Rethinking How We Live: Simple Changes for a Better Life

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Are you feeling trapped in the 9-5 grind, constantly delaying your dreams and meaningful experiences for that special “one day,” which never seems to come?

If so, chances are that you often feel like your life is a series of checkboxes that never seem to end. “Work, check. Errands, check. Sleep, repeat”  — this never-ending cycle is the reality for almost 41% of American adults.

According to a 2021 Gallup survey, the average full-time employee in the US works around 44 hours per week. But that’s not all – many of them work nearly 9 unpaid overtime hours every week (ADP Research Institute, 2021). This is often at the cost of what truly enriches our lives: meaningful relationships, our hobbies, or even simple moments of quiet reflection. Needless to mention, this hustle culture has a toxic impact on both your mental and physical health (Wong et al., 2019).

But what if there was another way to live — a life less defined by hours and more enriched by meaningful experiences and connections? In this blog, we invite you to slow down, step outside of that “grind” and make the most of your imagination. So, get ready to rethink how you live and take a look at these simple ideas that could redefine your life.

Community Gardening

Did you know that participating in a community gardening project can boost more than just your sense of community? It turns out that community gardens have a positive impact on neighborhood security. But also, taking part in rowing fruits, vegetables, or flowers with your neighbors can lead to improvements in mood, mental well-being, and physical health. How so?

Studies show that community gardeners eat 37.5% more fruits and vegetables than non-gardeners. However, this healthier diet can lead to long-term wellness benefits that go beyond the nutritional value of fresh produce. The act of gardening itself can be a form of mindfulness, offering a break from digital screens and daily stressors. This is not to mention a tangible opportunity to reconnect with the earth, your neighbors, and even yourself.

In Michigan, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved, with benefits that extend far beyond the garden’s fence. So why not take the first step and plant something meaningful today?

Sustainable Living and Food Practices

If you’re looking for an authentic, deeply satisfying way to connect with both your community and the Earth, consider embracing sustainable living and food practices. Today, there are plenty of resources to turn sustainability into a lifestyle choice.

One engaging way to be sustainable is through food practices like pickling vegetables, cooking more at home, and dehydrating foods. You can also go foraging or participate in worldwide opportunities on organic farms through platforms like WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms).

Vehicle Sharing

Imagine a world where we didn’t all need to own a car. Sounds impressive, right?

The notion of vehicle sharing goes beyond its convenience and cost savings. Yes, it reduces your carbon footprint, but it also cultivates a mindset of shared resources and collective responsibility. In fact, sharing a vehicle can lead to unexpected connections, decrease social isolation, and even catalyze community projects.

So, next time you think about getting in your car, consider sharing the ride, and that way, you’ll directly increase your chances of ending up sparking an interesting conversation.

Cooperative Living

Cooperative living is not a new concept, but it’s one worth revisiting. The reason is that living cooperatively has a science-backed benefit for our mental health. In fact, social connectedness is associated with lower anxiety and depression rates, as well as lower suicide rates.

How does cooperative living enhance your well-being? Well, pooling resources to share household chores, cooking, and even childcare could free up our time and make daily living more efficient and enjoyable. This way of life challenges the individualistic norms that can contribute to stress and loneliness. In simple terms, it creates a support system that many of us are missing in this fast-paced world.

Working Less Hours

Many of us automatically equate long hours with dedication and success. But what if working less actually made us more productive and happier?

Studies have shown that reduced work hours can lead to increased productivity and better mental well-being (Owan et al., 2021; Kelly & Mallette, SHRM-SCP, 2022). The reason is that a shorter workweek means more time for yourself, your loved ones, and your interests, offering a better work-life balance.

The four-day workweek trial in Iceland found that it led not only to maintained or increased productivity but also to improved well-being among participants. Here’s what the results might mean for you: your worth isn’t determined by your hustle. It’s time to rethink how we value time over money and reclaim our well-being.

Working Remotely

No one can deny that the worldwide shift to remote work has been one of the most significant work changes in recent years. While the trend was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, its benefits go beyond just safety measures.

According to a 2022 State of Remote Work Report by Owl Labs, most employees are finding the remote work model more productive in various ways. Here are some reasons why:

  • Increased productivity – 62% of employees report feeling more productive when working remotely.
  • Better work-life balance – No commute means more time for personal activities, which can lead to a more balanced life.
  • Willingness to compromise – 52% of employees would even accept a slight decrease in salary to maintain this work model.

You might think working from home can make you feel lonely, but that’s not always true. You can still connect with coworkers online and even have more time for family and friends. The best part is that it comes with extra benefits: the opportunity to craft your ideal workspace and the flexibility to manage your time in a way that optimizes your overall well-being.

Viewing Wealth Differently

How many times have you caught yourself dreaming about winning the lottery or finally getting that promotion to make life “better”?

Let’s be honest: we usually associate wealth with material things. But can the type of car we drive or the brand of our clothing actually define how happy we feel? Instead, the constant chase for more can be draining, both emotionally and mentally. That’s why we need to start seeing wealth in a completely different light.

What if we considered wealth as time spent with loved ones or the peace that comes from a walk in the park? What if wealth was measured by the quality of our relationships, the impact we make on others, or even the joy derived from a hobby we’re passionate about?

When we shift our view of wealth from material accumulation to emotional satisfaction, we open the door to a more fulfilling, more authentic life.

Sharing Resources

Remember when we talked about the benefits of cooperative living and community gardening? Sharing resources is an extension of that communal spirit.

Even though traditional American culture values individual ownership, we need to admit that community sharing comes with various benefits. First of all, pooling together items like tools, books, or even skills, can reduce waste and strengthen community bonds. But also, sharing resources is accompanied by some material benefits — it saves you money and time. Most importantly, by sharing, you’re taking part in promoting a culture of generosity and interdependence.

A 2021 study during the COVID-19 pandemic found that coordinated community helping, like sharing resources, not only built a stronger sense of community but also improved individual mental well-being by reducing depression and anxiety (Bowe et al., 2021). Therefore, these positive social interactions can improve your emotional well-being and create a sense of belonging.

Community Engagement and Civic Participation

One effective way to enrich your life and deepen your connection to others is through community engagement and civic participation. This means stepping beyond your immediate circle to become an active player in the wider community.

For instance, you can participate in local meetings or get involved in book clubs. In either case, community engagement allows you to become part of something bigger than yourself. And that’s how you get the chance to make an impact.

But it doesn’t stop there — taking part in local government, and advocating for policy and economic changes gives you a sense of purpose and the power to enact real change.

These activities can enrich your understanding of the world and help you create a network of like-minded people who can become your lifelong friends.

Building Local Relationships

Another great way to build on that sense of purpose and connection is by building meaningful relationships right in your neighborhood. While community engagement opens doors to bigger platforms, you can also try simple actions that might actually have a big impact.

For example, you can get to know the local shop owners, volunteer at a nearby school, or attend neighborhood events. These intimate connections will definitely help you feel like a part of a more vibrant community.

These micro-interactions may seem small, but over time, this investment in local relationships becomes a shared asset, enriching your life and strengthening the entire community. It’s this close network that gives you a sense of belonging, makes your community more resilient, and helps you live a more fulfilled life.

Mindful Media Consumption

How often do you find yourself aimlessly scrolling through your phone? It’s only later that we realize we wasted plenty of our precious time on content we don’t even care about.

Believe it or not, being mindful of your media habits can actually help you rethink how you live. The reason is that the way you use media has a significant impact on your psychological well-being (Reinecke & Eden, 2017).

This means that if we try to consciously limit time on our phones and be selective with the news we consume, we can significantly reduce stress and negativity.

Stop Waiting for Retirement

And finally, let’s conclude these ideas with one thought-provoking question:

Are you tirelessly working, counting the days until retirement as if that’s when life truly begins? While most of us unconsciously aim for stress-free retirement years, this future-focused approach doesn’t allow us to live in the present moment and enjoy our current lives as they are.

The truth is that traditional advice about saving everything for retirement puts us in a cycle of constant waiting. But what if we could just start thinking about improving our lives right now, instead of waiting for retirement? So, try to focus on the present and create a life rich in experiences and emotional rewards, right here and now.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the path to a richer, more fulfilling life can’t be achieved with longer work hours, relentless ambition, or waiting for some distant future like retirement. Instead, you should aim to value not just productivity but also well-being, and genuine connections over mere consumerism.

Most importantly, you can build that world here and now, through thoughtful actions and meaningful connections. You don’t have to wait for “someday” to start living your best life. That “someday” is today, and the possibilities are endless.

But sometimes it’s hard to make these lifestyle changes on your own. So, if you have trouble rethinking the way you live, our team of dedicated professional therapists is here to help you navigate the complexities of modern life.

At Health for Counseling Grand Rapids, we specialize in holistic approaches to well-being. This means our licensed counselors are trained to address the whole spectrum of factors that contribute to your overall quality of life.

Keep in mind that we accept a variety of insurance plans, including Blue Cross Complete, Meritain Health, Optum, UMR, and many more. Check out our list of accepted insurances and take that first crucial step today.

So, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at Grand Rapids, MI, and Ada, MI, or talk to us online to get the personalized guidance you deserve.

Learn more about the Trauma-Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids

Learn more about Counseling and Therapy services at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids

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