. Bay Area dwellers are a healthy crowd and you can be part of it. Just go into your local co-op and ask someone in workout clothes, eyeing the organic baby arugula, about their diet and workout routine. People love talking about those things.
Get Rid of Unwanted Items
We love our stuff. Our stuff is everywhere — commandeering our garages and packing them to capacity with clothes and furniture and old bills we haven’t touched in years, leaving the cars we value and use every day exposed to the elements in our driveway. It’s pretty bad. And lets not get started on storage units… Much like creating and keeping resolutions, part of the challenge is trying to tackle the whole issue without a plan of action. We look at the mess, deem it untamable, and carry on. To prevent future stockpiling, consider bringing your gently worn clothes to one of the many buy-sell-trade stores in the Bay Area and walk out with some cash or perhaps something you’ll actually wear. The more regularly you clean out your closet the easier it will be and the more benefits you’ll get to reap. Motivation and rewards fuel a chain reaction effect, so who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to make room for your car inside the garage!
Cut Out Toxic Friends
When it comes to friendship, no one can encapsulate my views on it better than Ann Friedman, so I’m just going to go ahead and quote a part of her “Shine Theory,” which is directed at women, but applies to everyone. “I want the strongest, happiest, smartest women in my corner, pushing me to negotiate for more money, telling me to drop men who make me feel bad about myself, and responding to my outfit selfies from a place of love and stylishness, not competition and body-snarking.” Plainly put, life is too short for crappy people. No crap, cut the crap.
Everyone has heard, “I’d love to travel if I had more time,” or, “That’d be really nice if I had more money.” And to a certain degree, yes, traveling is a luxury, but not every trip has to be a week-long, countryside vineyard tour in France. Living in the Bay Area makes us really fortunate, considering we have such a wide array of travel opportunities that take us somewhere novel in a matter of hours. From Big Sur to Big Basin to Lake Tahoe, there are a multitude of places where you can get away on any kind of budget. And regardless of whether your excursion is a fantasy montage of meditation and massages at the Post Ranch Inn or charred hot dogs that fell in the fire pit, studies show that sharing experiences with other people gives us more pleasure than going it alone, so bring your friends and laugh about it either way.
Be More Patient
People can be frustrating. People can be especially frustrating when you’re trying to find parking in your neighborhood after 6pm, or when MUNI is already at its glacial-pace and people crawl on only to get off at the next stop. Instead of draining your energy and nerves on things out of your control, try to put the situation into perspective. Will this really matter next week? Next month? Probably not. In fact, you’ll likely forget about it tomorrow. Surely you’ve held up a line before because you forgot your wallet at home, or experienced the death stare of 80 people when you were the last passenger getting on a plane. So next time you’re inclined to be brusque and let someone know what a pain they’re being, remember yourself and practice empathy.
Telling ourselves lies over and over until we consider them truths is insanely appealing. While denial (overall) can be comforting and offers temporary solutions to many of life’s problems, it’s basically like sucking your thumb when you really need stitches. Some days we don’t want to accept responsibility for not washing the dishes and prefer to credit the mess to our housemates. But deep down we know which is our own cereal bowl. Same thing goes for saving money. Sushirrito is as glorious a bastardized gimmicky roll of deliciousness there ever was, but for $12 a pop, there must be a better way to spend that money. Speak the truth, now. Opting to make lunch at home isn’t the only way you can painlessly save. Everyone wants to have good hair, but spending $200 for a cut and color is understandably hard to swallow. Luckily, there are hundreds of hair school graduates going through their training programs throughout the city, refining their skills and getting one day a week to take models. Searching the Craigslist Beauty section under “Services” yields free cuts and $30 highlights at top salons under the supervision of trained experts. If you’re flexible with your time, your fresh new hair and wallet will thank you.
Spend More Time with Friends and Family and Cut Out Social Media
Our various devices have made it impossibly convenient for us to keep in touch with friends, relatives, and work life, but it hasn’t necessarily improved the quality of those relationships. We run into old friends, exchange numbers, “friend” each other on Facebook, follow each other on Instagram, text each other saying we’re going to hang out, and then that never happens, because we’re too
lazy busy. On top of it, I’m a chronic mental texter, finding myself under the impression that I responded, though that never happened because telepathy doesn’t exist — yet. You can’t compare spending time with friends IRL versus group text, so next time you run into a friend when you’re out, see if they’re available for coffee that evening, not sometime-later-one-day-it’ll-just-happen. Show the people you care about that you really care about them by giving them face time, not FaceTime.
And there you have it — you’re all set. From here on out you’re going to be the person who flosses regularly and jogs (even jogs on the corner while waiting for the light so your heart rate doesn’t fall.)